With the shortage of nurses, there are many nursing programs available, some online as well as traditional nursing colleges. There are also many for-profit schools offering quick courses and guaranteeing jobs immediately after graduation. You don’t need to go to an accredited school to work as a nurse, but some employers, faced with two candidates for a job, will choose one from an accredited school. Transitioning to a higher nursing degree is easier if your degree is from a school with accreditation. Plus, many scholarships are only available to students at accredited nursing schools, so it is important to know if, and how, a school is accredited.
Accreditation provides a standard for education that assures you will have a well-rounded education and are prepared to take nurse licensing examinations. Schools differ in their approach to teaching nursing, but most schools prepare their students to take the examinations, and states have accrediting programs that decide if a school meets the state board standards. That does not mean, however, that the school meets national accreditation standards. In addition, there are nurse practitioner programs that do not have to meet the same accreditation standards as regular nurse training. For more on this, read “Issues of Accreditation: A Dean’s Perspective” from “The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing”
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Most schools are proud of their accreditation status. They will post the information on their websites, or in their brochures or pamphlets. Students wanting to know about a school’s accreditation must research the institution. Check their websites and if you are uncertain, call them. Nursing programs differ. You cannot tell if a program is accredited by comparing it to another one. Although all programs should meet the accreditation standards, some offer emphasis on certain aspects of nursing. Nursing schools are getting away from “cookie cutter” approaches to teaching. There are many online nursing programs as well. Just being an online school, however, does not mean a nursing program is not accredited.
There Are Two National Organizations That Accredit Nursing Programs. One is The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, and the other is The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Both of these organizations have user-friendly websites that allow you to search accredited schools and that explain standards for accreditation. In addition, The American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers a webpage solely for the purpose of researching accredited undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.Attending a non-accredited school may not hamper your short term nursing goals; there is a famine of nurses, and the jobs are out there. If you want to advance in your career, though, it may be worth a second look at your choice of nursing schools. The information is out there, and it pays to be informed.