Just because the Fort Hays State University Department of Nursing has received a 10-year accreditation, said Dr. Mary Hassett, chair of the department, that will not stop the nursing faculty from thinking about accreditation.
"We�ll never stop thinking about it because we keep criteria in mind. Criteria may change," Hassett said. "We�ll never forget."
Ten years is the largest amount of time given for a nursing program accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. According to the CCNE web site at www.aacn.nche.edu, CCNE is an autonomous accrediting agency whose goal is to contribute to the improvement of the public�s health by ensuring the quality and integrity of baccalaureate and master�s degree programs. CCNE, which is overseen by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, began accrediting institutions of higher education in the fall of 1998.
As of Nov. 16, FHSU is one of only 25 institutions to receive a 10-year accreditation for both the baccalaureate and master�s degree programs.
According to the CCNE web site, "Professional accrediting agencies assess the extent to which programs achieve their stated mission, educational philosophy and goals/objectives. In addition, the relevance of the mission, philosophy, and goals/objectives is of importance to the accrediting agency in determining the quality of the program and the educational preparation of members of the profession or occupation."
Hassett said the nursing accreditation process is similar to other program accreditation processes. However, she said, "we have to keep in mind our own discipline."
In the fall of 1997, the Nursing Department faculty decided to "go with a new accrediting body," Hassett said. In September 1998, FHSU implemented a steering committee to manage the self-study process. The steering committee consisted of Hassett; Dianna Koerner, director of undergraduate nursing studies; and Dr. Eileen Curl, director of graduate nursing studies. Co-chairs of the self-study were Sue Boos, assistant professor of nursing, and Dr. Janice Davidson, associate professor of nursing.
The nursing program applied for pre-accreditation with CCNE in January 1998. Last April, a team from CCNE visited the university to meet with students, tour Hays Medical Center and area clinics and visit with the administration at those locations.
"We met all the criteria," Hassett said. "There weren�t any weaknesses such that they should wait only five years and check with us again. That�s wonderful. Not all schools receive 10 years accreditation."
Hassett said this was to "make sure we�ve got good, strong clinicals � and we do."
One area of concentration on which the CCNE focused was the Family Healthcare Center, a joint effort between FHSU and Hays Medical Center to serve Hays and surrounding communities. The Family Healthcare Center has nurse-managed sites in Hays, Victoria and Ellis.
Hassett said the CCNE accreditation process "helped us to see we are on the right track and following nationally accepted standards. We now better understand that we need more work on outcomes. We definitely need to improve our comprehensive evaluation processes. Undergraduate and graduate levels worked together to insure that we demonstrated how the philosophy and curricula of the two programs fit well together. This helped to strengthen the bonds among faculty."
The web site stated, "As a voluntary, self-regulatory process, CCNE accreditation supports and encourages continuing self-assessment by nursing education programs and supports continuing growth and improvement of collegiate professional education. Because the accreditation process is a voluntary enterprise, institutions that seek CCNE accreditation of their baccalaureate and/or graduate nursing education programs are viewed to have a cooperative relationship with CCNE in seeking ways to improve and enhance the educational program for professional nursing students."
The FHSU nursing program has been accredited by the National League for Nursing in the past, Hassett said. However, the most a program could be accredited by the NLN was eight years for a previously established program and five years for a new program.
"We wanted to get the programs together," Hassett said. "Doing things in 10-year segments is going to be easier."