Associate and Baccalaureate Nursing Education

Two different organizations accredit nursing education programs. The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) accredits practical nursing, diploma, associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs and schools. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), an autonomous arm of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), also accredits programs offering baccalaureate and master’s degrees in nursing.

NLNAC does not require nursing educational institutions to teach specific knowledge or skills to achieve accreditation. Rather, each institution is to identify the knowledge and skills to be acquired by students through its curriculum at each level of education it provides. NLNAC then verifies that the school is meeting the educational objectives it has set for itself. NLNAC does require, however, that each school’s curriculum meet specific standards; for example,

Curiculum developed by nursing faculty flows from the nursing education unit philosophy/mission through an organizing framework into a logical progression of course outcomes and learning objectives to achieve desired program objectives/outcomes.

Program design provides opportunity for students to achieve program objectives and acquire skills, values, and competencies necessary for nursing practice. (NLNAC, 2006:15)

Although not requiring that specific knowledge and skills be taught, NLNAC does require accredited schools to build their curricula around guidelines for nursing practice selected from among those established by a number of recognized nursing organizations. For example, NLNAC supports the Pew Health Professions Commission’s 21 Competencies for the Twenty-First Century as the basis for preparing practitioners to meet evolving health care needs,14 and recommends as guidance a set of core competencies, a number of which address psychosocial health services (see Box 7-4). With respect to all of the core competencies it identifies, NLNAC states: “It is essential that each nursing program interpret these skills and competencies in the content, context, function, and structure of their program” (NLNAC, 2006:84).

AACN identifies nurses as “practice[ing] from a holistic base and incorporate[ing] bio-psycho-social and spiritual aspects of health” (AACN,


NLNAC also recognizes other statements, including but not limited to the competencies published in Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality (IOM, 2003), the National Task Force on Quality Nurse Practitioner Education’s Criteria for Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs (2002), and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists’ 2004 Statement on Clinical Nurse Specialist Practice and Education.

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