SFSC Nursing Program Earns National Accreditation
South Florida State College now offers the only nationally accredited nursing program in its service district of Highlands, Hardee, and DeSoto counties. The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program at SFSC recently received initial accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN), formerly the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. (NLNAC). Initial ACEN accreditation has been granted through spring 2018–for five years, the maximum number of years allowed.
Notification of SFSC’s ADN program accreditation came to Dr. Michele Heston, director of Nursing Education, in a letter from ACEN Chief Executive Officer Sharon J. Tanner, congratulating SFSC on its achievement.
“To have programs accredited by national standards has been a primary goal of ours at SFSC for many years,” said Kevin Brown, dean, Division of Applied Sciences and Technologies.
SFSC’s licensed practical nursing to associate degree in nursing transition program was launched in 1984. In response to community need, the college established a traditional associate degree in nursing program in 1993.
In nursing education, ACEN is one of only two accrediting bodies in the country that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The other is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
ACEN accreditation is a mark of distinction, certifying that a nursing program adheres to the highest national standards of education. To become accredited, nursing programs must demonstrate that the program meets ACEN’s exacting standards of quality through an extensive review. As a result, students who graduate from ACEN-accredited institutions are more readily accepted into other advance degree nursing programs and have broader employment opportunities—nationally and internationally. “Some employers only hire nurses who come from accredited programs, for instance, the Veterans Administration,” Dr. Heston explained.
“The distinction of this accreditation assures everyone that we offer a quality nursing program,” said Rebecca Sroda, associate dean, Allied Health. “They will know that the caliber of instruction meets the same levels as prominent nursing schools across the country. Our curriculum and the credentials of our faculty are equal to theirs. The content is exactly the same. We meet the same standard.”
“When one of our nursing graduates applies to a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in nursing elsewhere, the secondary institution will be comfortable knowing that the student brings a knowledge base at a level on which that nursing program can build,” she said.
According to Dr. Heston, “Any of SFSC’s ADN students who graduated during our candidacy period, which began on June 25, 2012, are considered to be covered under that accreditation.”
Another benefit to accreditation is that SFSC will have greater opportunities to apply for grants that might be used to fund resources such as equipment for its teaching labs. “When filling out an application, the granting institution wants to know if your nursing program is nationally accredited,” Dr. Heston said. “If not, you won’t be considered for the grant.”
In its final report on SFSC’s ADN program, ACEN reviewers praised the program for its particular areas of strength. They highlighted the “strong, creative administrative leadership of SFSC’s nurse administrator,” the college’s two-year endowed teaching chair for nursing faculty, and the innovative D.U.C.K. program, its signature faculty/student mentoring program that embraces the motto: Developing Understanding, Compassion, and Knowledge.
Of particular note is that the average National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) pass rate of SFSC’s ADN students for the past three years, 2009-2012, was 92.18 percent, a rate exceeding the national average of 87.8 percent. The job placement rate for the nursing students was 100 percent over that same period.
“I’m so appreciative of how many individuals contributed to this accreditation process,” Dr. Heston said. “It’s been a college-wide and communitywide effort—we had the support of the nursing department, faculty, administration, and other departments within the college. Everyone recognized how important it is to all of our stakeholders. Our community partners really stepped up to the plate to support our work. That’s a powerful testimony to their belief in what we do.”
Plans are to begin a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at SFSC in fall 2014. In building the curriculum for this program, all ACEN standards and criteria are being addressed and incorporated. The program will go forward upon approval of the Florida State Board of Education and Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (COC-SACS).
SFSC offers a two-year generic associate in nursing degree program, a one-year transition licensed practical nurse to registered nurse program, and an 11-month practical nursing occupational certificate. For more information about these programs, call 863-784-7131 or visit http://www.southflorida.edu/academic/apsci/nursing.
These nursing programs are among several Allied Health programs offered by SFSC and include dental hygiene, dental assisting, radiography, paramedic, and emergency medical technician. SFSC’s paramedic program is currently pursuing accreditation through the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the EMS Professions (CoAEMSP). The college has received a letter of review toward that accreditation, and a review team site visit is expected this year.
ACEN is responsible for the specialized accreditation of nursing education programs, both postsecondary and higher degree, which offers a certificate, a diploma, or a recognized professional degree (clinical doctorate, master’s/post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical).
ACEN has authority and accountability inherent in the application of standards and criteria, accreditation processes, and the affairs, management, policy-making, and general administration of the ACEN. For more about ACEN, visit http://www.acenursing.org.