The curricular design of nursing programs must embody a set of key principles and resources that are designed to have a lasting impact on nursing education and knowledge generation. Educators must be able to demonstrate their ability to meet the required standards and regulations that govern nursing education and curricular needs so that their programs are accredited and are able to accept students for admission and program completion. This process requires nurse educators to become leaders within their field and to understand the demands of the practice environment and how these translate into educational needs and expectations for students who are seeking careers in nursing.
The primary accrediting organization in the United States is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its accrediting strengths and knowledge (AACN, 2014). This commission acknowledges the work and service of many nursing education programs which meet the required standards and which support nursing education to prepare students for future careers in the field (AACN, 2014). This program has recently reviewed its accreditation standards for Baccalaureate and Graduate Degree Programs to meet current demands and changes within the healthcare practice environment that have a direct impact on student success (AACN, 2014). These practices also support the need to continuously evaluate nursing education programs to meet the required standards and to be effective in communicating the vision of nursing practice that translates into effective teaching tools and resources for students (Schug, 2012).
It is believe that the content associated with nursing curricula continues to evolve and to be supportive of the demands of the practice environment as changes are observed (Schug, 2012). These factors represent a means of understanding how nursing curricula impact student education, knowledge, and performance, thereby creating opportunities for change as new ideas evolve and require further attention and focus (Schug, 2012). In this context, curricular standards are likely to change from time to time and require nurse educators to modify their curricula in accordance with the required standards and principles (Schug, 2012). These practices also support the demand for new ideas and approaches to nursing curricula to sustain accreditation and support long-term educational objectives and knowledge generation for nursing students across different programs (Schug, 2012).
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) embodies a set of six core principles that govern accreditation for nursing education and include the following: 1) Mission and administrative capacity, whereby core values are reflected in the core curriculum and administrative oversight to perform the required mandates of the program; 2) Faculty and staff must possess expert knowledge and exemplary leadership in an effort to provide effective education to the student body; 3) Students must adhere to all required policies and standards that govern their behavior within the educational environment; 4) The curriculum must be able to prepare students for careers in nursing through key objectives to support safety in the healthcare environment; 5) Resources must be available at the necessary level to meet all curricular requirements; and 6) Outcomes must reflect the acquisition of core competencies and the achievement of the necessary outcomes related to nursing practice (ACEN, 2013). These principles govern the manner in which nursing students receive education in the classroom and in the hands-on nursing practice environment; therefore, these standards must be met in accordance with the required objectives and in meeting the established criteria for learning new tasks and forms of knowledge (ACEN, 2013).
Nursing education must support a set of principles and guidelines that govern the classroom environment and that will prepare nurses for practical settings when direct patient care is required. All standards, therefore, must be measurable and support value, quality, quantity, and extent (ACEN, 2013). Curricular standards must also be addressed and all criteria must be met in order to achieve the intended objectives of the nursing curriculum (ACEN, 2013). These factors enable an educational institution to modify its nursing curricula as required or as appropriate and to be effective in improving the knowledge base and skill development of nursing students to prepare them to be successful as practicing nurses (ACEN, 2013). These requirements must be met so that nursing education programs are able to operate as desired and to provide education to students in an organized format that aims to support successful student performance and achievement over time (ACEN, 2013).
Nursing education programs must be designed to meet the needs of the nursing practice environment and to be effective in preparing students to be successful in nursing practice and in support of a specific vision for the nursing field. As curricular standards evolve, these programs must be modified in order to accomplish the required objectives and to be proactive in supporting student achievement and growth. Under these conditions, accrediting bodies will periodically evaluate curricular standards and make changes as required in order to accomplish improvements to these programs that will support the expansion of knowledge for nursing students. As these students thrive in the educational setting, the knowledge and training that they receive will translate into positive and meaningful work performances as they reach this stage of their careers. Therefore, curricular standards are critical in the development of new perspectives to improve nursing education and outcomes for these students.
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (2013). Accreditation manual. Section I: General information. Retrieved from http://www.acenursing.net/manuals/GeneralInformation.pdf
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2014). CCNE Accreditation. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/ccne-accreditation
- Schug, V. (2012). Curriculum evaluation. Using National League for Nursing accrediting commission standards and criteria. Nursing Education Perspectives, 33(5), 302-305.