Frequently Asked Questions
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is a non-governmental accrediting agency. The ACEN is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as a programmatic accrediting agency for nursing education programs at the clinical doctorate and DNP specialist certificate, master’s and post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical levels of education. The ACEN also accredits transition-to-practice programs (TTP) based in academic institutions or healthcare services settings at all levels of nursing practice and licensure, including advanced practice registered nursing, registered nursing, and practical nursing.
A peer-review, self-regulatory process by which non-governmental agencies recognize educational institutions or programs that have been found to meet or exceed standards and criteria for quality.
Transition to practice is a critical time during which a nurse develops the skills and attitudes necessary for autonomous nursing practice within her or his level of licensure. Transitions in nursing practice occur when an individual completes a nursing education program and obtains initial or a new level of nursing licensure, when a practicing nurse transitions to a new nursing role/responsibilities at the same level of licensure, or when a nurse re-enters the workforce after an extended absence. Current research suggests that successful transitions to practice result in improved patient safety and a better quality of nursing care.
Transition-to-practice (TTP) programs are organized, structured, and formal programs during which nurses are directed, guided, and supported through a professional transition in practice. TTP programs have: established learning and program outcomes; an organized curriculum; effective program educators; sufficient resources for nurse resident success; and processes in place for collecting, analyzing, and using outcomes data for program improvement. Nursing literature suggests that TTP programs improve the quality of patient care, enhance patient safety, improve employer retention of nursing staff, and increase the competence and confidence of participating nurse residents.
The primary mission of the ACEN is to support the interests of nursing education, nursing practice, and the public by the functions of accreditation. The ACEN Board of Commissioners determined that successful transition to practice is critical for the profession and the public; therefore, the accreditation of TTP programs is consistent with the ACEN mission to support the interests of nursing practice and the public.
The ACEN is the leading authority in nursing accreditation. As the original and longest-serving nursing education accrediting agency, the ACEN is committed to quality improvement. ACEN policies, procedures, and processes are transparent, guided by peers and contemporary practice, and have an intentional focus on outcomes. The ACEN Transition-to-Practice Standards and Criteria for accreditation are not prescriptive and allow for flexibility of the program to meet the needs of the sponsoring organization and the community served. The ACEN is your supportive partner and works with you to ensure the highest level of program quality.
The ACEN accredits TTP programs designed for nurses who obtain an initial or new level of nursing licensure, nurses who are in transition to a new role/responsibilities at the same level of licensure, and nurses who are re-entering the profession after an extended absence. The ACEN accredits transition-to-practice (TTP) programs based in academic institutions or healthcare services settings at all levels of nursing practice and licensure, including advanced practice registered nursing, registered nursing, and practical nursing.
In addition to potentially fulfilling the requirements of external regulatory or approval bodies, ACEN accreditation:
- Demonstrates organizational commitment to best practices and improving patient outcomes.
- Aids in recruitment of nursing staff.
- Aids in retention of nursing staff.
- Demonstrates organizational commitment to nursing staff.
- Fosters ongoing, self-examination, re-evaluation, and focus on the future.
- Provides recognition that the transition-to-practice program has been evaluated, and periodically re-evaluated, by a qualified independent group of peers and demonstrates the extent to which the transition-to-practice program meets Standards and Criteria specific to transition-to-practice programs.
- Heightens program educators’ and administrators’ awareness and responsiveness to areas needing improvement in the transition-to-practice program.
- Engages program educators in best practices related to peer evaluation.
- Provides opportunities for networking among transition-to-practice programs.
The short answer is no, the ACEN does not require accredited TTP programs to use a standardized curriculum. Although the Transition-to-Practice Standards and Criteria include the expectation that the program’s curriculum enables nurse residents to assume practice roles in leadership, professionalism, and safe clinical practice, each TTP program can develop and deliver the curriculum that meets the needs of their sponsoring organization and nurse residents. Please refer to Standard 4 Curriculum in the Standards and Criteria for additional information.
ACEN-accredited TTP programs are expected to develop a systematic plan of evaluation inclusive of ongoing assessment and evaluation of the program’s self-developed end-of-program learning outcomes and program outcomes. End-of-program learning outcomes are defined as statements of learner-oriented expectations written in measurable terms that express the knowledge, skills, or behaviors that the nurse resident should be able to demonstrate upon completion of the TTP program. Program outcomes are measurable indicators that reflect the extent to which the proposed of a TTP program are achieved and program effectiveness is documented. At a minimum, TTP programs are expected to assess and evaluate the following program outcomes: program completion, nurse resident and employer program satisfaction, and, as applicable, job placement rates and employee retention rates. The assessment of additional program outcomes is the choice of the program and the sponsoring organization. Please refer to Standard 5 Outcomes in the Standards and Criteria for additional information.
Nurse residents are the participants in a transition-to-practice program who enter the TTP program per the policies of the sponsoring organization. Consistent with any state regulatory agency requirements, nurse residents may be newly licensed in nursing (initial or at a new level of licensure), transitioning to a new nursing role/responsibilities at the same level of licensure, or a nurse re-entering the workforce after an extended absence.
The ACEN accreditation process is built on the premise that peer review is an essential and effective process for evaluating whether or not a TTP program meets established standards of quality. The peer review process assists TTP programs in becoming stronger, better, and more effective. TTP program representatives seeking accreditation complete an evaluation of their program’s compliance with the Standards and Criteria and write a report describing the program’s compliance. An onsite peer review process facilitates interaction and the collegial exchange of information between the program and the peer evaluators. This review process assists the peer evaluators in verifying, clarifying, and amplifying the program’s compliance with the Standards and Criteria. The peer evaluators also write a report describing their findings about the program’s compliance. The written reports of both the program representatives and the peer evaluators are submitted to the ACEN Board of Commissioners for a final comprehensive peer review. The Board of Commissioners is responsible for making all accreditation decisions. Although some aspects of the peer review process may be effectively completed by peers without an onsite visit, there must be some onsite peer review for each TTP program seeking initial and continuing accreditation.
An ACEN-accredited TTP program may be offered in more than one location if the program meets the ACEN definition of a single TTP program. In order to ensure the integrity of the program across all locations, after a total of three locations, the ACEN assesses a nominal fee for each additional location. Refer to the ACEN Transition-to-Practice Fee Schedule for more information.
In order to be considered a single transition-to-practice program for the purposes of ACEN accreditation, all TTP program locations must:
- Be under the auspices of a single sponsoring organization,
- Be administered by a single nurse administrator,
- Offer the same curriculum with the same end-of-program learning outcomes for each program type, and
- Use a shared systematic plan of evaluation.
The term of accreditation for TTP programs is four years. Programs that wish to remain accredited will participate in a comprehensive reaccreditation process every four years.
No. Although the ACEN is a Title IV gatekeeper for some nursing education programs, ACEN accreditation for a TTP program does not qualify a TTP program for federal financial aid programs.