The Accreditation Program of the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is committed to quality in continuing nursing education (CNE) programming. To that end, the Commission on Accreditation (COA) regularly reviews and revises the criteria and key elements. This periodic update allows the program to adapt to professional and educational standards as well as changes in the environment in which CNE operates. The 2009 accreditation manual, released in April, goes into effect August 1, 2009 (ANCC, 2009). Features of the new manual include broadening of the language to include an interprofessional focus; expanded commercial support guidelines; and pointers to highlight where requirements differ for first-time applicants. Major changes in the 2009 criteria for continuing education providers are described below.
Eligibility as an Accredited Provider
All current eligibility criteria are still in effect, including having a clearly defined provider unit, having at least one qualified nurse planner, and using the accreditation criteria for at least 6 months prior to application. As of August 1, organizations that are considered commercial entities are not eligible to be providers of CNE. Commercial entities are defined as organizations that produce, market, resell, or distribute health care goods or services consumed by or used on patients (or companies owned or controlled by such entities). The purpose of this change, which is consistent with requirements of medical and pharmacy continuing education, is to ensure the separation of continuing education from potentially biasing sales or promotional activities. Currently, accredited organizations that fit the commercial support definition will be allowed to continue their educational activities through July 31, 2010, but will not be able to offer CNE after that date.
Organizations that target more than 50% of their learning activities to registered nurses in multiple regions of the country will now be required to apply for accreditation as providers. Regions are defined according to criteria established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( www.hhs.gov/about/regions). Prior to August 1, 2009, those organizations could apply for either accreditation or provider approval through constituent member associations (CMAs) of the American Nurses Association. This change is designed to allow for COA monitoring and oversight of provider units with a broad audience base.
Operation as a Provider Unit
As always, the accredited provider unit is required to have the services of at least one nurse planner. All nurse planners must be registered nurses with a graduate degree, and at least one degree must be in nursing. Additionally, the nurse planners must now have evidence of competence in performing the expected role, which includes knowledge of the criteria as well as expertise in the field of education (adult learning theory) and educational design. There are numerous ways the nurse planners could document how competence is attained and maintained. They must be oriented to their role and be able to demonstrate current knowledge. One suggested option is a portfolio; others include participation on planning committees or training in the area of professional development.
In organizations with multiple nurse planners, one person is selected to be the lead nurse planner. The 2009 criteria clarify the role of the lead nurse planner in providing oversight to the provider unit’s functioning, educating new and current nurse planners, and ensuring that all nurse planners are consistently following both criteria and key elements and the provider unit’s operational processes.
Conflict of Interest
The process of educational design and development is essentially unchanged. Some areas have been expanded or clarified. For example, it is required that conflict of interest (COI) information be disclosed to learners prior to the beginning of the educational activity. This disclosure must include the fact that there is or is not a COI on the part of any planner or presenter or content specialist. If a COI is present, the disclosure must include the nature of the conflict and how resolution occurred to prevent bias in the educational programming. Signatures from the planner or presenter or content specialist are not required with the disclosure information. However, it is suggested that if signatures are not obtained, the provider unit document the source of the data (i.e., phone call from presenter or e-mail from presenter).
When developing enduring materials (e.g., web-based learning, written independent study activities, books or articles, or videos), the planning committee must determine the length of time contact hours can be awarded for the activity before content must be reviewed for any needed updates. Learners need to be informed of this date via information on both the marketing material and the title page of written materials.
Organization of the Manual
The manual is organized into sections, with information for accredited providers, accredited approvers, and approved providers. Criteria and key elements are explained, with specific designation of “required evidence” to be maintained by the organization to verify its adherence to the criteria. Specific chapters address the site visit, the accreditation decision, monitoring processes during the period of accreditation, and re-accreditation. The glossary has been revised and updated.
Any one of four actions may be taken by the COA. These can include accreditation, deferral, probation, or denial. Accreditation for the first-time applicant is for 2 years. Returning applicants can be granted re-accreditation for either 4 or 6 years, unless probation is indicated. With this manual, accreditation decisions have been quantified. Six-year accreditation is granted when the self-study and site visit demonstrate that the provider unit complies with approximately 90% to 100% of all required items. Four-year accreditation is awarded when 75% to 89% of all required items are present. Less than 75% of the required items places an organization on probation, and less than 60% means denial of accreditation.
To order a copy of the new manual, call 1-800-284-2378 or visit the website at www.nursecredentialing.org/ContinuingEducation/Accreditation/AccreditationProcess/AccreditationApplicationManual.aspx.
Accreditation is a highly valued indication that an organization has the capacity to provide quality CNE. Review of the 2009 manual and updating of the provider unit’s processes will ensure that integrity is maintained and learners continue to receive high-quality, well-developed learning opportunities to enhance their professional development.
Lynore D. DeSilets, EdD, RN-BC
Pamela S. Dickerson, PhD, RN-BC
PRN Continuing Education, Inc.
- American Nurses Credentialing Center. (2009). Application manual: Accreditation program. Silver Spring, MD: Author.