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UW-Eau Claire School of Nursing
Completes Accreditation Process
MAILED: Dec. 11, 2001
EAU CLAIRE — The Commission on Collegiate Nursing recently granted the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's School of Nursing accreditation of its baccalaureate and master's degree programs for a period of 10 years, extending through Dec. 31, 2011.
The School of Nursing will mark the event with a combined holiday party and accreditation celebration from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13. Nursing alumni are invited to stop by for refreshments and celebration.
The last School of Nursing accreditation visit took place in 1993 when the National League for Nursing accredited both programs for an eight-year period, but in 1998 faculty approved a plan to become accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
According to Interim Associate Dean Dr. Rita Kisting Sparks, the School of Nursing prepared for the first visit by the CCNE, which took place March 12-14 by undertaking an intensive two-year self study designed to identify the program's strengths, diagnose any difficulties and target strategies for improvement. Work groups were formed to address each of four accreditation standards used by CCNE.
Standards I through III deal with program quality and involve evaluating the school's mission and governance, institutional commitment and resources, and the curriculum and teaching-learning practices of both the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. Standard IV deals with program effectiveness and includes evaluating student performance and faculty accomplishments.
The faculty work groups met and shared the results of their work and suggestions for changes or improvements at a retreat in August 2000, and in November 2000 the school rehearsed with a mock accreditation visit. The preliminary accreditation report was reviewed by a consultant, who, according to Kisting Sparks, made only a few suggestions for changes. The final report was submitted to CCNE in January.
The actual campus visit included four CCNE visitors who met with senior administrators from both UW-Eau Claire and the School of Nursing, as well as with students, alumni and members of the public.
All this work and preparation seems to have paid off, because after the CCNE Board met in late September, Kisting Sparks received notification that the school had met all four accreditation standards, with no further recommendations for changes or improvements. Continued compliance with the standards is monitored through regularly scheduled continuous improvement progress reports. UW-Eau Claire's next progress report will be due in June
According to Kisting Sparks, one thing the school will be working on over the next few years will be trying to establish more specific outcome measures for the programs. "For example," she said, "we will state exactly what percentage of first-time writers of the NCLEX exam we expect to pass."
Kisting Sparks also notes that even though CCNE had no recommendations for needed improvements, the School continually evaluates itself and sets goals for further developing and improving its programs. When the faculty brainstorms about improvements, she said, they usually begin by examining the School's strengths. "We have a very high student retention rate (about 85 percent), so what do we need to do to maintain or even increase that rate? For a school our size, we also have a high percentage of faculty who have doctoral degrees, but many are nearing retirement age. How can we encourage more of our younger faculty members and graduate students to pursue doctorates, rather than recruiting from outside?"
Other goals Kisting Sparks mentioned included revising the graduate program, obtaining a grant to modernize the skills lab, and adding more on-line courses for nurses pursuing bachelor's or master's degrees.
Since the undergraduate nursing program was revised within the past several years, the administration and faculty next would like to turn more of its attention to reviewing the graduate curriculum.
"It's an ongoing process," said Kisting Sparks. "The accreditation visits may come only once every eight or ten years, but the work needed to maintain an excellent program and keep up with changes in health care and the nursing profession never really stops."
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Dec. 11, 2001