Abstract: In much of nursing academe the words "self-study" and "accreditation site visit are enough to squeeze the coronary arteries of nurse administrators and faculty. Such words conjure up images of months of labor intensive work, anxiety and concerns that all might not go well and that the program's accreditation will be placed in jeopardy. Both the completion of a self-study, designed as a self-assessment of program strengths and weaknesses, and preparation for the on-site visit are an addition to the normal tasks of nurse administrators and thus often result in overtaxing resources allotted to maintenance of the program.
Key Words: Accreditation, Site Visitor Chairperson, National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC)
It is a recognized fact that nursing education accreditation visits are important to ensure the quality of programs and services and that, in the worst case scenario, the outcome of the site visit can result in closure of the nursing program (Burke, 2003). Accreditation is seen as an indication of a program's competence, excellence, and quality thus increasing it's viability (Burke, 2003). The acquisition of accreditation when a program is initiated and the continuation of accreditation by ongoing reassessment is critical for many programs. Accreditation enables institutions to apply for federal, corporate, and foundation funds, aids the department in competition for campus resources, and for students since there is higher status associated with a degree from an accredited institution (Burke, 2003).
How can fears of the nurse administrator and faculty be calmed by the site visitor chairperson so that the program can be showcased in a positive light? The evaluation site visit team chairperson plays a central role in the process of lowering the stress of the nursing program and increasing the productivity of an accreditation visit. There are a number of ways the chairperson can be effective, efficient, and supportive before, during, and following the site visit. A professional, ethical manner is critical in the implementation of the accrediting body's guidelines. The chairperson of a National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) team can also be assisted by noting the outline of the responsibilities of team chairperson and members which can be found in the current NLNAC Accreditation Manual and Interpretive Guidelines by Program Type(2002) (See Table 1). *
Prior to the Visit
Planning prior to the visit involves both the site visitor team members and the nursing administrator of the program. Strategic elements are involved in planning with both the team and the nursing administrator if the team and nursing administrator are to feel mentored and supported. The first step begins with the team chairperson's contact with members of the site visit team and the nurse administrator of the program to be visited.
Planning with the Team
The initial call to team members should include setting a collegial tone, establishing e-mail communication, obtaining information on areas of expertise, discussing travel plans, dividing responsibilities for the standards in the site visit report, and soliciting input into the agenda (see Table 2).
It is the responsibility of the...