Faculty Actively Communicating and Enhancing Nursing with the Systematic Program Evaluation
Written by Layna Himmelberg, EdD, MSN, CNE, Graduate Nursing Director at Clarkson College
The flexible, successful, and nationally-recognized online graduate nursing program at Clarkson College in Omaha, Nebraska, offers specialty options to nurses who seek both master’s (MSN) and doctoral (DNP) degrees. Nurses can pursue nurse practitioner (NP) specialties (e.g., FNP, AGACNP, PMHNP) in both degree levels while nurses can pursue a nurse educator or a nursing healthcare administrator specialty at the master’s level. Nurses already certified as NPs can also pursue a post-MSN DNP degree. The program’s flexibility comes in students being able to pursue their academic goals full- or part-time as they prefer.
The faculty of the graduate nursing program are highly qualified in their areas of nursing practice and quite experienced in teaching online. In addition to creating their courses, including organizing the content and designing the courses within the Canvas learning management system, they actively support the learners through didactic and clinical/practicum experiences.
In addition to their teaching responsibilities, faculty are actively involved in discussions and decisions pertaining to the graduate nursing program. This involvement includes participating in systematic program evaluation (SPE) and preparing for accreditation visits by the ACEN. For the last three years, the graduate nursing faculty have actively reviewed Standards 1‒5 to ensure that the program meets and continues to meet those standards. Beginning on or around the first of the year, faculty are asked to sit on a team pertaining to Standards 1‒5. It can be challenging for these teams to collect this data given that most of the faculty do not reside within the geographic area wherein the college is located.
Given the online nature of the program, these standards teams are challenged to ensure that all resources, support services, and other educational programming that are offered to the face-to-face students at the college (such as those in the undergraduate nursing program) are available to our graduate nursing students. In that respect, many of the criteria used to evaluate undergraduate nursing programs should be reviewed and evaluated for the graduate nursing program.
These teams meet virtually to plan and delegate assignments for collecting data pertaining to the ACEN Standards and Criteria. These tasks are completed—and the data and information are added to the tables that hold the data—by June of that year. Upon submission, this information is reviewed by the Program Director and other administrators, who reach out to the teams for clarification, verification, and amplifying as needed. When the program is due for a site visit by the ACEN, the data in these tables are used to draft the Self-Study Report to be submitted to the ACEN in preparation for the site visit.
Standard 6 data are collected and input by the program administrators for each MSN and DNP program option. At the beginning of each academic semester, the graduate nursing program faculty are asked to review and approve the SPE for the previous semester. From beginning to end, relative to planning and evaluating the curriculum as well as other facets of the program, faculty and administration collaborate at a high level, communicating weekly so that everyone is well-informed. This high-level communication benefits students, faculty, administration, and the institution.
 Standard 6.2 benchmark (80% certification rate) met for all program options with graduates.
 Recognized for 10 years by the U.S. News & World Report.