Marsal P. Stoll, EdD, MSN, RN
Chief Executive Officer
Mingle with Marcy
In the United States, one of the major strengths of nursing education is the diversity of educational opportunities for individuals aspiring to be a practical nurse, a registered nurse, or an advanced practice nurse. Opportunities abound in a variety of educational settings at all levels of licensure, and for eight decades the ACEN has been a supportive partner and the leading authority for nursing education accreditation for every educational setting and all levels of licensure. Over those 80 years, as nursing education changed to keep pace with the evolution of the nursing profession, the ACEN progressed too. There have been many crossroads over those 80 years, and we are at another crossroad today. There are some voices advancing their viewpoint that only graduate-level nursing programs that prepare students to be an advanced practice nurse (nurse practitioner, midwife, nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist) should be the only practice roles included in an accredited master’s in nursing (MSN), doctorate of nursing practice (DNP), or other graduate-level nursing programs that prepare students for practice roles such as nurse educator, nurse manager/leader, nurse researcher, and health informatics; instead these practice roles belong in a different type of graduate degree program (e.g., MA, PhD) or should be a post-graduate certificate program. Those voices also believe those nursing programs with both APRN and non-APRN practice roles that only the APRN practice roles should hold accreditation. Additionally, this debate is often entwined with decades-held beliefs by some that only certain educational settings should offer a nursing program (e.g., university, four-year college) and based on the type of education (e.g., diploma, associate, baccalaureate), the level of licensure a nurse should hold.
The ACEN believes in and will continue to accredit all six levels of nursing education found in the United States and worldwide. The ACEN will also continue to accredit MSN and DNP programs and graduate-level certificate programs inclusive of all practice roles offered as part of that program – nurse educator, nurse manager/leader, nurse researcher, health informatic etc. as well as nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, and clinical nurse specialist.
While differing viewpoints offer an important platform for debate, the indisputable truth is that the diversity in educational opportunities has resulted in a diverse nursing workforce. More diversity in the nursing workforce will advance the profession of nursing even further. The other indisputable truth is the severe shortage of nurses at all levels of licensure and practice roles. Eliminating any educational opportunities will exacerbate an already urgent situation.
We need to move our profession forward, and the best way to move forward is inclusiveness, not elitism; not shutting doors; not division. The best way to move forward is to advance the quality of all nursing education programs through accreditation and supporting academic progression pathways to achieve the needed educational levels for every level of nursing practice. The best way to move forward is embracing all nursing students, including all graduate nursing students pursuing their career goal regardless of the practice role they aspire to.