On the Fence? The ACEN Makes Volunteering Easy
by Lori Sharpe, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the ACEN
Are you mulling over the decision to volunteer your valuable time by serving as a peer evaluator? I am sure you would think of several questions. Where do you start? What should you expect? How could you be successful at it? If those questions feel familiar, the ACEN has this volunteer opportunity mapped out for you. The ACEN has thought of almost everything to make your decision easier; the resources below should help you envision yourself serving as a peer evaluator.
Learning the Role: Training and Educational Resources
The ACEN provides training courses for peer evaluators geared specifically towards visiting nursing programs that are seeking nursing accreditation, be that attaining accreditation the first time or reaccreditation. These training materials are offered online through ACEN Everywhere, which is a virtual platform that informs, guides, and assures the success of peer evaluators. It contains eCourses and webinars at no cost.
Seeing Yourself There: Travel Resources
There are a few ways to travel to the destination for a site visit. The ACEN provides you access to an account for air travel, which is the most utilized method. Some peer evaluators prefer to drive to a site visit depending on the proximity to a neighboring state or on their own comfort level. Although not used as often, peer evaluators can also travel by train to their assigned site visit.
The ACEN Volunteer Services team systematically vet each site visit to minimize travel times, layovers, and logistical difficulties. Once you arrive in the site visit’s destination city, it is the nursing program’s responsibility to provide ground transportation and lodging during your entire stay.
Engaging in Professional Discourse: ACEN Policies and Documentation
It would benefit peer evaluators to read the ACEN Accreditation Manual, as every ACEN-accredited nursing program should have utilized it in preparing for their ACEN site visit. The online version always has the most updated policies and information on the ACEN’s accreditation process. In addition, the manual contains both the 2017 and the 2023 iterations of the ACEN Standards and Criteria, which are invaluable for peer evaluators to review prior to a site visit in order to enrich their review. In addition to accessing the program’s Self-Study Report and documentation in the ACEN Document Repository, you will be able to immerse yourself in the details of nursing education during interviews with the nurse administrator, faculty, staff, and students.
Asking the Big Questions: ACEN Directors
When peer evaluators are onsite conducting their review, the ACEN Directors are always available for consultation if a peer evaluator, a program director, or the nurse administrator has a question—be that regarding content writing for the report, onsite situations, or issues of any kind.
The ACEN Directors have been exactly where you are. Every Director was once a nurse administrator for one or more of the nursing programs that the ACEN accredits and a clinician in a clinical setting. They are knowledgeable and experienced on both sides of the fence. Though they have vital roles within our office, the Directors also serve as team chairs or as team members on a site visit. Who better to ask if there are onsite issues than the Directors, who have aided in the review of countless programs?
You Can Do It!
The decision to serve as a peer evaluator may come down to how much time you may be willing to commit to a process that your program has either recently gone through or will soon go through. Are you ready to take the next step to broaden your career experience? As your supportive partner, the ACEN is eager to facilitate your service to the nursing education community.