Serving the Nursing Community: Be a Peer Evaluator for the ACEN

Serving the Nursing Community: Be a Peer Evaluator for the ACEN

by Suzette Farmer, PhD, RN, Director at the ACEN

ACEN peer evaluators are nurse educators, nurse clinicians, or nurse administrators who believe that ACEN accreditation is a process that makes nursing education programs stronger and better. A peer evaluator is committed to nursing education, the nursing profession, and is willing to share their time and expertise to ensure that nursing education programs are effective and high quality.

Does this sound like you? Are you willing to share your time and expertise?

If you have been looking for an opportunity to contribute to the nursing profession, now is the time to consider becoming a peer evaluator for the ACEN.

Accreditation is a peer-review process and as such, the ACEN relies on people just like you to serve as peer evaluators. To serve as a peer evaluator, you must teach in an ACEN-accredited program, be a nurse clinician with knowledge of current nursing practice, or be an administrator with administrative oversight of an ACEN-accredited program. You may nominate yourself or one of your colleagues for this role.

Rest assured, you do not need to have all the ACEN Standards and Criteria memorized! If selected to be a peer evaluator, you will complete the required training (earning CEs!), then wait for your opportunity to serve. Peer evaluators will be invited to serve on a site visit team on a regular basis, and you will have the ability to accept or decline these requests.* The fun really begins once you accept an assignment to a site visit team!

Typically, three peer evaluators serve on a site visit team. An experienced peer evaluator serves as the team chair, and the team members have varying levels of experience as a peer evaluator. Site visit teams form an instant bond. The opportunity for personal and professional growth is immense, considering our site visit teams are your peer colleagues who are similarly committed to nursing education, who believe that accreditation is a process that helps us all be better educators, and who strive to ensure high quality nursing education.

Once a site visit team is assigned, you will collaborate with your team to determine work assignments and which Standards will be your area of focus during the site visit. Peer evaluators need to look at the program as a whole, so you will read the program’s full Self-Study Report and endeavor to understand how the program is organized and what they do to ensure student success; simultaneously, you will have one or two Standards that will be your primary responsibility. This allows you to focus your attention and develop a deeper understanding of the program’s compliance with the assigned ACEN Standards and Criteria. The site visit team works together to finalize the plan for the site visit and everyone’s area of focus.

About six weeks before the site visit is scheduled to occur, you will be provided access to the ACEN Document Repository, which is where the program has uploaded their Self-Study Report and supporting evidence of their compliance with the Standards and Criteria. At this time, you will start to map out your findings and identify the areas where additional information or clarity is needed. A few weeks before the visit, the site visit team should meet to finalize plans for the site visit and identify if any additional information is needed before the visit. The goal is to ensure that the program has every possible opportunity to provide evidence of compliance prior to and during the site visit.

During the three-day site visit, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with your team and engage in collegial discourse with the administrators, faculty, and students of the program you are visiting. Site visits can be demanding; you are trying to develop a thorough understanding of the program under review in order to make a recommendation concerning the program’s compliance with the ACEN Standards and Criteria. You will need to use your best communication and analytical skills combined with your professional judgment to describe the program’s compliance in the written Site Visit Report and to determine the recommendation the team will make about the program’s compliance. Although challenging, the site visit and peer-review process is also invigorating. It is an opportunity to learn how other programs function and what they do to ensure student success. The peer-review process expands your understanding of ACEN accreditation and the Standards and Criteria, which benefits your own professional development and can expand how you think about your own nursing program.

In addition to serving onsite visit teams, experienced peer evaluators can be invited to serve on the ACEN’s Evaluation Review Panel (ERP). The ERP is the second level of review in the peer-review process. Those selected to serve on ERP travel to Atlanta, GA, to meet and further review the program and its compliance with the ACEN Standards and Criteria. The ERP experience is another opportunity to ensure that the peer-review process is comprehensive and that accreditation recommendations submitted to the ACEN Board of Commissioners are consistent and well-developed.

As you can see from this brief description of your role as a peer evaluator, the ACEN would not exist without you! Please consider the contributions you can make to nursing education and the profession through service as an ACEN peer evaluator.

* You will not serve on a site visit team in your home state, nor should you serve on a site visit team where you have any potential conflicts of interest. For more information, please visit our website to read Policy #1.