The fundamental role in the peer review process is that of an ACEN peer evaluator, who serves as an educator and/or clinician to determine a program’s compliance with the ACEN Standards and Criteria. Peer evaluators use their expertise of the ACEN Standards, Criteria, and Policies to make accreditation recommendations and accreditation decisions. Peer evaluators function in several capacities, including team chairs and team members on site visits, reviewers on the evaluation review panel (ERP), and accreditation decision-makers on the Board of Commissioners (BOC).
During the site visit, peer evaluators review the program’s written report, interview program constituents, review supporting evidence, tour educational facilities, and write a site visit report, which documents the site visit team’s recommendation. Likewise, peer evaluators serving on the ERP review the program’s written report, the site visit team’s report, and makes a recommendation regarding the program’s compliance with the Standards. The BOC reviews all program types in each cycle to ensure consistent application of the Standards, Criteria, and Policies for a decision that is independent of all the other steps in the peer review process.
Interestingly, functioning in the role of peer evaluator offers benefits. One of the most useful benefits is professional development. Peer evaluators earn six contact hours of online training for role preparation. This training may be used to maintain credentials for the nurse educator distinction (Beasley, et al., 2019). Prior to each cycle and ERP, peer evaluators receive additional training for specific components of the review process that require their thoughtful attention. After BOC approval of new Standards and Criteria, peer evaluators complete training to ensure consistent application of the new Standards and Criteria.
Although professional development is comprehensive, the peer evaluator role has other benefits. Notably, other benefits include developing accreditation knowledge and broadening the network of professional contacts that could result in lasting relationships. The final benefit of serving as an ACEN peer evaluator is being among colleagues, friends, and other nurses who share the innate goal to help mankind in difficult circumstances and whenever an opportunity presents itself. This was most evident during the pandemic!
In summary, the role of the peer evaluator is essential to the three-step peer review process: site visit, ERP, and BOC, and it offers several benefits. However, in this issue of BRIDGES, the ACEN staff and BOC would like to acknowledge the ACEN peer evaluators for their commitment to the ACEN during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of various challenges, many ACEN peer evaluators continued their reviews of programs by serving on virtual site visit teams and virtual evaluation review panels. Impressively, many of the ACEN peer evaluators have partnered with local healthcare agencies to administer COVID-19 vaccines. The ACEN staff look forward to working with such an exemplary group of peers.
Beasley, S. F., Farmer, S., Ard., N., Ellison-Nunn, K. (2019). A Voice in the Accreditation Process: The Role of the Peer Evaluator. Teaching and Learning in Nursing. 14(4), A3 – A5.