HOW TO INVOLVE FACULTY: SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE FROM A NURSE ADMINISTRATOR

By Wade Forehand, PhD, DNP, RN-BC, CNE | Director and Professor | Troy University School of Nursing
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 4, November 2019

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accreditation process intends to enhance quality improvement in nursing education through peer-review process. Achieving accreditation signifies that a school or university has been found to meet or exceed standards and criteria for educational quality. The accreditation process at any level is both a daunting and an arduous task for nurse administrators and faculty alike. Whether you are preparing for initial accreditation, a continuing accreditation review, or simply trying to incorporate the ACEN Standards and Criteria more into your daily practices, it is needed for the program’s betterment and livelihood. The focus of this column is to offer some very casual and practical advice from one nurse administrator to other administrators—or to faculty looking to embrace the accreditation process more confidently.

I would like to begin by sharing a little about my university, the nursing programs that we offer, and myself. Presently, I have the honor of serving as the Director of Nursing for the Troy University School of Nursing (SON) in Troy, Alabama. Troy’s SON offers programs at all levels including ASN, BSN, RN-to-BSN, MSN, Post-MSN Certificates, and the DNP. Our pre-licensure ASN and BSN programs are offered in a traditional face-to-face format on three different campus sites. Our RN-to-BSN, MSN, Post-MSN Certificates, and DNP programs are offered as distance education delivered online. I mention all of this in order to relay the complexity and diversity of the different degree offerings that we have at Troy University—to help you compare it to your own program. In terms of size, Troy University has approximately 17,000 students enrolled either on-campus or online. The SON has approximately 600 students enrolled. In respect to myself, I would say that I am a relatively new nurse administrator. I was appointed to my position two years ago in 2017. My background includes experience in teaching BSN and graduate students at the MSN- and DNP-levels. I have over seven years of experience in nursing education and fourteen years of nursing experience. I am also a Certified Nurse Educator through the National League of Nursing.

When I accepted the nurse administrator role in 2017, the SON was actively preparing for a continuing accreditation visit of our BSN and MSN programs, which was scheduled in for Spring 2019. Needless to say, I felt a great sense of responsibility to ensure that our site visit would go as smoothly as possible. Some of the strategies and activities that we implemented as a SON not only prepared us for the site visit, but also engaged all faculty in the process. Approximately three years ahead of our scheduled visit, we initiated a timeline and series of efforts that would carry our program through the entire continuing accreditation process. We intentionally wanted to build a schedule that would lead to a successful visit. In offering advice to others, I would first highly recommend that you consider strategically when to start preparing for your visit. A three-year preparation process has served our school well over the years. Getting faculty buy-in and support the preparation process was essential.

Faculty must be involved in the preparation and execution of the visit. Faculty and support staff are the cornerstone of a program’s success, and therefore must be instrumental in preparing the Self-Study Report (as required by the ACEN). Most probably know, but the Self-Study Report is a self-evaluation regarding compliance with the ACEN Accreditation Standards. This report in essence tells the story of the nursing program. The way that Troy University sought to engage faculty was to have them active in the planning process from day one. One of the early steps that we took was to create a schedule to ensure that all faculty in both programs being reviewed were able to attend one of the live ACEN Self-Study Forums. These forums, provided by the ACEN Directors, are offered throughout the year in a variety of locations. Forums provide faculty with an opportunity to dive deeper into the current ACEN Standards and Criteria. The forums are in a workshop format, and consist of a day-and-a-half activity where faculty prepare for a site visit. We intentionally started early in arranging for faculty to attend the Self-Study Forums to ensure that all faculty members would have an opportunity to attend and have background knowledge about the preparation for the visit. These Forums, along with the formation of committees and a timeline, helped jumpstart the effort to initiate the process. It was expected that all full-time faculty would play a role in writing the Self-Study Report and gathering documents of evidence concerning accreditation. I found it to be important to establish a culture within the school that both valued faculty input in the process and relayed the importance that each member plays in the success of continued accreditation.

Another point of advice that I would recommend in getting faculty involved is to harness the strengths that individual faculty members may have. It is important to consider what role best fits an individual faculty member. In other words, if someone’s strong suit is writing, then have that person play a role in writing or editing sections of the Self-Study Report. Another faculty member may be efficient and organized at compiling information for evidence. The overall goal is a successful visit. Take into consideration your team, their strengths, and their weaknesses as you put together committees and assignments for the visit preparation. I would also encourage nurse administrators to look at their faculty for expertise with the ACEN. Many programs will find that they have faculty that have served as peer evaluators or have played larger roles within ACEN. Challenge these individuals to be leaders in the preparation effort. Also, encourage faculty to consider becoming peer evaluators. The ACEN review process from the team perspective provides a wealth of knowledge when it comes to contributing to one’s own nursing program. I make it a priority to encourage faculty to be involved with the ACEN. In fact, Troy has many faculty members that are peer evaluators, team chairs, serve on the Evaluation Review Panel, and have held positions on the ACEN Board of Commissioners. Regardless of the role, experience with the ACEN is an invaluable asset for the nursing program.

Lastly, I would offer that the nurse administrator should set the team up for success in preparing for the visit. Make sure that you take into account the work that is involved with the visit. It may be necessary to consider work releases from your typical teaching or faculty duties. Remember a successful visit is the end result, and thus preparing is important. This is just as important as it is to make sure that the day-to-day operations continue. By forming committees and spreading the workload out among the faculty, you help to prevent the burden from falling on any single person. I also encourage nurse administrators to remain active in the overall process. Make sure to attend faculty meetings and committee meetings to talk about efforts and the progress that is being made. Moreover, set firm deadlines for progress and stick to those deadlines to ensure that progress is always being made.

In conclusion, I hope that this friendly advice may be helpful as you or your program engage in a deeper understanding of the accreditation process.