Surviving Accreditation Post-COVID Turmoil

Surviving Accreditation Post-COVID Turmoil

Written by Linda Kaye Walters, PhD, MSN, CNE
School of Nursing Undergraduate Campus
Tracks Coordinator at Indiana State University

Published: May 2022

The School of Nursing at Indiana State University consists of two program options. The first is that students enter a traditional four-year degree program, and it takes five semesters to complete the nursing core. These students enter without a prior degree, LPN, and/or RN licensure. In the second program option, students enter an accelerated, second-degree path without LPN or RN licensure; however, they have a prior degree in another field. It takes four semesters to complete the nursing core.

Our program also has two online program options. The first has students enter as an LPN and earn their BSN. For the second, students enter with their RN licensure and earn their BSN. Both online options do not have a specific completion time.

With today’s scope of nursing practice, we feel that our programs fit the needs of both traditional and non-traditional students. We as faculty have continued to include some online components in the traditional face-to-face classroom. We have learned a lot about what students like and dislike. We have also learned how to progress and produce quality nursing students, even during a pandemic.

No one ever told me that I would experience a pandemic. In fact, the likelihood of this occurring was slim to none. March 2020 hit, and the COVID-19 pandemic hit harder. Our campus courses were halted. Our face-to-face professors and instructors were immediately thrown into a world of the unknown overnight. Not only were we dealing with the virus shutting down our normalcy, but some of us in leadership roles were thrown into the unknown of how to deal with a pandemic and still continue to progress and produce competent nursing students.

The uniqueness of our School of Nursing is our online program options. These educators teaching online had already begun to use innovative classroom and clinical teaching techniques. I believe this is what saved us. These educators began to reach out to their campus counterparts to assist in meeting classroom and clinical requirements, which had been moved to fully online during the height of the pandemic. We saw Zoom lectures take place for traditional classroom teaching. We saw simulation scenarios availability increase, which took place for the clinical component. All-in-all, the pandemic has taught us that no matter what, we can continue to do what we have been doing—just in a new and more innovative way.

Now let’s move forward a year. We are now months away from needing to complete our Self-Study Report for the baccalaureate program. The COVID-19 virus is still present, and mutations are entering the picture. Conferences in general have either been cancelled or held virtually. Morale is down. Masks are on. Faculty and students are scared and tired. However, we still needed to begin to prepare for the accreditation visit, which meant we needed to write the Self-Study Report. This is when I truly began to struggle with the possibility of our school coming back together as one. However, the hybrid 2021 Nursing Education Accreditation Conference was truly a life saver. Albeit not ideal since I prefer face-to-face, this was an exceptional way to help get leadership on track toward meeting the goal of getting faculty on track and getting the Self-Study Report written regardless of the pandemic. The benefit of attending this unique virtual conference was the real-time discussions, program examples, and the availability of the ACEN Directors. We could attend the sessions, take notes, and at the end ask any lingering questions with regard to what session we attended. Session leaders provided ample examples throughout their presentations and offered resources and references as needed. The most unique thing, which helped tremendously, is there were one-on-one sessions available to help answer any specific questions anyone had. Since we have unique distance education program options, getting to the bottom of how to write the expected levels of achievement was extremely helpful. Overall, the benefits of attending the Nursing Education Accreditation Conference as a nurse administrator helped to guide the direction that I needed to go in developing an action plan for our upcoming accreditation visit. I attended all the sessions related to writing the Self-Study Report. The continued commitment from the ACEN and follow-up emails with additional webinars allowed me to attend in real-time within context of what chapter I was writing. This allowed for ample time to meet the requirements, get faculty on track, and complete the Self-Study Report before our site visit.