When and How to Start the Candidacy Process


By Greg Donaldson | Report Processing and Quality Assurance | ACEN
Bridges, Volume XIII – Issue 3, August 2019

When to Start the Candidacy Process (Eligibility)

Accreditation Candidacy with the ACEN cannot be discussed without first discussing what it means to become eligible for Candidacy. The distinction between eligibility and official Candidacy is of paramount importance. In fact, one of the most common questions presented to ACEN professional staff members is, “What is the difference between eligibility and Candidacy?”

Eligibility simply means that a governing organization/institution and a nursing program meet the ACEN required prerequisites and has been approved to submit a Candidacy Presentation to the ACEN. A program eligible for Candidacy is not automatically a Candidate for ACEN accreditation. It is only after the review and approval of a Candidacy Presentation that a nursing program becomes an official ACEN Candidate, and the program is listed as such on the ACEN website. More information regarding the Candidacy eligibility process can be found in Policy #3 Eligibility for Initial and Continuing Accreditation.

Assuming that a program has been deemed eligible for Candidacy, another common question is “When should I submit my program’s Candidacy Presentation?” The short answer to this question is that a Candidacy Presentation must be submitted within one year of the date of eligibility. Please note, however, that programs applying for accreditation will be assigned an ACEN professional staff member to mentor the program leaders and faculty members after eligibility is confirmed. Though a Candidacy Presentation can be submitted at any point after eligibility is confirmed, the ACEN strongly advises programs to submit Candidacy Presentations only after conferring with the assigned professional staff mentor. Throughout the entire Candidacy process, the ACEN professional staff mentor is the best available resource for any nursing program.

How to Start the Candidacy Process (Submitting a Candidacy Presentation)

A nursing program seeking Candidacy will receive a letter verifying its eligibility. From the date of this letter, the program has 30 days in which to submit its eligibility fee payment and one year in which to submit the Candidacy Presentation. A governing organization that offers a program not accredited by the ACEN initiates the Candidacy process through its chief executive officer and nurse administrator. The chief executive officer of the governing organization for the nursing program/nursing education unit as well as the nurse administrator must authorize the ACEN to conduct the accreditation process by submitting the Official Authorization for Candidacy Process Form, which is sent to the program with the letter confirming eligibility. When the signed Authorization is received, ACEN professional staff members can officially begin reviewing the Candidacy Presentation.

Essentially, a Candidacy Presentation is a condensed version of a Self-Study Report. A Candidacy Presentation does not include all of the ACEN Standards, and those Standards included (Standards 2, 4, 5, and 6) are limited to certain criteria within these Standards. The written Candidacy Presentation should be developed by the program leaders and faculty members and submitted electronically by emailing the document to Dr. Nell Ard. Please use the following link to find more information regarding how to compose a Candidacy Presentation: http://www.acenursing.net/resources/Guidelines_CandidacyPresentation_Sep2017.pdf

All materials submitted are reviewed by the ACEN professional staff. Applicants receive written notification whether the program is approved for Candidacy, deferred, or disapproved. Approval for Candidacy is granted when the nursing program demonstrates it is currently compliant with the requirements of the Candidacy Presentation as well as the Candidacy process, or demonstrates the ability to be compliant during the Candidacy period. Additional information about Candidacy can be found in Policy #34 in the ACEN Accreditation Manual.

Questions along the way

Each nursing program is unique, so it is natural that program leaders and faculty members need to ask questions specific to their program. The ACEN cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of reaching out to the professional staff mentor.

Understanding the ACEN Accreditation Cycle Timeline