The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing announced Monday SFA’s Master of Science in Nursing Program is fully accredited. Accreditation means students can continue their education to the doctoral level. MSN Coordinator Erin Bailey said all family nurse practitioner students must graduate from an accredited program to be allowed to take their certifying exams to practice.

“Of course I was relieved but there was never any doubt," Bailey said. "We have a wonderful program and lots of hard-working faculty. The undergraduate program is also accredited by ACEN, so we fully understood the challenges we faced to become accredited.”

To become accredited, Bailey and her team had to write a self-study and address all of ACEN’s standards. The self-study addresses everything from the administration to the curriculum. 

“This document is several hundred pages of proof of how we meet each criteria," Bailey said. "After the self-study is submitted, ACEN sends in a site visit team from similar institutions across the U.S. They evaluate the self-study and evidence they find here on campus. They interview students, faculty, and administration; they go through faculty and student files and review online and physical resources.”

After that, ACEN makes a recommendation and sends it to the Evaluation Review Panel. The discussion panel views the self-study and reports. During this, MSN members are able to listen to the discussion panel but have no input.

“Unfortunately for an initial accreditation, it is an all or nothing process," Bailey said. "You have to have every single aspect in compliance, or the program does not receive accreditation. We are thrilled to have succeeded in this major accomplishment."

Students of the MSN program are excited about the accreditation. Anna Beccone is a member of the first cohort of students within the program and is set to graduate in May.

“Upon becoming officially accredited this April, I felt relieved as well as a deep sense of pride," Beccone said. "My clinical instructor, Dr. Chris Bray, called me personally to tell me the good news. To be a part of SFA's history in such a capacity as being the first graduating class of the MSN-FNP program deeply moves me.”

Beccone said this accreditation would not be possible without the wonderful professors, directors, program coordinator, students and preceptors who came together and collaborated to make this dream a reality.

The accreditation process also involved time and effort from the students. They had to make sure their licenses, certifications, vaccinations, clinical contracts and essential paperwork was valid and put to date.

“I was visited by a member of ACEN's review panel while I attended clinical at Head Pediatrics," Beccone said. "The member of ACEN sat down and spoke with myself as well as my preceptor, Scott Nelson, FNP-BC. We discussed how my clinical experience met the course objectives, MSN essential competencies, as well as the NONPF core and FNP population specific competency outcomes.”

Bailey is creating new goals for the MSN program, but her main priority is still to create personal relationships with students.

“Our goal is to create great MSN Lumberjacks," Bailey said. "We do hope to increase our numbers and the types of MSN offerings we have. Since this occurred, we are able to offer the MSN Nurse Educator and post master's options. In the future, we hope to diversify more.”

The first class of family nurse practitioner students will graduate in May; and in the fall, the program will be adding an MSN option for Nurse Educators and a Post Master's Certificate for the family nurse practitioner informatics. All MSN programs are online with clinical opportunities possible in communities the students’ live in.

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