St. Catherine University is excited to announce that our renowned nursing programs have received accreditation renewal by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). ACEN is recognized internationally as the leading authority in nursing education accreditation, and has granted re-accreditation to all St. Kate’s nursing programs through 2028. Dean of Nursing Laura Fero, PhD, MSN, RN says, “St. Catherine University’s nursing programs have been at the forefront of healthcare education for over a century. With award-winning faculty and countless successful graduates, our programming continues to exceed expectations and has an exceptional history of meeting the needs of professional nursing.”
During the ACEN accreditation process, Dean Fero, administrators, and nursing faculty implemented an innovative quality improvement project to increase faculty engagement. St. Kate’s nursing faculty members Katrice Ziefle, PhD, RN, CNE; Kara S. Koschmann, PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC; Renee Colsch, PhD, RN, SCRN, CQ; Jill Campbell, MA, RN, CDCES; and Catherine Graeve, PhD, MPH, RN wrote an article about the project and its results, “Innovation and Accreditation: A Quality Improvement Process” in the academic journal Teaching and Learning in Nursing.
At most educational institutions, nursing program accreditation has limited faculty engagement and is primarily accomplished by a small team of faculty and administrators, resulting in less involvement and knowledge of the process for the majority of the nursing faculty. Dean Fero wanted this to be different at St. Kate’s. As the research article describes, “By improving overall engagement in the accreditation process, the fundamental purpose of accreditation — ensuring quality nursing education and maintaining disciplinary rigor — is advanced. When faculty participate in the process, they enhance their professional development as educators and become invested in the work of accreditation.”
The nursing department put forth the effort to implement a change. Utilizing existing evidence and John Kotter’s “8-Step Process for Leading Change” from his book Leading Change, they developed a new model to support faculty and their engagement which incorporated the following:
- Build a Guiding Coalition: An Accreditation Planning Team (APT) formed and provided overall guidance through the process.
- Create a Sense of Urgency: The APT created a timeline with clear tasks for the accreditation renewal process.
- Enable Action by Removing Barriers: The nursing department used a familiar tool, Learning Management System (LMS), to reach its goals.
- Enlist a Volunteer Army: An Accreditation Program Champion (APC) from each program of study was recruited to encourage, engage, and educate faculty on the process.
- Communicating the Change Vision: Through monthly dean emails, monthly APC meetings, and clear leadership support, the department was kept up-to-date on the accreditation process, required documentation, and next steps.
- Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action: Through the LMS and education opportunities, the APT and APCs encouraged faculty to fully engage in the accreditation process.
The faculty overwhelmingly agreed that this new model was helpful for their engagement, as illustrated by a 42-question faculty survey and compiled results from this project completed after the accreditation process. Results also included:
- 93% of survey respondents agreed the accreditation process was clear, they had increased knowledge, and received appropriate recognition.
- 90% percent felt their role in the process was important.
- 95% of respondents reported that participation in the process increased their professional development and 88% felt prepared for the site visit.
As the research article describes, “Results from this project demonstrate that increased engagement not only helps to accomplish the work more efficiently, but also improves faculty knowledge and preparation for the accreditation site visit.” Dean Fero says, “We are so proud of the innovative accreditation efforts and the ability to share this process and excellent outcomes. This affirmative re-accreditation sets the strategy for future growth and engagement of students, faculty, staff, clinical partners, and our community. ”