WMU News

WMU nursing school earns national accreditation

May 7, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's School of Nursing is in just its fourth year of operation, but it already has earned national accreditation from the only recognized accrediting agency for nursing in the United States.

The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission has granted the WMU School of Nursing a five-year accreditation after an intensive examination that included a site visit last October. This is the highest accreditation level a new program can receive.

"This is very early for a school to receive accreditation," says Dr. Bernardine M. Lacey, who helped launch the WMU School of Nursing in 1994 and currently serves as its director. "We wanted those students who took a chance and came to us early to graduate from an accredited program. I know that the University saw national accreditation as absolutely essential, and we've been aiming for it ever since the school started.

"The faculty is tremendously pleased and proud -- this took a lot of hard work. It is not easy to assure in a very, very new program that all of the elements are in place for this kind of critical review."

WMU joins 14 other public and private nursing programs in the state of Michigan and some 1,500 across the nation that also are accredited.

"Dr. Lacey and the faculty are to be congratulated for this extraordinary success so early in the school's development," says Dr. Janet I. Pisaneschi, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. "We're also very grateful to our many community partners and local donors for assisting us to realize such an expeditious and auspicious beginning for this educational venture and important addition to the University health and human service offerings."

The accreditation followed a three-step process including a self-study of the program, a site visit by an evaluation team, and a review of the self-study and the evaluator's report by a panel of experts from the accrediting agency.

The nursing school was measured against 14 criteria encompassing items such as how the program is administered, the qualifications of the faculty, the demographics of the students, the relevance of the curriculum and the amount of funding allocated to support the program.

"For each of the 14 criteria there were questions, and we had to validate and document each of our responses," Lacey explains. "We literally set up an evidence room of documents and materials to substantiate our claim that we met each of the criteria."

Evaluators also visited a sample of the school's practice sites at each of the two Kalamazoo area hospitals to observe students in clinical practice.

In awarding the accreditation, the accrediting commission highlighted the WMU program for being reality-based, innovative and futuristic, and stated that the students could clearly articulate the program's objectives.

Lacey says the accreditation will not only enhance the school's standing among the professional community, but it will also allow WMU students and the school to be eligible for federal funding opportunities that were out of reach without it. She says it also serves as an important recruiting tool when attracting new faculty and students. Nursing professionals who wish to attend graduate school in nursing must graduate from an accredited program.

The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission is an independent subsidiary of National League of Nursing. It is the leading accrediting body for all types of nursing education programs --baccalaureate, master's, associate's, diploma and licensed practical nursing-- within the United States. Its review panel includes doctors, nurses, nursing educators and community members.

The WMU School of Nursing offers bachelor's degrees for beginning nurses and for registered nurses who already have nursing diplomas or an associate's degree in nursing. A four-year pre-licensure track is available to beginning students seeking a bachelor's degree and eligibility to sit for the registered nurse licensing exam. A two-year registered nurse track is available for those with a nursing diplomas or associate's degrees seeking a bachelor's degree in nursing.

The WMU program currently enrolls nearly 225 students. The school employs five full-time faculty and 10 clinical supervisors who specialize in areas of nursing such as pediatrics and community health nursing.

The first class of graduates from the registered nurse track earned their bachelor's degrees in 1996, while the first class of pre-licensure students will graduate in 1999.

Media contact: Julie Paavola; julie.paavola@wmich.edu

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