The Difference Between Approval and Accreditation

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Approval and accreditation are both important to operate and maintain a successful nursing program, but the two terms do not mean the same thing. The purpose of this article is to discuss the differences between approval and accreditation for schools of nursing.

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

The Difference Between Approval and Accreditation

Many potential and current nursing students do not fully understand the concepts of approval and accreditation. For instance, someone recently mentioned that his/her school of nursing is accredited by the Arizona Board of Nursing. State boards of nursing absolutely do not accredit nursing programs, so this is an attempt to clear up any confusion regarding approval and accreditation.

What does 'approval' mean? In most states, approval means that a nursing program has met specific standards set by individual state law. When a state grants approval for a nursing program to operate, this allows the approved school of nursing to start admitting pupils, conducting courses, and graduating students.

Why is approval important? Approval is mandatory because one's school of nursing must be approved by a state board of nursing (BON) in order to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Also, approval requires ongoing compliance with the minimum standards that have been set by each state.

Accreditation, on the other hand, is a voluntary status bestowed upon a nursing program by an accrediting agency not associated with the state BON. Accreditation provides assurance that the program in which you are enrolled or are considering enrolling is engaged in continuous review and improvement of its quality, that it meets nationally endorsed standards in the profession, and that it is accountable for achieving what it sets out to do (APA, n.d.).

Why is accreditation important? If an individual wants to continue his or her nursing education, completion of an accredited nursing program is often mandatory for admission into other accredited nursing programs. In addition, many government employers such as the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, and federal prisons will not hire RNs who did not graduate from accredited schools of nursing.

The two national entities that grant accreditation to nursing programs are the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The NLNAC accredits LPN programs, associate, diploma, baccalaureate (BSN), masters, and doctorate degree programs. The CCNE accredits only baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral degree programs.

Contrary to popular belief, a nursing program does not need to be accredited because the accreditation process is purely voluntary. As long as the nursing program is state-approved, the graduate will be eligible to take NCLEX and receive a nursing license upon passing the exam. However, a nursing program's lack of accreditation might close the doors to pursuing higher education and opportunities for employment with certain entities.

References

Why is accreditation important?

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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11 Comment(s)

Don't forget general academic accreditation, which determines, among other things, whether the courses completed at a particular school can be accepted for transfer credit by other colleges and universities.

thanks for the clarificatiion, I was thinking that they were the same as many.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

thanks for the clarificatiion, I was thinking that they were the same as many.
You're very welcome.

It's sad when I see people post on these forums that their school is 'accredited' by the state BON when, after doing some digging, the nursing program is totally unaccredited. It is merely approved to operate by the state BON.

You're very welcome.

It's sad when I see people post on these forums that their school is 'accredited' by the state BON when, after doing some digging, the nursing program is totally unaccredited. It is merely approved to operate by the state BON.

To be fair, some state BONs do actually use the terms "accredit" and "accreditation" to refer to what all the other states refer to as BON "approval," which further muddies the water. CA was one, the last time I looked at the BRN website, and I think there may be a few others.

So how does this effect online programs that are accredited by the CCNE or NLNAC and students are studying out of state from the physical location of the school?

Stephalump

Specializes in Forensic Psych. Has 2 years experience.

You take the NCLEX in the state you wish to be licensed in, so the rules concerning your ability to test would be based on your state's rules. For instance, so states will clear you to test after graduation from Excelsior because the program is approved by its home state. Some states will not allow you to test because of the lack of clinical hours.

what are the requirements for an Accelerated BSN program to be state approved?? I called CCNE and they verified that their ABSN program I am looking into is accredited. But now I am trying to find out if their program approved by New York State. From what I understand a nursing program must be fully approved by NYS in order to sit for the NCLEX and for the state to grant you a RN license. In order for a program to accept students does it have to be state approved?

I am a little confused by this... I have my Associates Degree- and Passed my NCLEX. Now I am looking for a Bachelors program, and was interested in Chamberlain- but I've come to find out it is accredited in NY but not approved? What does this mean?

So I'm looking to complete an LPN program. I looked up the accreditation and it's showing the school is accredited for the RN program associates level but doesn't come up when I look for the practical nurse. Does the RN program accreditation cover the LPN because it's a lower degree or do they need to have separate accreditation? Some of the other schools listed for Florida have them for both the LPN and RN but I'm not sure if that is a mistake of the website adding them to both lists instead of just the higher degree.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

So I'm looking to complete an LPN program. I looked up the accreditation and it's showing the school is accredited for the RN program associates level but doesn't come up when I look for the practical nurse.
Which accreditation did you look up? Accreditation is not nearly as important for practical nursing programs as it is for professional registered nursing programs.

Program needs to be accredited if you want to proceed with advanced degrees.