Shown above, from left, are Colorado Northwestern Community College nursing student Jim Earley, nursing faculty member Julie Alkema, nursing program director Kelly Martin-Puleo, and nursing student Josie Dean who pose near a training dummy in the Craig campus’ academic building Tuesday. The nursing program is seeking accreditation through the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, a step that Martin-Puleo said will make it easier for students to transition into higher degree programs at other institutions.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Shown above, from left, are Colorado Northwestern Community College nursing student Jim Earley, nursing faculty member Julie Alkema, nursing program director Kelly Martin-Puleo, and nursing student Josie Dean who pose near a training dummy in the Craig campus’ academic building Tuesday. The nursing program is seeking accreditation through the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, a step that Martin-Puleo said will make it easier for students to transition into higher degree programs at other institutions.

CNCC nursing program moves closer to attaining accreditation

At a Glance …

• Nursing program at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus seeking accreditation from National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

• Program underwent site visit last week and was recommended for initial accreditation.

• Decision on final accreditation expected in March or April 2012.

• Nursing program director: Accreditation will help students transfer easily into baccalaureate or masters programs, and it tells the public “we have a quality nursing program.”

The nursing program at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus is one step closer to attaining a nod from a national accrediting commission.

Examiners scoured the campus during a site visit last week and recommended the program for initial accreditation through the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Nursing Program Director Kelly Martin-Puleo said.

If the program receives final accreditation, it’s expected to be good news for the college and its students.

“More so than anything, it really does communicate to the public that we have a quality nursing program,” Martin-Puleo said.

CNCC as a whole is accredited, but an endorsement from the Accrediting Commission goes one step beyond that.

“It really is sort of that Good Housekeeping stamp of approval for quality nursing programs,” Martin-Puleo said.

To get that approval, faculty must prove the program meets the commission’s six standards and 54 criteria by compiling a body of evidence that includes everything from class syllabi and examples of students’ work to a thorough inventory of all the books, new equipment and other resources it offers.

“And, you typically have to have roughly about two to three years of data … as evidence for the standards because it really kind of shows consistency over time,” Martin-Puleo said.

The next step is the site visit, conducted by nursing teachers and designed to scope out the program’s strengths and areas that still need work.

CNCC’s performance on this stage of the process, Martin-Puleo said, was “exceptional.”

“We were compliant with all six standards, and we had areas of strength recognized in every standard, which is not common,” she said. “And, we had areas of development in just two of the six standards.”

The process isn’t over yet.

The program must next get the green light from a review board that meets in January. The commission, which is expected to meet in March or April, makes the final decision.

The accreditation, if granted, would last for five years, Martin-Puleo said.

Becoming an accredited program would be a boon for students, she added, because it would make the transfer to a baccalaureate or master’s program more streamlined.

An easier transition could be helpful for Stephanie Timlin, a 28-year-old Steamboat Springs resident and second-year nursing student at the Craig campus.

Timlin plans to graduate CNCC with her associate’s degree and eventually earn a master’s in nursing.

As she understands it, she said, accreditation at the Craig campus “opens you up to a lot more of the advanced programs.”

“Certainly for me, it makes moving on with my education a lot easier,” she said.

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