CLAREMONT — River Valley Community College's Associate Degree Nursing Program lost its voluntary accreditation with the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) on Aug 1.
"The decision does not reflect deficiencies in instruction or student performance," Dr. Susan Henderson, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, said in a statement last week. "The rigor of the program and the quality of our graduates is evidenced by our record of pass rates on the nursing license exam that are consistent with other programs in New Hampshire, and by the successful employment experiences of our graduates, who hold positions in hospitals, schools, medical offices, and business and industry in the Upper Valley and across the Granite State and New England."
The program continues to be approved by the New Hampshire Board of Nursing, and the college intends to take the steps necessary to regain its ACEN accreditation, which it had held since 1990.
"Accreditation by the ACEN is not required, but we feel it is worth having and we will work to regain it in the upcoming months," Henderson said.
On Monday, Henderson said the lengthy process of regaining the accreditation is expected to take about two years.
In the meantime, River Valley Community College plans to hold meetings with freshmen, who were to enter the program this fall, as well as seniors, who are halfway through the program, within the next week.
The freshmen will be encouraged to work at getting their liberal arts courses completed while the community college works for re-accreditation, Henderson said. Seniors are being encouraged to stay in the program and graduate from the program that is still approved by the New Hampshire Board of Nursing, she said.
"They just would not be able to say they graduated from an ACEN program," Henderson said.
Henderson said while the ACEN program is voluntary, the accreditation is important.
"We value a peer review and accreditation," she said. "And that's why we went through this whole process way back when their program was created in the late '80s and early '90s and we value that. It's like a stamp of excellence."
Suspension of the ACEN accreditation was due to insufficient documentation and articulation of two of ACEN's six accreditation standards: documenting the alignment of curriculum and instructional processes; and documenting that student outcomes are measurable and specific for each component of the academic plan.
"We are just in the process of creating a corrective plan of action to take care of those areas," Henderson said.
It is not a matter of creating the documentation, but centralizing it and making it more understandable, Henderson said.
"Both River Valley and Community College System of New Hampshire are committed to dedicating the resources necessary for the college's nursing program to transition back into ACEN accreditation status as soon as possible," Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith, the new president of River Valley Community College, said in a statement.
River Valley has been educating and training practical and registered nurses for more than 45 years. The college launched its Practical Nursing program in 1968 and established its Registered Nursing program in 1981.Current and entering River Valley Community College Associate Degree Nursing students who take classes at the main campus in Claremont and the college's Academic Center in Keene will remain eligible to take examinations for state licensing, and any River Valley nursing graduate who chooses to pursue a bachelor of science and/or master's degree in nursing may do so without impediment.