Wilson College Office of Marketing and Communications
Chambersburg, Pa. — Wilson College’s nursing program has received accreditation from the National League for Nursing’s Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA), an indication of excellence and adherence to nationally established standards for nursing education.
The initial six-year accreditation applies to all four of Wilson’s nursing pathways: the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for existing registered nurses (RN-to-BSN and RN-to-MSN), the Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) and the Master of Science in nursing (MSN).
The college’s nursing programs were approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing in 2015. Wilson pursued accreditation, which is voluntary, to ensure the quality and integrity of its programs and because of the advantages to nursing graduates, according to Carolyn Hart, director of Wilson’s nursing program.
“It’s a student’s assurance that the program they’re in meets or exceeds industry standards. Then after graduation, if they want to go on to get a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing, they are required to have a nursing degree from an accredited school,” said Hart. “And employers very often want to hire people who have graduated from an accredited school. It says a lot about the program.”
For Wilson, accreditation brings another set of benefits. “CNEA accreditation really helps you focus on continually improving and continually making sure that what you’re offering to students is current, addresses the needs of employers and makes sure that nurses are prepared to excel in the workplace,” Hart said.
The accreditation process was lengthy, with planning starting before Wilson launched its first nursing programs – the RN-to-BSN and RN-to-MSN – in fall 2014, according to Hart. She said the application process began in October 2015 and a site visit – where a CNEA evaluation team comes to campus and evaluates the program – occurred in September 2016.
“Four nurses from all over the country, with nearly 40 years of accrediting experience and doctorates in nursing, spent two and a half days with us looking at absolutely everything,” said Hart. “They interviewed students, the community, faculty and our clinical partners. They went to Summit Health to watch a clinical group and sat in on classes. It’s a very intense period where they scrutinize everything.”
Before leaving, the team debriefed Wilson’s nursing staff and shared their opinions, which Hart said were positive. “Our relationship with our students is very close-knit and very supportive. They were very impressed with that,” Hart said. “At Wilson, we have a very interdisciplinary approach to education, which many institutions strive for but don’t achieve. They thought that we have something unique here.”
Wilson’s accreditation was approved at a Feb. 16 CNEA board meeting and the college received official notice on Feb. 27.
A total of 126 students are enrolled in Wilson’s four nursing pathways. In addition to taking classes both in-person and online, pre-licensure students benefit from hands-on opportunities with the college’s local clinical partners. The largest of those are Summit Health, Keystone Health and Menno Haven.
Wilson nursing students work to gain experience and exchange ideas with nurses and other medical professionals with those organizations. “Our nurses are working hand in hand with staff nurses providing patient care, because human beings learn by doing,” said Hart.
In addition to gaining practical experience, Wilson students are engaged in some “innovative” efforts with the college’s local healthcare partners, according to Hart. “Even though every nursing program has clinical partners, we’re perhaps using our clinical partners in a way that is unique,” she said.
For example, at Summit Health, Wilson students are partnering with bedside nurses to perform research on best practices. At Menno Haven, students become familiar with not only chronic illness, but how that affects quality of life “so that they understand not just the science of nursing, but also the art of nursing,” Hart said.
She said that clinics at Keystone Health provide a broad range of experiences to Wilson students, fostering a better appreciation of the problems associated with obtaining healthcare.
Sherri Stahl, Summit Health senior vice president of hospital services and chief nursing officer at Chambersburg Hospital, said having a nursing program in the area is important to help address shortages in the field. She gives Wilson’s program high marks for exposing students to real-life applications in clinical lab sessions from their very first semester.
“We think (Wilson’s) model is one of the best, if not the best, that we’ve seen,” Stahl said.
For information about Wilson’s nursing programs or to register, contact Hart at 717-262-4853, 717-414-6184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.