Pilot Study Identifies ANCC Accreditation Standards as Key Criteria in Evaluating CNE

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Participation in continuing nursing education (CNE) activities has increasingly become a requirement for RNs to maintain licensure, but they have limited to time to devote to this area.  As such, it’s important that CNE participants have some mechanism for identifying programs that provide high-quality, effective learning experiences. According to a pilot study conducted by NIH Research Nurse Specialist Elaine M. Novakovich, MS, BSN, RN, “accreditation is one criterion that can be used to evaluate the quality of an educational activity.”

Novakovich’s study, recently published in The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, assessed whether measurable differences existed between the quality of free, one-hour webinars designed using 2013 American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Primary Accreditation Standards and those that were not. Novakovich developed a 15-item matrix identifying measurable characteristics of educational activities that reflected the 2013 standards. Among them were clearly communicated learning objectives, content based on the most currently available evidence, and appropriate instructional methods to engage learners.

Using the matrix, 10 webinars, five that used ANCC accreditation standards and five that did not, were reviewed and evaluated. While these webinars were independently and randomly selected using Google, Novakovich identified these 10 for further review based on their having content that reflected a variety of areas in nursing practice. In addition, she purposefully selected three webinars provided by “commercial interest organizations” that advertised CE credit for completion.  

After reviewing the webinars, Novakovich concluded that the learner is able to perceive a measurable difference between one-hour, Web-based CNE activities developed in compliance with ANCC accreditation criteria compared with learning activities that did not comply with the criteria. She wrote, “This pi­lot study, although small, is the beginning of an impor­tant, conversation in evaluating effective CNE activities that engage the learner, ensure independence from the influence of commercial interest organizations, and posi­tively influence the practice of nursing.” A white paper authored by ANCC’s Commission on Accreditation highlights similar concerns. To read the article, visit the journal’s website.