Barbara Stevens Barnum's miscast characterization of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's accreditation initiative (Online Journal, Aug. 13) cries out for what the author apparently did not take the initiative to check — the facts. Had she done so, Dr. Barnum would have realized that contrary to her claim that AACN chose to "take this period of NLN's vulnerability as the time to propose its own accreditation process," AACN had in actuality laid the foundations of its proposal years before. As early as 1989, AACN had commissioned a report by staff on the issues surrounding specialized accreditation, and since that time, continued to receive numerous requests for further investigation of accreditation issues.
Indeed, AACN's Strategic Plan, which called for AACN to explore the professional, fiscal, regulatory, and statutory aspects of specialized accreditation, had been approved and in place months before the National League for Nursing applied to the Department of Education (DOE) in June, 1995 for renewal of its accrediting authority. That plan included the goal for AACN to determine what role, if any, AACN should play in the accreditation of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education.
The task force that carried out AACN's study evolved out of the need to respond to an array of growing concerns in nursing and higher education — among them, the proliferation and lack of coordination of specialized accreditation within nursing and other professions, the rapidly expanding number of nurse practitioner education programs, and the increasing dissatisfaction of university and college presidents with the accreditation process overall.
AACN's movement into accreditation is not a reaction to any single development involving any of the several nursing organizations that currently have accrediting authority. Rather, it is the result of years of thoughtful study by AACN of a constellation of accreditation issues of long standing, including schools' mounting expenses to prepare for accreditation site visits (ranging from $2,000 to $50,000 per school above fees charged for accreditation, according to an AACN survey), the redundant and duplicative processes associated with the various review entities, and the increasing financial pressures already encroaching on higher education.
In response, members in October 1996 authorized AACN to take the lead role in creating a new alliance of multiple organizations to better coordinate and streamline the accreditation process for nursing higher education. To create an AACN voice in the alliance, members also approved AACN's proposal to establish an autonomous arm that would have the sole purpose of providing accreditation services to baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs beginning approximately mid-1998.
NLN's renewal application, and the DOE's deliberations and decisions regarding it, are events that developed independent of AACN. AACN had no control over their timing, nor could this association in good faith delay coming forward with a proposal that it regarded to be in the best interests of nursing schools that, subsequently, voted so overwhelmingly to approve it. Rather than falsely imply in a low blow that AACN timed its proposal to come during DOE's review of NLN's application, Dr. Barnum would have better served the interests of accurate reporting by stating the mere fact that the two developments occurred coincidentally. No other connection can be made because no other connection is true.
Carole A. Anderson, PhD, RN, FAAN
American Association of Colleges of Nursing