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Accreditation commission to visit SUNY Canton to study nursing program


CANTON — Representatives from the Accreditation Commission for Excellence in Nursing will visit SUNY Canton later this month as part of a lengthy process to decide whether the college’s bachelor’s degree in nursing program is up to snuff.

The ACEN is a national commission, based in Atlanta, Ga., which evaluates nursing programs across the country.

SUNY Canton’s two-year associate degree in nursing has been accredited since 1972, but its younger baccalaureate offspring has yet to earn the same level of notoriety.

The college’s bachelor’s degree in nursing was created in 2009. It is an online-only program, offering two years worth of classes beyond those required for the associate degree.

It is expected that students who graduate with an associate degree can immediately enter the workforce while continuing to earn their bachelor’s degree online.

This year, 139 students enrolled.

The program has been in the midst of the accreditation process since March 2012, a fairly typical length of time, according to professor Debra M. Backus, who oversees SUNY Canton’s nursing program.

Even though the program is online only, the accrediting commission will still visit the campus Feb. 18 to 20 to meet with administrators and professors, as well as members of the public.

Community members with opinions on the nursing program are encouraged to attend a meeting at 4 p.m. on Feb. 19 in Cook Hall Conference Room 121.

SUNY Canton’s bachelor’s program focuses on community health, public health and leadership skills, which are not developed in the first two years of coursework, Ms. Backus said.

It provides opportunities for nurses who want to work at higher-end hospitals with more demanding hiring standards.

“Some hospitals want to be considered a magnet hospital. That means they have higher status,” Ms. Backus said.

These magnet hospitals must hire a certain number of nurses with a four-year education or better to retain their status.

Accredited programs have the advantage of looking better to employers and other colleges offering higher-level degrees.

“It’s kind of a symbol of quality. And students that graduate from an accredited program can easily transfer into another program,” Ms. Backus said.

After the campus visit, the program will need to undergo two more levels of examination before a final decision is made, likely by August.

The commission can choose to grant full or provisional accreditation, or reject it. In the case of provisional accreditation, it will be finalized if the college makes certain requested changes to its curriculum or the services available to students.

“We feel pretty confident that we will get accredited, but I hate to sound too confident because we really don’t know,” Ms. Backus said. “But we are as prepared as we possibly can be for their visit.”

The closest nursing bachelor’s programs are at SUNY Plattsburgh or the SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica, neither of which are currently accredited by the ACEN.

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