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RCC nursing program celebrates additional accreditation

By Tom Martin
May 12, 2014

Rappahannock Community College recently learned that its Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program has received accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), formally the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. Elizabeth Crowther, college president, stated that the college and its professional partners are thrilled, because this is the pinnacle of recognitions for a strong nursing program with a long history of success.

Dr. Crowther notes that the ADN program has always been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and that graduates of the ADN program earn an associate degree in nursing that is also approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing. ACEN accreditation documents that a nursing program has been evaluated by qualified independent evaluators and is found to adhere to the highest national standards of education.

In its early years, the RCC ADN program existed as a partnership with J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, requiring students to complete the second year of the program at JSRCC. Five years ago the college determined that its students would benefit by staying in the region to complete their full program. This change necessitated pursuit of state board of nursing approval and national accreditation independent of the JSRCC program, a multi-step process that took several years. “The faculty, staff, and students have all had a hand in reaching this milestone,” says Crowther; “The nursing faculty has done a fabulous job to assure RCC has a first-rate program. During the October ACEN visit, we were told by one veteran reviewer that she considers RCC’s program to be in the top five, nationally, of any she has seen in her career.”

RCC’s associate degree nursing program head, Ellen Koehler, states “It’s a multi-step process that began several years ago.” Koehler describes the nursing faculty—Mary Dorsey, Sara Headley, Carrie Lewis, and Cheryl Riley—as “incredibly bright, and very engaged in the students’ success. Their contribution has been extremely important to the success of the program and the accreditation process.” She emphasizes, “We are always trying to improve the program and keep current with recent developments. I am very proud of our product.”

And the product is good. Over the past three years, nearly 100 percent of the students have passed the state licensure exam, and have since gained employment as registered nurses. “This tough accreditation is all about giving the students the best possible experience,” says Koehler. She asserts that this recognition will enhance the view taken of RCC graduates by both employers and bachelor’s and master’s degree nursing programs.

Crowther states, “ACEN accreditation assures that RCC students will have even better access to the finest clinical opportunities, and will be more competitive for continued degree programs and employment opportunities. Nursing is clearly a flagship occupational program at the college, because it supports individuals to get professional jobs in this region, boosting our local economy.”

Rappahannock Community College offers several levels of nursing preparation, from Nurse Aide (NA), to Practical Nursing (PN), through Associate-Degree Nursing (ADN). RCC has articulation agreements with several four-year colleges and universities, through which its degree graduates may pursue a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree nursing. Other health-related training is available in emergency medical technology, phlebotomy, pharmacy assisting, and medical records. This training complements other programs such as the Associate of Arts and Sciences transfer degree, and degrees and certificates in engineering, criminal justice, and computer technology.

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