Changes in Program Approval Process

Effective September 15, 2011 

AACN Continuing Education (CE) Program Approval no longer accepts applications from some types of healthcare organizations. Depending on the type of organization presenting the educational program, there are alternatives to AACN approval. A good place to start is your state board of nursing or other local or regional institutions that offer CNE approval. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) may also be able to offer additional consultation and guidance. 

Q: What organizations are affected by this change?
Changes to our approval program affect academic institutions, such as colleges, universities and schools of nursing; for-profit companies, such as independent education consultants, private education companies and corporate education consultants; and some healthcare organizations, such as community health programs, complementary and alternative healthcare providers, correctional facilities, nurse staffing companies, travel nurse educators, occupational health programs and midwifery providers.

Q: Why is AACN changing CNE Program Approval?
As part of our commitment to continuing education, we recently instituted a new educational design policy with standards to ensure the highest quality programs for high acuity and critical care nurses. At this time, we have discontinued offering CE approval for organizations when we are unable to validate that a program’s educational design meets our requirements.

Q: What are the standards?
The educational design policy includes standards for program planning, protecting educational content from bias, providing appropriate information and documentation related to participation and maintaining records in a secure and confidential manner. Specific standards related to content include:

  • Educational activities must be developed by a nurse planner, a registered nurse with a preferred BSN. The nurse planner is responsible for conducting a needs assessment for the target audience, documenting the needs assessment appropriately and developing, planning, implementing and evaluating the educational activity.
  • Commercial exhibits or advertisements cannot influence planning or interfere with any educational activity. 
  • Product material or product-specific advertisement of any type is prohibited in or during the presentation. 
  • Educational materials such as abstracts, slides, or handouts that are part of the CE activity cannot contain any advertising, company or trade names. 
  • Ninety-five percent (95) of the program’s educational content must be patient-focused to gain AACN approval for CE.
  • Content geared toward the use of a medical devices, equipment, technology, products, or in-service education is not eligible for CE.

Q: But our organization is non-commercial and these standards do not apply to us. Why are we also affected by the change?
At this time, we have discontinued offering CE approval for organizations when we are unable to validate that a program’s educational design meets our requirements. Among these requirements, there must be a nurse planner — a registered nurse with a preferred BSN — who is involved in all aspects of planning, implementing, evaluating and record keeping for the educational activity. The nurse planner also ensures that all individuals who can control or influence the content of the educational activity disclose all ‘relevant relationships’ with commercial interest organizations, including planning committee members, speakers/presenters, authors and content reviewers.

Q: Are there other options for obtaining CE approval for our programs?
Contact American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) via their Web site for a list of the approved approvers,  or contact your State Board of Nursing for additional consultation and guidance.

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