The accreditation program for nurse anesthesia was initiated in 1952 by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). The accreditation function was transferred to the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs/Schools in 1975 in response to a major revision of the U.S. Office of Education criteria. Since 1975, the Council has existed as a fiscally autonomous multidisciplinary body. This multidisciplinary structure gives recognition to the various publics that represent the community of interest within which the nurse anesthesia profession resides. The members of the Council are representative of the following groups: nurse anesthesia educators and practitioners, nurse anesthesia students, health care administrators, university representatives, and the public. All are voting members except the student member.
Scope of Accreditation
The Council’s scope of accreditation is for institutions and programs of nurse anesthesia at the post‑master’s certificate, master’s or doctoral degree levels in the United States, its territories and protectorates, including programs offering distance education. Both the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognize the Council as an accrediting agency for nurse anesthesia. The Council on Accreditation is responsible for establishing the standards and policies for nurse anesthesia educational programs subject to consideration by its communities of interest. The standards address governance, resources, program of study, program effectiveness and accountability. The first set of standards was adopted in 1952 and have been under review and subject to periodic major and minor revisions since that time. Compliance with the standards forms the basis for accreditation decisions made by the Council.
The accreditation process for an established program is based on self‑evaluation by the program and a site visit by a team of two or three reviewers. The process is repeated at intervals of up to ten years and may be supplemented by progress reports. A summary report of the review and the program’s response to the report are presented to the Council for an accreditation decision. A new program desiring accreditation must complete a capability study and undergo an on‑site evaluation prior to being considered for accreditation. A similar review is required five years following the start of the program’s first class.
Accreditation provides quality assurances concerning educational preparation through continuous self‑study and review. The ultimate goal of accreditation is to improve the quality of nurse anesthesia education and provide competent practitioners to health care consumers and employers. Graduation from an approved program is one prerequisite of eligibility for national certification and a consideration used by governmental funding and licensing agencies, employers and potential students.