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Colby-Sawyer College Nursing Program Earns CCNE Accreditation

Colby-Sawyer College's Nursing Program, which awards a Bachelor of Science degree, has been reaccredited for 10 years by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the body responsible for evaluating baccalaureate and graduate programs in nursing in the United States.

The CCNE Board of Commissioners determined that the Colby-Sawyer Nursing Program met all four of its accreditation standards and extended the program's accreditation to Dec. 31, 2022.

“The CCNE on-site reviewers found the program to be of very high quality and without deficiencies of any type,” said Nursing Department Chair Susan Reeves, Ed.D, RN. “Most striking was their comment that our graduates described the educational experience at Colby-Sawyer that prepared them for practice as a registered nurse (RN) as 'exceptional.'”

Since 2009, 95 to100 percent of the college's nursing graduates have passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) on their first attempt, allowing them to practice in their field.

CCNE accreditation is a nongovernmental peer review process that operates according to nationally recognized accreditation standards. The commission assesses an institution's mission and governance, student and faculty outcomes, available resources and commitment to its nursing program, and teaching-learning practices and curriculum.

Through this process, the CCNE seeks to hold nursing programs accountable to their community of interest, which Colby-Sawyer's Nursing Program defines as nursing students and other college community members; regulatory agencies such as the CCNE and New Hampshire State Board of Nursing; the citizens of New Hampshire communities; and health care agencies. The Nursing Program was last accredited in 2002.

The Nursing Program's mission is “to afford the educational and clinical opportunities that help prepare (students) to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN); to assume entry-level positions in professional nursing; and to enroll in graduate studies in nursing.” The CCNE determined that the program's mission is consistent with the college's mission to “offer educational programs based in the liberal arts and sciences and designed to prepare students for their professions and lives of ongoing learning,” as well as with core values and outcomes derived from standards established by the American Association of College Nursing and the American Nurses Association.

The CCNE highlighted the Nursing Program's close faculty-student working relationships and its strong clinical affiliations with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), which “results in smooth integration of the students into the clinical environment.” Under Professor Reeves's leadership, the college established a dedicated clinical affiliation and faculty-sharing agreement with DHMC.

The agreement allows master's-level DHMC nurses to serve in adjunct clinical faculty roles in which they work closely with Colby-Sawyer student nurses during clinical rotations. The partnership assists Colby-Sawyer nursing faculty and DHMC clinical in remaining current in their nursing practices and to take advantage of both institutions' educational resources. The partnership “has allowed the Nursing Program to utilize clinical faculty who might not otherwise be easily recruited to a rural area of the state,” according to the CCNE.

“The Colby-Sawyer College Nursing Program is our most important School of Nursing affiliation,” said DHMC's Chief Nursing Officer Linda vonReyn, Ph.D., RN, and “Dartmouth-Hitchcock is the primary clinical site for Colby-Sawyer nursing students.” The affiliation, which developed after Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital closed its School of Nursing, is mutually beneficial for the nurses and the students. Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinical nurses—well versed with the patient population and routines of the medical center's clinical units—provide nursing students with exceptional clinical training. In turn, the clinical nurses are able to test their teaching and mentoring skills, and some develop long-term career goals that lead them to transition into academic careers.

“Given the importance of developing future generations of nurses, this transition is extremely important for our country and our profession as a way to address future health care needs,” vonReyn added.

“The Nursing Program's reaccreditation by the CCNE is a testament to the strength of a Colby-Sawyer education and the dedication of our outstanding faculty,” Colby-Sawyer President Tom Galligan said. “At the same time, our affiliation with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is a national model for collaborative partnerships to improve nursing education and health care.”

Well Prepared for Nursing Careers

Colby-Sawyer nursing students' familiarity with DHMC's patient population and understanding of the medical center's culture makes them “very desirable” applicants for nursing positions at the medical center, according to vonReyn, and leads to an “almost seamless” entry into the organization. “By the time graduation rolls around, each clinical unit has already sought out students to discuss an employment relationship,” she added.

Colby-Sawyer nursing students develop into exceptional employees, von Reyn noted. “We have several Colby-Sawyer graduates who joined Dartmouth-Hitchcock as new graduate nurses and now serve in leadership roles. The new graduates bring an important vibrancy to our organization,” she said, “and because these nurses know us so well, their tenure in the organization tends to be longer and often permanent.”

Reeves, the Gladys A. Burrows Distinguished Professor of Nursing, is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree from Colby-Sawyer, a Master of Science in nursing from the University of New Hampshire and a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Vermont. She serves as associate dean of Colby-Sawyer and DHMC Partnership Programs and has been a vice president of DHMC since 1998.

Undertaking an accreditation process is a tremendous amount of work, according to Professor Reeves, requiring evidence that the Nursing Program's mission, goals and objectives are met consistently and with high-quality outcomes. The process required evidence in the form of institutional data, and input from the college's students, faculty, graduates and leaders, which was compiled in a 200-plus page self-study that the Nursing Department provided to the CNNE on-site reviewers.

Graduates and students attested to the high quality of the Nursing Program and their preparation as registered nurses. Danielle Bowen '10, an RN in the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) at DHMC, described her education and training as a nurse as “outstanding.” She benefited from small class and strong faculty support at Colby-Sawyer and her clinical training and senior practicum experience at DHMC, all of which prepared her well for her current position.

“I had the perfect combination of class and clinical time and was able to gain so much hands-on experience as a student,” Bowen said. “The transition from student to 'new grad' was smooth, and because of the time I had spent at both DHMC and on my (ICN) unit, I had the right amount of comfort and nervousness when it came to start practicing on my own license.”

Kimberly Shannon '10 was offered, and accepted, her first job as a professional nurse—a position on the medical hematology/oncology floor at DHMC—several months prior to her graduation. In July 2012, she started a new position as an RN at Massachusetts General Hospital on the Medical Oncology floor. “If it weren't for my nursing education at Colby-Sawyer and my clinical experience at DHMC, I would not have been considered for this position,” Shannon said. “I never would have believed that receiving such an amazing education from the Colby-Sawyer Nursing Program would open so many doors for my nursing career.”

Shannon appreciated Colby-Sawyer's low professor-to-student nurse ratio; the constant feedback and extra help from faculty when needed. “The program always seems to be evolving, growing and improving to provide the best nursing experience and knowledge possible to prepare students for the NCLEX,” she said. “Professor Reeves took into consideration the feedback the students gave at the end of each semester and made the necessary changes for the upcoming classes. The chance to receive the majority of my clinical experience at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was an opportunity I can't be more thankful for.”

Professor Reeves expressed gratitude for the campus-wide support of her department and especially of the college's student nurses. “This recognition by CCNE is one that I hope is enjoyed by all members of the Colby-Sawyer community, as many individuals from across college departments collaborate in the formation of a Colby-Sawyer professional nurse,” she said.