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Position Statement on Baccalaureate Nursing Programs Offered by Community Colleges

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The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) supports baccalaureate-level preparation for entry into professional nursing practice as well as efforts to increase the education level of the nation's registered nurse workforce. Efforts to expand the availability of baccalaureate nursing programs and increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses nationwide are consistent with the association's work to create a more highly educated nursing workforce.

Community colleges that offer baccalaureate degrees are making an explicit decision to expand their mission, and to this end, these institutions must be reviewed and approved by regional accreditation bodies to assure that they meet the same standards as other four-year degree granting institutions. Furthermore, baccalaureate nursing programs in these institutions must be developed with the same scientific and liberal education foundation used in nursing programs offered at four-year colleges. To maintain programmatic integrity, community college baccalaureate degrees must achieve the same quality standards set by nursing's specialized accreditation agencies. These programs should be designed using the competency expectations outlined in AACN's publication on The Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice. To be consistent with the baccalaureate Essentials, a significant change in program emphasis would be required from traditional community college nursing programs that focus on technical nursing practice. To achieve parity with programs offered at four-year colleges and universities, community college baccalaureate nursing programs must integrate the essential elements of liberal education, professional values, core competencies, core knowledge and role development through an upper division nursing major. AACN encourages community colleges wishing to offer baccalaureate nursing degrees to partner with four-year institutions whenever possible. The emergence of baccalaureate nursing programs at community colleges underscores the national need for more programs to raise the education level of the nursing workforce. These programs validate that nurses with associate and baccalaureate degrees are not equally prepared for practice and have distinct competencies. The movement to expand the availability of baccalaureate level nursing degrees indicates an understanding that today's increasingly complex health care system requires a more highly educated nursing clinician.

Approved by the AACN Membership October 24, 2005