Last week the cherry blossoms were at their peak. The promise of spring was visible in the cotton candy clouds of soft pink and bright white that topped the trees. Yesterday harsh winds tore through the region and now the ground is littered with petals. My bird feeder lies broken, half way across the lawn. Minimal damage, but visible. Spring is a time for clearing away the debris of winter, growth, change, emergence and re-emergence of plants and wildlife.
As I think about the evolving field of postgraduate nurse practitioner training and the role of accreditation, it occurs to me that accreditation echoes Spring’s awakening. There is the same purpose: new growth, periodic renewal and clearing the way for future growth. Accreditation is about making promises. Keeping promises. Fulfilling expectations.
At last count there were at least 36 primary care NP postgraduate residencies and nearly 20 programs in the pipeline scheduled to open this fall. From 2007-2017, the field will have grown from one program to over 50. A similar growth trajectory is thought to be occurring for NP specialty programs.
The proliferation of programs is a testament to the opportunity for growth and the workforce demand for practitioners highly trained to deal with complex medical issues, often in settings of profound social complexity and need. As with any burgeoning field there is an urgent need for shared best practices, community, and networking. With the evolution of best practices implicit standards emerge. Accreditation is a forward-focused mechanism for formalizing, evaluating, and applying those standards in a programmatic setting.
Accreditation standards can serve as templates for emerging programs and as a peer-reviewed yardstick to measure the quality of existing programs. The standards serve as guideposts for excellence and quality assurance as well as inspiration for innovation.
Returning to the opening paragraph and thoughts of the vulnerability of nodding blossoms to destructive winds, accreditation provides a safety net of proven standards for practice that can sustain a program through difficult times. The community of practitioners in accredited programs can provide support, exploration of emerging trends, and shared best practices that withstand the winds of change.
Accreditation is a promise. It is a tangible promise of quality and meaningful content. It is a choice to meet the expectations of peers. It is a decision to create a program that adheres to rigorous standards. For the evolving field of postgraduate nurse practitioner training, accreditation offers an opportunity to create and join a community of like-minded leaders in shaping the future of the next generation of socially responsible healthcare providers.
Promises speak to the future. They organize expectations. They encourage actions.
Until next time,