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Why ABHES and CAAHEP Accreditation Matter

Jody Dugan, RN, BSN
Updated July 15, 2022
ABHES and CAAHEP accreditation is an important consideration for aspiring nurses/medical assistants choosing a program or school.
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Did you know that attending an unaccredited education program can prevent you from getting employed, transferring to another school, or receiving financial aid?

Also, in some states, nursing graduates are denied the chance to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) if they have not attended an accredited program. And taking the exam in another state is not permitted.

Nursing school accreditation ensures that healthcare institutions, programs, or services measure up to peer-reviewed objective standards of excellence. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are the primary accrediting bodies for registered nurses and graduate nursing programs.

The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) are also important accrediting bodies. However, they typically would not be sufficient for RN and graduate nursing programs.

Understanding accreditation and its benefits can help a registered nurse, licensed practical/vocational nurse, certified medical assistant, or certified nurse assistant choose their ideal program.

Read on to understand the most suitable options for your education goals.

What Is ABHES?

ABHESis officially recognizedby the U.S. Secretary of Education as a private, nonprofit, independent accrediting agency. It is acknowledged as a national leader in quality healthcare education accreditation.

According to its website, “ABHES enhances the quality of education and training and promotes institutional and programmatic accountability through systematic and consistent program evaluation. Its key is to assure the quality of the programs it accredits and assist in the improvement of the programs. This quality-determination is accomplished by rigorous and systematic evaluation based on valid standards.”

Recognition, resources, and service are the three fundamental aspects of ABHES based on its goals. They are key to fulfilling its mission.

For an aspiring registered nurse, ABHES accreditation can be institutional through continuous enhancement of the institution’s quality. It can also be a programmatic (or specialized) accreditation through evaluating a healthcare program’s accountability.

Health professionals can choose from a variety of ABHES institutions or specific programs within a school. The minimal ABHES accreditation standards include:

  • minus-smGoals and oversight
  • minus-smCurriculum, competencies, and clinical experience
  • minus-smInstruction
  • minus-smStudent assessment
  • minus-smProgram management and faculty
  • minus-smSafety
  • minus-smStudent and graduate services
  • minus-smDisclosures
  • minus-smStudent achievement and program effectiveness
  • minus-smStudent record management


CAAHEP is the largest programmatic accrediting body and concentrates on career-specific schools or health science programs offered by an educational institution, like a nursing or medical assisting program.

Its website states, “In collaboration with its Committees on Accreditation, CAAHEP reviews and accredits over 2,100 individual education programs in 32 health science occupations. CAAHEP accredited programs are assessed on an ongoing basis to assure that they meet the Standards and Guidelines of each profession.”

CAAHEP recognizes its core values as integrity, collaboration, accountability, and consensus.

RNs and other healthcare disciplines can select a specific program from the list of accredited programs on the site. For a certified medical assistant(CMA), the Medical Assisting Education Review Board recommends accreditation programs to the CAAHEP. These standards and guidelines are the minimum program requirements:

  • minus-smSponsorship
  • minus-smProgram goals
  • minus-smResources
  • minus-smStudent and graduate evaluation/assessment
  • minus-smFair practices

Why Is Accreditation Important?

ABHES- and CAAHEP-accredited schools and programs are in compliance with national common quality standards and guidelines. There are many advantages to nursing and medical assistant students attending accredited programs.

Benefits to accreditation include:

  • minus-smEnsures the program or school is sticking to minimum quality standards
  • minus-smValidates graduates and gives them a stamp of approval
  • minus-smEncourages the institution to plan and evaluate goals and adhere to continuous improvement to the program
  • minus-smOffers leading-edge and current nursing theory and best practices for medical assistants
  • minus-smCan transfer credits to accredited schools
  • minus-smLeads to more job prospects since many employers do not recognize degrees from unaccredited programs
  • minus-smCan get licensure from state boards of nursing
  • minus-smCan receive federal financial aid or tuition reimbursement

What to Look For in a Health Education Program

As a prospective student, understanding what the program will prepare you for and the clinical training you will receive is important. Key areas include:

  • minus-smHuman anatomy, physiology, and pathology
  • minus-smMedical terminology
  • minus-smKeyboarding and computer applications
  • minus-smRecord keeping and accounting
  • minus-smCoding and insurance processing
  • minus-smLaboratory techniques
  • minus-smClinical and diagnostic procedures
  • minus-smPharmacology
  • minus-smMedication administration
  • minus-smFirst aid
  • minus-smOffice practices
  • minus-smPatient relations
  • minus-smMedical law and ethics

In addition to graduating from an accredited institution, healthcare graduates should consider certification before entering their career. Having a certificate in your field is an influential factor and validates your expert knowledge and skills.

The exam you sit for is determined by your nursing program and career path. The NCLEX-RN exam is designated for RNs. The NCLEX-PN is the exam assigned for a licensed practical nurse, sometimes called a licensed vocational nurse.

A medical assistant will become certified after passing the CMA exam from the American Association of Medical Assistants. A certified nursing assistant (CNA) must pass the CNA exam to get certification.

Accreditation for Nursing Programs

RN programs should be accredited by either the CCNE or ACEN. (Nurse midwifery programs and nurse anesthetist programs are accredited by other organizations.)

Both the ACEN and CCNE accredit nursing programs. Their standards for nursing programs are closely equivalent. In terms of program quality, there is no difference.

The only distinction that might matter to students is that the CCNE only accredits bachelor’s and master’s programs. ACEN accredits all levels of nursing programs from practical to doctorate.

Other Types of Nursing Accrediting Bodies

In addition to the ACEN and CCNE, the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs and the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education also provide nursing accreditation to nurse anesthesia and nurse midwifery programs, respectively.

Prospective nursing students should attend a college or university that has been accredited by one of the accrediting bodies recognized by the United States Department of Education. You can search the Department of Education’s listing of accredited schools online.

Health Education Program Accreditation FAQ

question-mark-circleWhat is an accredited program?

A program is accredited when its curriculum and services are approved and measure up to the common higher quality standards of a profession.

question-mark-circleHow do I know if a program is accredited?

To determine accreditation of a program, explore the school’s website for a link to their accreditation status, research the program on the ABHES or CAAHEP website, or search the database on the U.S. Department of Educationor Council for Higher Education Accreditation sites.

question-mark-circleWhat is ABHES and CAAHEP?

ABHES and CAAHEP are two nationally recognized accrediting bodies that ensure that educational institutions and health sciences programs are operating within the scope of specific standards and guidelines required for quality.

question-mark-circleIs ABHES better than CAAHEP?

ABHES and CAAHEP are both respectable national accreditors. They operate in a similar fashion concerning goals and their visions align. One distinction is that ABHES serves as both an institutional accreditor and a programmatic accrediting body, while CAAHEP is solely an institutional accrediting organization.

Page last reviewed March 10, 2022


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