One of the most popular accrediting bodies that reviews and accredits as many as 2000 education programs bestriding over 20 health-related disciplines is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Besides being one of the largest accrediting body in the field of health sciences, the body has been recognized by CHEA — Council for Higher Education Accreditation as well. The body is also a member of ASPA — Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors.
- But What Is CAAHEP Accreditation?
- Why Is the CAAHEP Accreditation Important?
- How a Program Becomes CAAHEP-Accredited
- The Programs That CAAHEP Currently Accredits
In general, accreditation is the process of assessing the quality of programs, services, and institutions, against minimum quality standards. Any accreditation exercise is set to gauge and ensure the minimum quality standards are complied with.
Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs conducts specialized accreditation exercises by examining particular programs in an education institution, reviewing the programs to ascertain that they indeed comply with the common standards of the profession.
The various CAAHEP standards against which each of the educational programs is measured are developed by a team of professionals engaged in each discipline, they are approved by each of the professions, and the standards are poised to ensure that each person undertaking any of the CAAHEP programs acquires special knowledge and skills that will enable them function competently and effectively within the respective profession. Thus, it can be confidently determined that the set CAAHEP standards are focused on quality outcomes by making sure the health educational programs are prepping up competent healthcare professionals. This implies that any CAAHEP-accredited programs give the requisite educational background necessary for any practitioner to commence a career in each of the many allied health professions.
Accreditation, in whatever discipline, is very important. First of all, it proves that a service, institution, or a program complies with a set standard. The compliance is determined by measuring the service, program, or institution against a certain set standard of excellence unique to each discipline. There are two important types of accreditation pertaining to post-secondary education and training. These are programmatic or specialized accreditation, and institutional accreditation.
Institutional accreditation shores up prospective students’ confidence that the institution they want to join offers a competent program that meets set standards across certain areas, for example, facilities, resources, faculty, and administration.
Programmatic or specialized accreditation is deemed to be more important than institutional accreditation because it considers the specific programs in any institution. The individual programs have to meet higher standards and, to receive the programmatic accreditation, the programs have to show that students will receive the requisite knowledge and skills to competently engage in the profession for which they are studying upon completing the program.
The importance of CAAHEP accreditation in the health field cannot be gainsaid. Just like a license to practice informs people that a particular healthcare provider is qualified to deliver health care services, getting a degree from a CAAHEP accredited school or a CAAHEP accredited program assures the public and employers that the graduate has the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver in the particular health field they pursued.
It is noteworthy, however, that it is only institutions and programs that get reviewed and accredited. Individual students only get registered, certified, or licensed. CAAHEP accreditation has nothing to do with the registration, licensure, or certification of particular healthcare students. But then, in most health care fields, a degree from a CAAHEP-accredited program is a prerequisite to getting certified or licensed. Therefore, it is imperative that any student knows the accreditation status of the institution as well as the program they are interested in, and also the licensure or certification requirements of the profession they are pursuing.
For example, if you are looking to pursue a career as a medical sonographer, it will help to look for CAAHEP-accredited ultrasound schools.
Though there are differences among the various professions in CAAHEP, every accredited program has to go through a thorough process which shares some traits:
- Self-Study — The education program has done its own analysis detailing how it scores against the set standards.
- On-Site Evaluation — CAAHEP dispatches a retinue of professionals to visit the institution to ascertain that the self-study is an accurate reflection of the particular program and answer any questions that may arise.
- A Committee Review and Recommendation — the committee of accreditation for the particular discipline will then set to review the on-site evaluation report and accordingly develop a recommendation. In case there are areas that the program falls short of the accepted standards, the deficiencies will be noted, and the committee will seek additional information just to assure that every program substantially meets the CAAHEP minimum standards of competence to offer the program.
- The CAAHEP Board of Directors — After the CAAHEP Board of Directors apprising itself of the recommendations presented to it by each program’s CoA, it will then ascertain that due process was met and that the standards are applied uniformly and equitably.
- The Length of Accreditation Awards — save for the initial accreditation, that is for five years, the award of CAAHEP accreditation has no time limits. When the committee of accreditation recommends that a particular program receives accreditation, they should also recommend when the comprehensive evaluation will be conducted next. Though each committee comes up with its own intervals, the maximum interval between comprehensive evaluation and reviews is usually ten years. The committee may also require a progress report, or plan a special, focused site visit if any particular program has any serious problems that require being addressed. If the program fails to comply with accreditation standards, and the attempts to remedy the deficiency yield nothing, then the CoA will cause the involuntary withdrawal of accreditation of the program. The decision of the CoA is usually final and cannot be appealed to the CAAHEP board of directors. If a program is not at a particular time in substantial compliance with the set accreditation standards but is expected to meet the standards within a prescribed period, then it may be awarded a probationary accreditation.
As of 2016, these are the programs that CAAHEP accredits:
- Cardiovascular Technologist
- Anesthesiologist Assistant
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- Exercise Physiologist
- Emergency Medical Services Personnel
- Exercise Science Professional
- Medical Assistant
- Neurodiagnostic Technologist
- Medical Illustrator
- Orthotist and Prosthetist
- Personal Fitness Trainer
- Recreational Therapist
- Polysomnographic Technologist
- Surgical Assistant
- Specialist in Blood Banking technology
- Surgical technologist
The body is seeking to accredit more programs in the future.