Two of the benefits of becoming nationally accredited are the commitment that is made to quality improvement and the documentation of critical administration, management and service delivery policies and procedures. An organization may pay thousands of dollars to an accrediting body and needs to assign personnel to the 12 – 18 month process of becoming accredited. With the required investment of time, money and resources, an organization should be well prepared even before the application is submitted.
Early preparation is critical to a successful accreditation outcome. Agencies seeking accreditation for the first time often need on average twelve months of planning and preparation. Depending on the type of accreditation being sought some of the critical, preliminary steps to becoming nationally accredited include, but are not limited to the following.
How to Prepare for Accreditation
- Board-approved 3-5 year strategic plan with supporting annual plans
- Well-documented, data-driven performance and quality improvement plan and committee
- Risk prevention procedures
- Training for staff and board of director members to understand the importance of accreditation and to gain necessary buy-in
- Multiple policies and procedures related to all aspects of operations/management and services delivered
- Research into which accrediting body to seek accreditation from, including reviewing their accreditation standards
Completing an initial Accreditation Readiness Assessment can help an organization identify those areas that need attention prior to submitting an application to an accrediting body. (Visit our homepage for a link to this initial assessment.)
Additionally, there should be someone within the organization identified early on to fulfill the role of Accreditation Coordinator. The coordinator will be responsible for the project management of the entire process, ensuring deadlines are met, communicating with the accrediting body and coordinating all of the various employees and Board members who will be working both directly and indirectly on the project. Accreditation should be a very inclusive process; all employees and Board members should have input through employee surveys, a quality improvement program, training sessions, etc. Depending on the size of the organization, it is also helpful to have an Accreditation Steering Committee in place to distribute the workload and help with communication to other employees and Board members.
The time taken to carefully plan and prepare for accreditation can go a long way to keeping the rest of the process on track.
What happens once the application is submitted? That’s when the excitement really begins! You are welcome to contact us for additional information about next steps.