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ANCC Accreditation Criteria Review: An Overview of Accreditation With Distinction

Whether you are an accredited provider such as i3 Health or you are an educational partner working with an accredited provider, it's still important to understand the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) criteria that underlie nursing continuing professional development (NCPD) activities. This is part of a periodic series of posts looking at what each criterion means in general and what it might mean for you.

In addition to the standard accreditation criteria described in earlier posts in this series, the ANCC offers a set of criteria that allow an organization to achieve Accreditation with Distinction. While not all organizations are eligible to apply or may choose not to, these criteria describe a set of best practices that NCPD planners may want to keep in mind as they design new educational activities.

For an accredited organization to become Accredited with Distinction, they must be in full compliance with all standard criteria and in good standing with the ANCC. They must also prove that they have met six criteria from the menu of criteria that go above and beyond the basic requirements for accreditation.

The menu is divided into three sections that correspond to the standard criteria. There are three criteria under Structural Capacity, five under Educational Design Process, and three under Quality Outcomes. You will note that this adds up to more than six criteria. Programs are not required to meet all 11 criteria to achieve Accreditation with Distinction.

The required number of criteria is broken down as follows:

  1. Structural Capacity: ≥1
  2. Educational Design Process: ≥2
  3. Quality Outcomes: 3

Yes, this does mean that while a program may pick and choose among the criteria in Structural Capacity and Educational Design Process, they are required to meet all of the criteria under the heading of Quality Outcomes. It also means that a program can choose to submit evidence of more than the minimum requirement of six criteria.

While best practice may lead a program to strive for all 11 criteria, in the application process, it may be the better choice to pick the six that show your program in the best light. The more criteria you submit, the greater the risk that one of them will be found non-compliant. Not all programs will be able to achieve all 11 criteria. Instead they should be used as a guide for best practices. And if you find that you've achieved enough to apply for commendation, then cross that bridge.

In the next post in this series, we'll start looking at each of these Accreditation with Distinction criteria in detail.

Other Posts in This Series

ANCC Accreditation Criteria Overview

Organizational Overview 1 (OO1)

Organizational Overview 2 (OO2)

Structural Capacity 1 (SC1)

Structural Capacity 2 (SC2)

Structural Capacity 3 (SC3)

Educational Design Process 1 (EDP1)

Educational Design Process 2 (EDP2)

Educational Design Process 3 (EDP3)

Educational Design Process 4 (EDP4)

Educational Design Process 5 (EDP5)

Educational Design Process 6 (EDP6)

Educational Design Process 7 (EDP7)

Quality Outcomes 1 (QO1)

Quality Outcomes 2a (QO2a)

Quality Outcomes 2b (QO2b)

Quality Outcomes 3a (QO3a)

Quality Outcomes 3b (QO3b)


ACCME (2022). Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education. Available at:

ANCC (2021). Writing to the ANCC NCPD Accreditation Criteria Self-Learning Guide. Available at:

ANCC (2021). ANCC NCPD Accredited Provider Applicant Journey Guide. Available at:

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