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When going through the Pathway to Excellence® designation process it is important to note that there may have been changes to the version of the Pathway Application Manual you are working from.

Changes may be made to the Pathway Application Manual at any time, and applicants are required to review and comply with the requirements in the Pathway Application Manual and all Pathway Application Manual updates. Application manual updates supersede the hardcopy manual requirements.

The latest Pathway Application Manual updates can be found on the Pathway website under Apply and Required Forms and Resources or by clicking here.


The following eligibility requirements apply to organizations applying for the Pathway to Excellence Program.

Chief Nursing Officer and Nursing Leadership
The applicant organization must designate one individual as the chief nursing officer (CNO) who is ultimately accountable for the standards of nursing practice throughout the organization.

  • The CNO is responsible for all nursing practice; therefore, all areas and campuses under the CNO's accountability where nursing is present must be included in the application, regardless of reporting relationships.
  • The CNO, as part of the organization's highest governing, decision- making, and strategic-planning body, advocates for nursing to the Board of Directors.
  • The Chief Nursing Officer/Director of Nursing must have a minimum of a baccalaureate degree in nursing.
    • If the baccalaureate degree (or higher) in nursing was obtained outside the United States, the Chief Nursing Officer/Director of Nursing does not need to have the degree evaluated for comparability to US degree requirements.
    • If the Chief Nursing Officer/Director of Nursing is educated outside the United States and does not hold a baccalaureate (or higher) nursing degree, they must have their credentials evaluated for comparability to US degree standards through Commission on Graduate of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS).
  • All requirements must be maintained through the application phase, the review phase, and designation as a Pathway to Excellence organization.
  • Appointees as interim CNOs and subsequent CNOs must also comply with all requirements. 

Organizational Structure
Any size or type of health care group where nurses care for patients can apply for Pathway designation, as long as it is fully compliant with state and federal laws. Individual organizations within the system may apply; however, a multi-facility healthcare system cannot apply as a whole. (For those with campuses, please refer to the campus definition below.)

Long-term care organizations can pursue a different, dedicated application and review process that addresses standards unique to that environment – the Pathway to Excellence in Long Term Care program.

The organization must be compliant with all state and/or federal laws as they relate to registered nurses in the workplace.

Terms Defined

  • campus
    For Pathway purposes, campuses are remote care sites of an applicant organization. The CNO of the applicant organization is accountable for nursing practice at the remote sites. Campuses typically provide services to augment the full set of services offered at the primary site.
  • chief nursing officer
    The highest-level nurse with ultimate responsibility for all nursing practice within the organization. In long-term care, this role is synonymous with the "director of nursing" (DON).
  • nurse manager
    A registered nurse responsible for the supervision of registered nurses and other health care providers who deliver nursing care in an inpatient or outpatient area. The nurse manager’s primary domains of activity are planning, organizing, leading, and evaluating. The term “nurse manager” is not synonymous with the chief nursing officer. In long-term care, “nurse manager” may be used interchangeably with “associate director,” “charge nurse,” or “supervisor.” 

Eligibility criteria: Pathway to Excellence application

  • Is this an individual healthcare organization?
    A Multi-facility healthcare system cannot apply as a whole. However, individual organizations within the system may apply.
  • Is the organization compliant with all state and /or federal laws as they relate to registered nurses in the workplace?
  • Will the organization have a CNO/ DON in place at the time of application?
  • Does the CNO/ DON hold a BSN or higher degree in nursing?

Answering yes to all of these questions indicates your organization is eligible to apply for Pathway to Excellence designation.

Apply Now

Answering no to any of these questions indicates your organization may be ineligible to apply for Pathway to Excellence designation.

For more information, contact the Pathway office.

ANCC has successfully achieved ISO 9001:2015 certification for all of its credentialing programs.

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