Essentials Task Force

AACN’s Essentials Task Force is moving ahead with its charge to update all three Essentials documents, which are used to ensure quality in nursing programs offered at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral (DNP) levels.

Task Force Charge

AACN has a long history of leadership in the establishment of the educational benchmarks and expected outcomes of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education programs. In keeping with this tradition, this task force is charged with re-envisioning the Essentials, which delineate the expected competencies of graduates of baccalaureate, master’s, and DNP programs as well as the essential curricular elements that are to be present in these programs. The task force is charged with:

1. Using the AACN Vision for Academic Nursing as a basis, identify how trends and expectations will influence nursing’s roles and the practice of baccalaureate, master’s, and DNP prepared nursing graduates within healthcare delivery for the next decade.

2. Assess the practice community’s expectations for nursing graduates at the different levels and how these may change over the next ten years. 

3. Considering AACN’s Vision for Academic Nursing, make recommendations on the Essential areas to be addressed. By specific program level, this would include identifying practice domains and competency measures for:

  • All baccalaureate nursing graduates, including BSN, RN to BSN, and accelerated BSN graduates
  • Post-baccalaureate MSN and Master’s Entry (second degree) program graduates
  • DNP graduates

4. Review and agree on common definitions for competence, competency, and competency framework. 

5. Describe a set of observable behaviors for each competency that would be expected of each graduate. 

6. Align the competencies for baccalaureate, master’s, and DNP education, ensuring that they are appropriately leveled and advance nursing practice across the healthcare system and continuum of care. 

7. Develop recommendations for the practice learning experiences necessary to assure that nursing graduates are prepared for safe and high-quality nursing practice, including the placement within the curriculum, types, and length.

8. Address the use of simulation in the curriculum for the preparation of baccalaureate, master’s, and DNP graduates.

9. Develop recommendations and strategies for AACN and the full contingent of academic programs to disseminate and implement the new Essentials.

DRAFT Re-envisioned Essentials

The DRAFT Essentials document is provided to share the progress to date on the re-envisioning of the Essentials Series.  This document includes the Essentials Domains, Descriptors, Contextual Statements, and Competencies. AACN advises to read the descriptors and context statements ahead of the competencies, as these provide a needed anchor and context to better understand the domain and competencies. The development of the DRAFT Essentials document has been guided by input from AACN member schools and the larger community of interest. 

Note: Competencies are observable and measurable behaviors that are demonstrated at multiple times across a program of study (see Dr. Jean Bartels' video on Competency-Based Education). The competencies apply across both entry into professional nursing education as well as advanced professional nursing education. Sub-competencies (not shown in the draft document) will delineate the specific behaviors for each competency at the two levels: entry into professional nursing education and advanced professional nursing education.  The sub-competencies are  continuing to undergo iterative refinement based on feedback including received at the two regional meetings. The advanced nursing education DRAFT sub-competencies are being finalized and will be shared at the upcoming virtual meetings in June 2020.

View DRAFT Essentials Document

Feedback Opportunities and Presentations to Date

Virtual Meetings: June 17 and June 23, 2020

As part of our work to build consensus around the new Essentials, AACN is hosting two virtual meetings in June 2020 to collect feedback from our members and other stakeholders. Discussion at these meetings will focus on advanced level Essentials that pertain to master's and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs.

Registration for both meetings are now full.

The task force is currently planning additional opportunities for AACN members and stakeholders to provide input and feedback on the new Essentials as this work moves forward.

Past Presentations and Feedback Opportunities

Regional Meeting, March 5-6, 2020, Atlanta, GA
The task force collected feedback focused on the Essentials related to Entry into Professional Nursing Practice from 154 attendees representing 91 schools.

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Summit, February 20-22, 2020, San Antonio, TX
Dr. Cynthia McCurren, Task Force Co-Chair, and Rachel Start, Task Force practice representative, provided an update on Essentials revision process.

View Presentation

Regional Meeting, February 17-18, 2020, San Antonio, TX
The task force collected feedback focused on the Essentials related to Entry into Professional Nursing Practice from 93 participants representing 50 schools.

View Presentation 

Doctoral Education Conference, January 30-February 1, 2020, Naples, FL
The task force collected feedback on the latest draft of the Essentials at the Like School Discussions and provided updates and details during the closing session. 

View Presentation 

National Faculty Meeting, November 25, 2019-January 15, 2020
AACN Member Schools hosted individual faculty meetings between November and January to discuss the evolving Essentials and related issues. Over 270 member schools responded (33% response rate) and submitted more than 160 pages of feedback. The American Nurses Association Ethics Education Subcommittee also submitted a response. A summary document is being prepared.

View Letter to Membership | View National Faculty Meeting Presentation | View Discussion Questions

Baccalaureate Education Conference, November 23, 2019, Orlando, FL
Task Force chairs Drs. Jean Giddens and John McFadden provided an update on the Essentials revision, discussed opportunities for feedback, and answered questions. The plans for a National Faculty Meeting were announced.

View Presentation

Academic Nursing Leadership Conference, October 19-22, 2019, Washington, DC
The task force shared the first draft of its work with the membership, including the preamble to the new Essentials, the 10 identified domains (or areas of practice), and domain descriptions. Meeting attendees provided input on this material durig 5 meeting sessions.

View Presentation | View Like School Discussion Notes

Task Force Members

Task Force Leadership

                   Jean Giddens, PhD, RN, Co-Chair  
Virginia Commonwealth University
School of Nursing   
                      Cynthia McCurren, PhD, RN Co-Chair
Grand Valley State University
Kirkhof College of Nursing  
    John McFadden, PhD, CRNA, Co-Chair 
Barry University
Barry College of Nursing and Health Sciences 
        Jean Bartels, PhD, RN Consultant   
    Linda Caldwell, DNSc, ANP-BC, Consultant  
        Nancy DeBasio, PhD, RN, Consultant  
    Lin Zhan, PhD, RN, FAAN
Board Liaison
Dean and Professor
University of Memphis  


Task Force Members


  Angela Amar, PhD, RN
University of Nevada-Las Vegas
School of Community Health Science 
        Susan E. Mullaney, MPPA/MPH, RN
Vice President
Center of Clinician Advancement
United Health Group 

  Erica Hooper Arana, DNP, RN
Assistant Professor
University of San Francisco
School of Nursing and Health Professions 
        Marcella Rutherford, PhD, RN
Nova Southeastern University 
Ron and Kathy Assat College of Nursing  

  Jacklyn Barber, EdD, RN
Dean and Professor
Morningside College 
School of Nursing 
        Susan Ruppert, PhD, FNP-C
Professor/Associate Dean
University of Texas Health Science Center - Houston
Cizik School of Nursing 

  Carol Buck-Rolland, EdD, APRN 
Clinical Professor, Vice Chair, Graduate Nursing Program
University of Vermont
College of Nursing and Health Sciences 
        Martha Scheckel, PhD, RN 
Dean and Professor
Viterbo University
College of Nursing, Health, and Human Behavior 

  Jill Case-Wirth, MSN, MHA
WellStar Health System 
        Jenny Schuessler, PhD, RN
Dean & Professor
University of West Georgia
Tanner Health System School of Nursing 

  Lori Escallier, PhD, RN
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
College of Nursing 
  Casey Shillam, PhD, RN-BC 
University of Portland 
School of Nursing  

  Eileen Fry-Bowers, PhD, RN
Associate Professor
University of San Diego
Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science 
        Mary Stachowiak DNP, RN, CNL
Assistant Professor, Director Clinical Leadership Track
Rutgers University
School of Nursing 

  Beverly Havens Foster, PhD, RN
Clinical Professor, Chair of Honors Program
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill 
School of Nursing 
        Rachel Start, MSN, RN
Director of Ambulatory Nursing Practice
Department of Patient Care Services
Rush Oak Park Hospital 

  Vincent Hall, PhD, RN
Program Director, Master’s in Nursing Programs
Walden University
School of Nursing 
        Allison Squires, PhD, RN
New York University
Rory Meyers College of Nursing 

  Jacqueline Hill, PhD, RN
Bowie State University
Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Nursing
  Susan Swider, PhD, RN
Rush University 
College of Nursing

  Kristin Lee, MSN, RN
Clinical Assistant Professor
University of Missouri-Kansas City
School of Nursing and Health Studies 
      Marge Wiggins, DNP, RN 
VP Patient Care
Maine Medical Center 

  Kim Litwack, PhD, RN
Dean & Professor
University of WI – Milwaukee
College of Nursing 
  Marisa Wilson, DNSc, RN
Associate Professor, Specialty Track Coordinator, MSN Nursing Informatics
School of Nursing, Family, Community, and Health Systems
The University of Alabama-Birmingham
School of Nursing 

  Connie Miller, DNP, RNC-OB
Chair, General Nursing and Health Education Division
University of Arizona
College of Nursing 
        Danuta Wojnar, PhD, RN
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education
Seattle University 
College of Nursing  
  Mary M. Morin, MSN, RN
Vice President
Sentara Medical Group/Sentara Occupational Health Services
                                            Geraldine Young, DNP, FNP-BC
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Frontier Nursing University
AACN Staff Liaisons                                     Joan Stanley, PhD, NP
Chief Academic Officer
(202) 463-6930 ext.  254

Rick García, PhD, RN
Director of Nursing Education
(202) 463-6930 ext. 251 

Kathy McGuinn, MSN, RN
Director of Interprofessional Education and Practice Partnerships
(202) 463-6930 ext. 262 
      Jabari Cooper
Nursing Education Coordinator
(202) 463-6930 ext. 250

Shirin Samimi-Farr
Project Coordinator
202-463-6930 ext. 229