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AACN Essentials

AACN is the driving force for innovation and excellence in academic nursing.  Used to define quality in nursing education pograms, the Essentials Series delineates the national consensus by providing the elements and framework for building nursing curricula.  The Essentials outline the necessary curriculum content and expected competencies of graduates from baccalaureate, master’s, and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, as well as the clinical support needed for the full spectrum of academic nursing. 

The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education CoverAACN's New Essentials Approved on April 6, 2021


Sample Resources from Essentials Implementation Tool Kit

The Essentials Tool Kit is designed to assist faculty working to implement the new Essentials, including the transition to competency-based education. The Tool Kit provides recommendations and examples of learning strategies, resources, recommended content, and assessment strategies for each of the ten Essentials domains. Recommendations are provided for both entry-level as well as advanced-level nursing education.  

NOTE: The Tool Kit is a continuously evolving  document that will serve as an important resource for faculty and others in implementing the re-envisioned Essentials. Various stakeholder groups and specialty organizations have been invited to submit resources/materials for possible inclusion. Thus far, draft components for the Tool Kit include:


Previous Essential Series
The Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice (2008)

The 2008 publication that defines the essential elements of baccalaureate education for professional nursing practice is now available from AACN. The Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice provides an important framework for designing and assessing baccalaureate education programs for professional nursing practice. This publication is the result of a consensus-building process that included nursing educators, clinicians, executives, and researchers, as well as numerous nursing organizations. In the Baccalaureate Essentials, you will find…

  • The role of the baccalaureate-prepared nurse
  • Professional values for baccalaureate nursing education
  • An outline of essential curriculum contents
  • Baccalaureate core competencies and knowledge
  • Suggested teaching strategies
  • And much more!
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Download  Spanish and Japanese Version


The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing (2011)

These revised Master’s Essentials, an update to an earlier version from 1996, reflect current and future nursing practice at the master’s level, which demands expert application of evidence-based practices, quality improvement methods, outcomes measurement, systems knowledge, and leadership skills. Nurses who obtain the competencies outlined in these Master’s Essentials will possess the advanced knowledge in the discipline and leadership skills needed to improve health outcomes in a number of current and emerging roles.

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Download Spanish, Japanese, and Croatian Version


The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (2006)

These Essentials define the curricular elements that must be present in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. Required by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education for schools seeking accreditation for DNP programs, these Essentials outline the foundational competencies that are core to all advanced nursing practice roles, including the four nationally-recognized Advanced Practice Registered Nursing roles: nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives.

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Clinical Resources Essentials

The Essential Clinical Resources for Nursing's Academic Mission (1999)

AACN's landmark publication defines the essential elements of clinical support for the full spectrum of academic nursing- undergraduate and graduate education, faculty practice, and research. The document identifies the facilitators and barriers to clinical access in nursing education, describes essential clinical-site learning experiences both for undergraduate and graduate nursing students, and outlines the clinical resources necessary for faculty practice and research to develop and flourish.

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