The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education

Used to define quality in nursing education, the AACN Essentials outline the necessary curriculum content and expected competencies of graduates from baccalaureate, master’s, and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs. With the endorsement of the new AACN Essentials by the membership in April 2021, academic nursing is moving toward a new model and framework for nursing education using a competency-based approach.  AACN is committed to providing resources, education, and facilitate this transformation.

Ways to Contribute

Latest Updates

  • March 15, 2023
    In February, the Board of Commissioners of the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) voted that the CCNE’s 2018 Standards will remain in effect at least through June 30, 2024. The CCNE Standards Committee is currently considering proposed revisions to the Standards for Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs (2018). Read more...

  • March 8, 2023
    Join Dr. Mary Jo Vetter, Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program and Clinical Associate Professor at New York University, for a stimulating discussion on how design thinking can be used as a unifying framework to foster an understanding of the social determinants of health in a baccalaureate nursing program. Read more...

  • March 1, 2023
    Last week, AACN unveiled a new web page in our Essentials implementation tool kit focused on the many resources and training opportunities for faculty related to competency-based education (CBE). This resource features the AACN definition of CBE, outlines the basic principles and benefits of CBE, and offers an overview of CBE assessment. Read more...

  • February 22, 2023
    On February 27 from 2:00-3:00 pm (ET), AACN’s Essentials Implementation Webinar Series continues with a program on Competency-Based Education: Practical Tips to Move Your Work Forward. Join Dr. Nancy O’Neill, Acting Director of the University System of Maryland’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, as she shares helpful ideas and strategies for integrating CBE into your nursing programs. Read more...

  • February 15, 2023
    AACN is hosting a series of regional workshops for faculty seeking strategies, resources, and solutions to adapting their nursing programs to meet the 2021 Essentials. With the first workshop planned for Duke University in Durham, NC on March 17, presenters will provide an overview of competency-based education (CBE), compare CBE to traditional teaching and learning, and discuss how CBE improves clinical judgment and prepares nurse graduates for clinical practice. Read more...

  • February 8, 2023
    Last fall, AACN launched a new website to better showcase resources and information available to help faculty implement the Essentials, including curriculum mapping tools, an updated set of frequently asked questions, and implementation spotlights from member schools. Among the new features is a Teaching Resource Database. Read more...

  • February 1, 2023
    On February 27, AACN’s Essentials Implementation Webinar Series continues with a new program on Competency-Based Education: Practical Tips to Move Your Work Forward. Join Dr. Nancy O’Neill, acting director of the University System of Maryland’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, for strategies on how to accelerate your school’s transition to competency-based education (CBE). Read more...

  • January 25, 2023
    On February 2, AACN’s Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GNSA) will host a webinar titled The AACN Essentials and the Graduate Student - What Does it Mean for Me? Dr. Brittany Hay from the University of South Florida will provide an overview on the purpose and intent of the 2021 Essentials and discuss how competency-based education will be used to prepare more practice-ready nurses. Read more...

  • January 18, 2023
    In 2020, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus College of Nursing launched a simulation experience for its MSN Family and Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner programs called Simulation Utilized for Measuring and Mentoring Integrative Thinking. Read more... 

  • January 11, 2023
    AACN encourages faculty to use the 2021 Essentials as a rich resource to advance their scholarship and research in the area of nursing education and the preparation of practice-ready nurses. The Journal of Professional Nursing (JPN) is currently soliciting publications related to the implementation of the Essentials, new approaches to teaching and learning assessment, and the transition to competency-based nursing education. Read more...

  • January 10, 2023
    AACN released a new Vision for Sharing Data and Information Across Nursing Education, Practice, and Regulation.  The new statement provides recommendations for schools to consider when evaluating technologies, including those focused on the implementation of the AACN Essentials, as well as for companies looking to offer solutions to meet the needs of nursing schools and the larger healthcare community. Read the press release here.

  • January 4, 2023
    AACN is committed to offering sessions at all our national conferences focused on facilitating the transition to the 2021 Essentials. At the Doctoral Education Conference planned for January 19-21 in San Diego, CA, two sessions will be held, including Incorporating Climate Change into Doctor of Nursing Practice Curricula and Envisioning the 2021 Essentials in a DNP Strategic and Financial Business Planning Course. Visit the website to find out more about these sessions and to register for the conference.

  • December 14, 2022
    On December 12, AACN announced the launch of a new Gallery of Leadership spotlighting insights and exemplars from member schools whose faculty are leading the move to competency-based nursing education. With videos now available from seven schools of nursing, faculty and deans are invited to explore successful implementation strategies underway at schools. Read more...

  • December 7, 2022
    With a recently revised curriculum centered on social determinants of health and population-focused care across practice settings, Rutgers University School of Nursing-Newark and New Brunswick was well positioned to implement the new AACN Essentials into its entry-level programs. Read more...

View past updates

Important Note: AACN has not endorsed any products or services related to the implementation of AACN Essentials. If AACN members have questions about specific products and services that claim to be endorsed by the association, please contact

Latest Resources

 Essentials Guides

AACN also has developed guides to the Essentials for both Practice Partners and Development Officers as they join schools of nursing in the transition to competency-based education.

What Practice Partners Need to Know About the AACN Essentials       What Development Officers Need to Know About the AACN Essentials


 Webinars & Programs

The ART and Science of Feedback in Clinical Education
March 28, 2023 | 1:00-2:00 pm (ET)

Register Now

Teaching Resource Database

New Teaching Resource Database

AACN has released a new teaching resource database that includes extracted resources from the 18 Domain and Concept Tool Kit Working Groups. This database is continuously evolving, and new teaching resources will be posted. All resources will be reviewed regularly for currency and relevance with new resources added as appropriate.  

Access the Database

Join the Conversation | Essentials Discussion Corner | Access here | AACN Connect