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Rounds With Leadership: Co-Creating the Future of Academic Nursing

Published October 28, 2020

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

October 28, 2020 - Co-Creating the Future of Academic Nursing

Each year, AACN hosts an invitational Thought Leaders Assembly to provide an opportunity for candid reflection, learning, and generative thinking around issues impacting the future of academic nursing. Bringing together a small group of invited guests, member deans, AACN’s Board of Directors, practice leaders, and senior staff, this event is designed to stimulate fresh thinking and better position AACN to serve as a catalyst for innovation and change.

In a year marked by a once-in-a-generation public health threat, racial justice uprisings, economic instability, wildfires and hurricanes, and a divided electorate, this year’s Thought Leaders Assembly was developed around the theme Lessons Learned: Exemplary Partnerships in Response to COVID-19.  With 44 individuals engaged in this virtual event, participants shared their insights on the importance of working together in teams to manage, support, adapt, and deal with uncertainty. Key topics of discussion, which were framed around the challenge of providing leadership in a “VUCA World” (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) included:

  • Leadership in turbulent times
  • Lessons learned by academic and practice leaders following the rapid response to COVID-19
  • Opportunities to strengthen academic-practice partnerships
  • Recommendations for re-envisioning future partnerships to ensure maximum impact

Working in small groups, participants discussed the challenges faced when navigating the outbreak of COVID-19, the new ways of working during this time of crisis, and the insights gained that will shape the future of academic-practice partnerships. When considering our collective experience over the past year, attendees also were asked about opportunities to transform partnerships as well as policy or structural barriers that we should work to eliminate. Participants identified over 50 potential strategies for strengthening or re-envisioning academic-practice partnerships, which are contained in the Thought Leader’s Assembly final report.

Threaded across all discussions was a respect for the power of partnerships. AACN’s work in this arena has been extensive, including our collaboration with the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) to establish guiding principles for effective partnerships; our groundbreaking report on Advancing Healthcare Transformation: A New Era for Academic Nursing; and our Exemplary Academic-Practice Partnership Award, which spotlights successful efforts led by  member schools and their counterparts in practice. By working together, academic and practice leaders can effectively co-create our preferred future by creating systems for nurses to achieve educational and career goals, infusing innovation into clinical education and practice models, providing nurses with new opportunities for leadership and scholarship, and upholding lifelong education as a hallmark of professional nursing.

Lessons learned from the generative discussion at this year’s assembly will be used to inform the work of the Essentials task force, the AACN-AONL Advisory Committee, and the Program Committee, which is responsible for the content at AACN’s annual conferences. 

The final report on the 2020 Thought Leaders Assembly is posted on the AACN website along with summaries of past events, which focused on pathways to the PhD, innovation in academic nursing, and the global workforce among other topics.

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