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Rounds with Leadership: Charting the Future of Academic Nursing – Part II

Published June 30, 2021

Susan Bakewell-Sachs AACN Board Chair and Deborah Trautman AACN President and CEOWelcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

June 30, 2021 - Charting the Future of Academic Nursing – Part II

"Nurses are powerful in number and in voice, and the world needs their actions now more than ever on how individuals, families, and communities might best be served in a more equitable fashion."
Dr. Victor J. Dzau, President, National Academy of Medicine (NAM)

The recently released report on the Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity will have a profound impact on the priorities pursued by the nursing profession over the next decade. How can we be so sure? Looking at the outcomes from the first Future of Nursing report, which was released by the Institute of Medicine (now the NAM) in 2010, serves as an indicator of what we might expect.

In the 10 years since the release of the first landmark report, academic nursing has made great strides in leading change and advancing health. Collectively, member schools of nursing were able to expand student capacity, which resulted in doubling the number of nurses with doctoral degrees, tripling the number of graduates from RN to BSN programs, and increasing the number of nurses in the workforce with baccalaureate or higher degrees from 49% to 59%. Beyond the goals related to academic progression, AACN also advanced recommendations focused on implementing nurse residency programs (including our work with Vizient), expanding leadership development opportunities (AACN LEADS), advocating for the removal of scope of practice restrictions, and strengthening data collection efforts. The impact of this work is indeed far-reaching and profound.

Looking ahead, the authors of the 2020-2030 report focus on nursing’s role in achieving health equity by re-examining systems that educate, pay, employ, and enable nurses. In considering our approach to meeting the new report’s recommendations, it may be helpful to review the work ahead in light of AACN’s four strategic goals and current priorities.

GOAL 1: AACN is the driving force for innovation and excellence in academic nursing.

As the voice for academic nursing, AACN is committed to leading innovation and supporting scholarship that serves to elevate the quality of health care and higher education. We recognize that strengthening academic-practice partnerships is critical to this work as is advancing a robust federal policy agenda. AACN’s work to implement the new AACN Essentials will be fueled by innovation as member schools move to adopt a new competency-based approach to nursing education. The work to advance the Essentials is cited in the Future of Nursing report as a means of strengthening nursing education, including embedding a greater emphasis in curricula on the social determinants of health, disaster planning, health equity, population health, self-care for nurses, and other key concepts.

GOAL 2: AACN is a leading partner in advancing improvements in health, health care, and higher education.

Developing leaders to better position the profession to transform higher education and health is central to the work of the association and all of its member schools. AACN actively seeks collaborative opportunities with a variety of stakeholders, including policymakers, to improve health and realize quality outcomes. With the Future of Nursing report calling for more opportunities to foster nurse leaders and advocates, AACN will continue to work to meet these important needs through conference and webinar programming, expanding our menu of leadership development options, engaging members in advocating for federal policy initiatives that support the goals of academic nursing, and promoting participation in the Graduate Nursing Student Academy.

GOAL 3: AACN is a primary advocate for advancing diversity and inclusion within academic nursing.

Through member education and active engagement with communities underrepresented in nursing, AACN promotes policies, practices, and a culture that facilitates health equity. We create opportunities to bring together diverse stakeholders to identify issues and propose solutions to promoting inclusive excellence. With the Future of Nursing Committee calling for greater diversity among the faculty and student populations, AACN’s work to create champions in this space must continue, including the Diversity Leadership Institute, the Diversity Symposium, and the soon-to-launch Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Network. AACN’s work to promote holistic admissions and a federal policy agenda focused on inclusion will help to make the student population more representative of the populations we serve.

GOAL 4: AACN is the authoritative source of knowledge to advance academic nursing through information curation and synthesis.

The association’s commitment to sharing information and exemplars relevant to academic nursing will help to ensure that the progress on implementing the 2020-2030 Future of Nursing report is shared and celebrated. This work extends to promoting new resources and opportunities that will assist member schools in mobilizing action around meeting the report’s recommendations. NAM recently announced the launch of a new toolkit, which allows stakeholders to put the report’s findings and recommendations into practice as we begin the important work ahead of us.

AACN’s work to define our priorities related to the Future of Nursing report is just beginning. In the coming months, AACN’s webinars and programs will continue to spotlight central themes from the report, including sessions planned for the Academic Nursing Leadership Conference in October, the virtual Diversity Symposium in November, and the new Transform 2021 conference coming in December 2021. Please let us know what your school is doing related to the Future of Nursing report so we can spotlight your efforts via our communication channels and in our programming. Please send your related news to

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