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Rounds with Leadership: Forging Ahead with Competency-Based Education

Published January 25, 2023

Cynthia McCurren, 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.

January 25, 2023 - Forging Ahead with Competency-Based Education

When AACN membership endorsed the latest iteration of the Essentials in April 2021, we knew the transition to this new model and framework for nursing education would take time and ingenuity. AACN’s task force and Board leaders projected that it would likely take 3 or more years for schools to adapt their entry- and advanced-level nursing programs using a competency-based approach to education.

Now, 2 years into the transition process, it’s clear that schools have made great progress in evolving their programs to prepare more practice-ready nurses. Many schools have engaged faculty in determining how well their programs align with the new competency expectations and are identifying gaps. Others are developing creative ways to assess student competency using current and newly conceived strategies. The work to map curricula with the Domains, Competencies, and Sub-competencies outlined in the Essentials is well underway using a variety of tools posted on the AACN website. Faculty also are collaborating more closely with practice colleagues to rethink clinical learning experiences and jointly operationalize the Essentials.

To better assess efforts underway, AACN conducted a member survey last fall to collect baseline data on how implementation efforts are proceeding. A total of 328 member schools responded to the survey (38.1% response rate), including schools representing a range of institutional types (large and small, public and private, rural and urban, etc.). The survey found that 92% of deans and 82% of faculty support the implementation of the 2021 Essentials. Most AACN member schools strongly endorse the new approach to nursing education outlined in the Essentials with 85% of schools committed to transitioning to competency-based education.

The survey also found that:

  • 57% of schools have started curriculum mapping on their entry-level programs; 48% have started mapping their advanced-level programs
  • 55% of schools have allocated resources to implement the Essentials
  • 47% of schools have identified practice partners to work with on the transition to new Essentials

The survey also highlighted areas where more education and faculty development are needed to facilitate the move to competency-based education (CBE). Schools reported that the majority of faculty (68%) have not received formal training in CBE, and most do not have experience with designing CBE assessments in the classroom (68%) or in the clinical setting (58%). To support the move to CBE, most schools cite AACN’s Essentials Implementation Webinars as most useful for faculty development in addition to on-the-job training and mentoring by more experienced faculty.  Click here for a summary of survey findings.

AACN remains committed to assisting schools with implementation efforts, and we encourage you to review the resources currently available, including the recently updated Essentials website and implementation Tool Kit, which features a teaching resource database, curriculum mapping tools, on-demand webinars and conference sessions, and member school Implementation Spotlights. We also are planning a series of regional workshops this spring to help support your faculty development efforts with a focus on CBE.  Watch for complete details on these dynamic training opportunities in the coming weeks.

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