AACN Essentials

The Essentials

Welcome to the Essentials

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.  AACN is dedicated to providing resources and support to facilitate this shift in nursing education. Whether you're an educator, student, or healthcare professional, explore this microsite to stay informed and engaged as we shape the future of nursing education together.

Essentials Tool Kit

Essentials Tool Kit

Guides & Talking Points

Guides & Talking Points

Webinars & Workshops

Webinars & Workshops

Download & Order Essentials

Download & Order Essentials

Latest Updates & Resources

New Content Posted to the Essentials Teaching Resource Database

May 15, 2024
To facilitate implementation of the Essentials, AACN created a searchable teaching resource database, which includes content related to all 18 Domains and Concepts. Each resource features an overview, details on how to use, recommended learning and assessment strategies, and related tools and readings. Recently added resources include:

Faculty are encouraged to revisit the database on a regular basis, as new resources are added each month. To submit your own resources to the database, click here. For tips on using the Teaching Resource Database and sharing your own resources, watch this video featuring Dr. Kristin Ashford from the University of Kentucky.

Virtual Essentials Q&A Session Planned for AACN Member Deans

May 1, 2024
AACN invites nursing school deans and leaders to join us for a Q&A session on Tuesday, June 11 at 3:00 pm (ET) that will cover Essentials implementation, transitioning to competency-based education, and assessment strategies. Come hear the latest updates on helpful resources and effective approaches for adapting your curriculum to meet today’s Essentials. Panelists will discuss AACN's new Competency Assessment Framework and the work underway to facilitate learning assessment, including the development of progression indicators. Come prepared to ask questions and get the answers needed to accelerate your school's curriculum redesign efforts. Register online here and submit questions here.

AACN Reaffirms Support for Full Implementation of The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education

April 30, 2024
AACN is committed to achieving the preferred future for nursing education outlined in the 2021 Essentials and to communicating the fundamental "WHY" behind the importance of fully embracing this call for transformation. This framework for nursing education was developed in response to the need for nurses who are well-equipped to navigate today's complex and rapidly evolving healthcare landscape. Developed with input from practice and academic leaders over a consensus-building, two-year period, the Essentials received overwhelming support through a vote from AACN's national network of more than 875 member schools of nursing.

AACN Launches New Web Resource Focusing on Preparing Nurses with Essential Well-Being and Leadership Competencies

April 25, 2024
AACN has launched the Developing Nursing Well-Being and Leadership Tool Kit for faculty working to prepare new nurses with key skills needed to succeed in the healthcare system, specifically in the areas of well-being, self-care, resilience, and leadership. Funding for this resource was provided by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation with the goal of accelerating the transition to competency-based education in nursing and meeting the expectations outlined by AACN in The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education.

Upcoming Webinar Focuses on a Winning Approach to Curriculum Redesign

April 24, 2024
On Thursday, May 16, from 2:00-3:00 pm (ET), AACN is presenting a webinar titled From Outcome to Input: Maximizing Nursing Curricula with Backward Design. Join Dr. Jacquelyn McMillian-Bohler from Duke University to explore the benefits of backward design in curriculum transition, focusing on the 2021 Essentials and embracing competency-based education. By starting with the end goals in mind, nursing faculty can effectively map out learning objectives, assessment strategies, and experiential learning activities that foster deep understanding and proficiency. Explore how backward design aligns with principles of learner-centered instruction and promotes retention of content and competency development.

Apply Now for Grant-Funded Faculty Workshop on Developing Competency within the Hospice/Palliative Sphere of Care

April 17, 2024
On July 18-19, ELNEC will host a regional workshop on Implementing the AACN Essentials Domain of Palliative Care Undergraduate Education: A Workshop for Faculty Development and Leadership in Portland, Oregon This workshop will help to guide faculty as they work to integrate education on palliative care - one of the four spheres of care identified in the AACN Essentials - into undergraduate nursing curriculum. Attendees will work with faculty from across the country to develop palliative care teaching and evaluation strategies. Grant funding is available to cover the cost of registration, housing, meals, CEUs, and course materials. Register by April 19; only a limited number of seats remain.

Register Now for a Regional Faculty Development Workshop Focused on CBE

April 3, 2024
Building on last year’s popular series of workshops, AACN is hosting a regional workshop this spring for faculty seeking strategies, resources, and solutions for adapting their nursing programs to meet the 2021 Essentials. Called Essentializing Your Curriculum: Moving Ahead with Competency-Based Education (CBE), this workshop is designed to accelerate your program’s transition to CBE. On June 14, a one-day workshop at Tennessee State University in Nashville will be offered with initial training in CBE provided by AACN’s Essentials Coaches and experts with the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN). Content will be similar to previous workshops and include more in-depth training in curricular transition and new content on using AI to develop progression indicators. Click here for more details and to register.

Upcoming Webinar on Disseminating Your Essentials-Related Learning Strategies

March 27, 2024
On Tuesday, April 16 from 3:00-4:00 pm (ET), AACN is presenting a webinar on Getting Past the Blank Page! Disseminating Your Work with a Focus on AACN’s Essentials. Join Dr. Virginia Reising from Rush University and Dr. Kristin Ashford from the University of Kentucky to learn how to transform your scholarly ideas into publishable final products. The presenters will focus on how to share and disseminate effective teaching strategies that you have used or developed to implement the Essentials for publication in AACN’s Teaching Resource Database.

Citing the AACN Essentials in Your Scholarly Work

March 20, 2024
AACN encourages faculty to use the 2021 Essentials to advance their scholarship and research into preparing practice-ready nurses. The Journal of Professional Nursing is soliciting publications related to Essentials implementation, new approaches to teaching and learning assessment, and the transition to competency-based education. To discuss your manuscript idea, contact editor Dr. Patricia Morton at Trish.Morton@utah.edu. For those seeking to use Essentials content in journal articles and other forms of public dissemination, permission is needed and may be secured by contacting Robert Rosseter at rrosseter@aacnnursing.org. The process is simple, and the turnaround time for approval is typically 2-3 days.

Essentials-Focused Program Session at the Upcoming Deans Annual Meeting

February 28, 2024
AACN is committed to offering sessions at all our national conferences focused on facilitating the transition to the 2021 Essentials. At the Deans Annual Meeting coming to Washington, DC on March 23-25, AACN is hosting a panel presentation titled “The Inside Track on Meeting the 2021 Essentials and Moving to Competency-based Education.” This informative session will provide the latest updates on helpful resources and effective strategies for adapting your curriculum to meet today’s Essentials. Panelists will introduce AACN's new Competency Assessment Framework and discuss the work underway to facilitate learning assessment. Come prepared to ask questions and get the answers needed to accelerate your Essentials implementation efforts and the transition to competency-based education. For more information, visit Deans Annual Meeting and past Essentials-related conference sessions web pages.

CCNE Issues Final Call for Comments on Proposed Changes to its Accreditation Standards

February 14, 2024
On February 1, 2024, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) issued a final Call for Comments on proposed changes to the CCNE Standards for Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs. Among the revisions under consideration are changes to required nursing education standards and guidelines, including components of the 2021 Essentials. CCNE is especially interested in receiving comments about the latest proposed changes, which have been made based on feedback received from October 26-December 8, 2023. The changes include recommendations on a faculty-to-student ratio in NP tracks and minimum practice hours for students in DNP and direct-care NP tracks. Comments are due by February 22, 2024, and may be sent by email to ccnestandards@ccneaccreditation.org.

Explore Solutions at AACN’s Upcoming Vendor Showcase

February 7, 2024
On February 29, AACN will hold its second virtual Vendor Showcase to spotlight services and tools available to assist member nursing schools with meeting essential needs. This event was specifically designed for deans, faculty, and staff who are considering innovative technology solutions to elevate their curriculum and streamline program administration. Seven companies will be featured at this event – ATI Nursing, CORE Higher Education, Education Management Solutions, Exxat, Laerdal, ProjectConcert, and Sentinel U® – and each will share details about their services to assist with experiential learning, competency tracking, curriculum mapping, simulation, learning assessment, and other needs. The event is free to members, and registration is now open.

Your Feedback Needed on the Essentials Website

January 31, 2024
In response to user feedback on the look and functionality of the Essentials website, AACN has made some changes to make the site easier to navigate. We invite all faculty and other site visitors to take a brief, 10-minute survey to let us know what you think about the improvements. Our objectives with the survey are to gather comments from AACN members; identify any unmet needs; and collect recommendations on future website enhancements. Questions address specific site features, top content, and usability. Your feedback is crucial in helping us identify areas of improvement and strength. 

Member School Update on Essentials

January 30, 2024
AACN issued its biannual update on the progress underway to implement the 2021 Essentials, including a roundup of resources and opportunities open to member schools. Recent developments include the newly released Essentials Competency Assessment Framework and the announcement of AACN's second Vendor Showcase coming in February. This comprehensive update includes Engagement Opportunities, Learning Updates, and Implementation Resources.

New Essentials Competency Assessment Framework Released

December 19, 2023
Developed by the Assessment Expert Working Group, AACN has published two companion guides to facilitate implementation of 2021 Essentials at nursing schools nationwide. The Guiding Principles on Competency-Based Education and Assessment outlines the six elements that distinguish competency-based education (CBE) from traditional approaches to teaching/learning and addresses the nine Core Principles for Assessment of Learners in CBE. Just released, the Essentials Competency Assessment Framework illustrates the evolution of a student’s learning experience as they journey through competency development and demonstration of achievement. The framework encompasses competency assessment at both Level One for entry-level nursing education and Level Two for advanced-level nursing education. Combined, the documents create a common understanding of CBE for the learner and the assessor. The documents build upon each other, outlining the importance of reframing how nursing educators approach assessment to ensure their strategies are centered on the individual learner and their ability to demonstrate understanding and attainment of the competencies and sub-competencies.

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 essentials@aacnnursing.org.

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