AACN Essentials

The Essentials

Implementation Spotlights

Boise State University | College of Health Sciences | School of NursingJune 28, 2023

In March 2023, Boise State’s School of Nursing held an inaugural “Wellness Week” to encourage practicing holistic aspects of wellness, self-care, and resiliency in alignment with AACN’s Essentials competency 10.1: Demonstrate a commitment to personal health and well-being. The week provided daily activities and resources for students, faculty, and staff to focus on personal wellness and integrate it into their lifestyles in simple, manageable ways; elements included fitness classes, hydration, eating on a budget, and dog therapy.

Faculty were also challenged to develop new, creative ways to fuse wellness concepts into curriculum through a Wellness Teaching Strategy Challenge. Structuring the curriculum rework as a competitive challenge during Wellness Week motivated faculty to both explore new ideas and showcase teaching strategies they had already successfully implemented. Staff members from Bronco Fit, the university wellness initiative, judged strategies based on alignment with Essentials well-being competencies, feasibility, opportunity for student engagement, and creativity and originality.

The winning teaching strategy is a self-care simulation in which students talk about stress and burnout among nurses. The simulation promotes wellness and resiliency as students identify stressors in the workplace, discuss the effects of stress on work and personal relationships, and evaluate positive and negative coping methods. The teaching strategy also cultivates an environment of self-care, personal health, and well-being through discussion and reflection as students develop personal self-care plans.

To learn more about Boise State’s approaches to implementing the Essentials, contact Dr. Sarah Llewellyn, Assistant Professor, at sarahllewllyn@boisestate.edu or Dr. Amy Spurlock, Associate Divisional Dean and Chief Nurse Administrator, at amyspurlock@boisestate.edu.

April 12, 2023UCLA School of Nursing

As part of UCLA School of Nursing’s comprehensive integration of the AACN Essentials, leaders from UCLA Health were invited to share practice-readiness data they compiled about newly licensed nurse residents. In this academic-practice partnership, areas for improvement were aligned with the Essentials domains by directors of the nurse residency program. Those items were then specified at the sub-competency level by the school’s Essentials Task Force members. 

UCLA's associate dean, Essentials Champion, and Essentials implementation consultant led a joint presentation with the medical center's nurse residency program directors to create a dialogue between faculty and practice partners. During this robust discussion, faculty asked about the observed and measured practice-readiness of graduates and reflected on curricular gaps that potentially impact new nurse residents' confidence and clinical performance. This energizing brainstorming session allowed faculty and practice partners to identify practical strategies to address improvement opportunities for newly licensed nurses to transition to practice with greater confidence and ease.

This collaboration enhances the work being done to develop end-of-program outcomes aligned with the new standards, map competencies across curricula, and provide faculty development sessions to assist in integrating competency-based education and assessment.

January 18, 2023CU | College of Nursing | University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

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. S.U.M.M.I.T.™ was initially designed as a teaching tool to measure clinical reasoning during the pandemic and has since developed into a formal competence assessment model for the 2021 AACN Essentials.

S.U.M.M.I.T.™ integrates a controlled assessment process that allows students to demonstrate competence in clinical reasoning at multiple touchpoints during a Virtual Simulation Summative Assessment. This assessment is presented in an unfolding case scenario and mirrors a patient encounter, covering chief complaint, history of present illness, review of systems, exam, diagnostics, plan, and professional communication skills. Faculty pose case questions in a discussion format, allowing students to communicate and support their decisions in an evidence-based manner with instructors and peers. This format also allows faculty to quickly identify and address knowledge gaps and allows the learner to question others' decision-making rationale. To learn more about S.U.M.M.I.T.™ and the University of Colorado’s Essentials implementation efforts, contact Kim Paxton kim.paxton@cuanschutz.edu or Lisa Diamond lisa.diamond@cuanschutz.edu

Schools wishing to showcase their implementation efforts are encouraged to send a brief update or video profiling their work to rrosseter@aacnnursing.org

December 7, 2022Rutgers School of Nursing

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. Faculty teams aligned the new Essentials with simulation learning experiences to allow students to demonstrate competency within each domain. This simulation integration project began with three adult health courses containing multiple Essentials sub-competencies, with faculty emphasizing a single domain for each course. Outcomes of this effort included:

  • The development of a learning activity on providing holistic nursing care for a patient, requiring extensive community-based teaching on the management of acute illness to restore health (Domain 2).
  • The creation of a new hybrid clinical learning activity (game-based and hands-on) to promote critical thinking and clinical judgment (Domain 1).
  • The development of a multi-patient simulation experience to foster effective interprofessional communication and delegation (Domain 6).

The next steps include:

  • Extending this project to align the Essentials with learning activities for specialty-focused courses (e.g., obstetrics, pediatrics, and mental health).
  • Exploring the use of simulation to assess Essentials sub-competencies at each stage of progression along the undergraduate curriculum.
  • Mapping entry- and advanced-level sub-competencies to course and program outcomes.
  • Critically appraising all undergraduate and graduate curricular elements.
  • Validating Essentials standards across all Rutgers nursing programs and transitioning learning activities to a competency-based framework.

For more information about Rutgers University’s implementation efforts, please contact Dr. Michele Roberts, assistant professor and clinical educator, at michele.livichroberts@rutgers.edu.

November 9, 2022Vanderbilt School of Nursing

Last summer, the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing hosted nursing educators from across the country for the three-day, intensive Vanderbilt Informatics Summer Teaching Academy (VISTA). Vanderbilt faculty experts developed the workshop to teach faculty how to integrate informatics competencies related to data, information, and technology from the new AACN Essentials – specifically Domain 8, Informatics and Healthcare Technologies – into their nursing programs. The VISTA team shared ideas for teaching strategies, resources, and assessments aligned with Essentials competencies and sub-competencies, using case studies, breakout groups, and other activities. Many attendees have since been asked to assist their institutions with Essentials implementation efforts around informatics and technology. For more details, view the full story here or contact Dr. Patricia Sengstack, senior associate dean for nursing informatics, at patricia.r.sengstack@vanderbilt.edu

Alverno College | Established 1887October 19, 2022

Alverno College launched its new Essentials-aligned DNP curriculum this fall. This curriculum update used the new Essentials as a foundation to enhance an application- and experience-based DNP program to develop nurses with high-level leadership and clinical skills. Alverno faculty mapped the new standards to their DNP program systematically using a template spreadsheet organized by domains, competencies, and sub-competencies. The mapping process consisted of four main steps.

  1. Map program outcomes to each competency and sub-competency.
  2. Map each applicable course and its outcomes to each competency and sub-competency.
  3. Each sub-competency in a course was designated as introduced, reinforced, or assessed; if a sub-competency in a course was being assessed, faculty would provide an example assessment with the template.
  4. Evaluate all competencies and sub-competencies to determine any gaps of missing or limited content. Gaps are then analyzed to determine where content best fits in the curriculum.

The missing or limited content identified during the final step were integrated into the curriculum in the form of application-based clinical practice experiences.

This mapping and evaluation process allowed Alverno College to reinforce their curriculum to enhance patient-centered care by promoting self-care management; diversity, equity, and inclusion; public health emergencies; interprofessional communication; nursing’s professional identity; and mentorship.

For more information about Alverno College’s Essentials implementation process, contact Dr. Stefani Magnowski, Assistant Professor and Director of the DNP Program, at Stefani.magnowski@alverno.edu.

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San Juan Bautista School of Medicine | 1978October 12, 2022

The San Juan Bautista School of Medicine Nursing Program will launch its new BSN curriculum, adapted to meet the new AACN Essentials, by January 2023. San Juan Bautista is a community-based school, where students actively participate in community health promotion and activities in partnership with the Puerto Rico Health Department and Puerto Rico College of Professional Nursing. The school’s implementation work began in June 2021 with a presentation on the new curriculum standards to faculty and advisory board members, followed by the development of a curriculum evaluation plan and identification of a pilot course to integrate the new standards. The curriculum committee then developed a curriculum mapping analysis to create strategies addressing the Essentials domains, concepts, and competencies as well as criteria for evaluation (e.g., rubrics, skills, simulations, Objective Structured Clinical Examination, and clinical practice). The school’s revised curriculum includes two new courses, Statistics for Nursing and Child Abuse and Neglect, and enhances learning across genetics; diversity, equity, and inclusion; the four spheres of care; and in other areas. As the program continues to work on implementing the Essentials, faculty are using AACN’s Essential implementation tool kit, videos, and literature review among other resources. For more information, contact Dr. Elizabeth Padilla, Associate Dean of the Nursing Program, at epadilla@sanjuanbautista.edu.

University of Illinois Chicago School of Nursing LogoOctober 5, 2022

Nursing faculty teaching a strategic and financial business planning course at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) identified an opportunity to evaluate their course materials with the AACN Essentials. Students in this course develop an operationally and financially feasible clinical program by writing business proposals for nurse-led programs in underserved communities that can be implemented in their work settings as executive nurse leaders or nurse practitioners. To prepare for the transition to the new Essentials, faculty reviewed the literature, analyzed the 2021 Essentials, cross-mapped the existing course, and linked the Essentials with the current course structure. Their work was disseminated via an article in the Journal of Professional Nursing to share the strategy and process used at UIC with faculty developing or revising similar courses at other schools. To find out more, contact Dr. Rebecca Vortman, Clinical Assistant Professor and Associate Department Head for the Population Health Nursing Sciences Department, at rvortm2@uic.edu

University of Maryland Logo September 7, 2022

The University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) will launch its new Essentials-aligned BSN curriculum this fall, with MSN and DNP curriculums set to launch in fall 2024. UMSON began the work toward implementation in May 2021, forming an Essentials Curricular Revisions Task Force composed of subgroups focused on curriculum, faculty development, resources, simulation, student services, and ad hoc topics.

The new BSN curriculum includes two electives geared toward Gen Z learners; a required palliative care and symptom management course; integration of community and public health concepts; a first-semester focus on wellness, health promotion, and prevention; professionalism courses to bookend the program; and increased clinical hours/clinical partnerships. Additionally, two clinical practice pilot initiatives with the UM Medical System, the Practicum to Practice Partnership, and the Academy of Clinical Essentials will provide students expanded and advanced clinical opportunities.

UM’s MSN and DNP programs have mapped 133 courses to the new Essentials in May 2022 by developing seven mapping analysis templates and asking four key questions at the course and program levels:

  • Was the Domain addressed?
  • How fully was the competency addressed and to what degree?
  • To what degree were the subcompetencies addressed?
  • And What story does the data tell?

Faculty teams are now completing a SWOTA (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Take Action) analysis, integrating the mapping analysis and delving into strategies to meet the charge of competency-based education, including signature assignments, rubrics, simulation, technology/AI, community experiences/learning activities/Exam Soft.

To learn more about the University of Maryland’s implementation efforts, contact Maeve Howett at mhowett@umaryland.edu regarding Level-1 BSN implementation or Dawn Mueller Burke at mueller@umaryland.edu for Level-2 MSN and DNP implementation.

WGU logo with owlAugust 31, 2022

Western Governors University (WGU) entered its 25th year of competency-based education in 2022, with a redeveloped RN-to-BSN program curriculum aligned with the new AACN Essentials. Launched on February 1, 2022, the program’s nine core nursing courses, the social-emotional learning course, and multiple general education courses were designed to meet the new competency standards and better prepare students for the everchanging role of the professional nurse caring for diverse populations.

The program redesign process was completed in just under two years from charter approval to program launch and was made possible through the collaboration of instructional and assessment design teams, project managers, program development, academic leaders, and internal and external subject matter experts. As recommended in the Essentials, WGU used an academic-practice partnership model to develop course materials with input from its partners and create innovative and timely courses that reflect the advanced integrated systems of healthcare.

The re-envisioned RN-to-BSN program includes enhanced content on diversity, equity, and inclusion; transgender nursing care; value-based care/system-based care; global population health; and direct and indirect hours in field experience in the four spheres of care outlined in The Essentials, specifically preventative, chronic, regenerative/restorative, and palliative care.

Additionally, the program redevelopment focused upon providing RN-to-BSN graduates with tools to prepare them for career-long learning. Students will complete a total of six professional development certificates within the program that validate competency and implementation of the Essentials. These certificates include DHHS Cultural Competence; CITI Protection of Human Subjects; JH Evidence-Based Practice; ELNEC End of Life/Palliative Care (selected specialty area); AMNH Genomics and Genethics; and a selected certificate from IHI, SOGI Nursing, Caring Science or Prevention of Child Maltreatment.

Since the launch of the new program in February 2022, a total of 3067 students have enrolled in the updated curriculum, with five graduates from the program as of June 30, 2022.

University of South FloridaJuly 13, 2022

The University of South Florida (USF) is making strides toward implementing the 2021 AACN Essentials with a ground-up approach led by their New Essentials Task Force. All USF nursing faculty mapped current courses to Essentials sub-competencies, which were then consolidated into a high-level crosswalk to identify gaps, redundancies, and thread-points to meet all domains, competencies, and spheres of care. These courses were designated as Introduction, Reinforcement, or Mastery to support multiple assessment points along the program continuum. Faculty are currently developing a future-state crosswalk and “Essentializing” program goals. USF’s next steps include syllabi and course revisions, with domain experts and diversity, equity, and inclusion champions engaging with the process to ensure alignment across entry and advanced levels. USF supports faculty development in competency-based education (CBE) by holding curriculum mapping events and providing access to electronic resources, including the AACN Essentials, CBE articles, CBE verb taxonomies, and course assessment and learning outcome conversion worksheets. For more details, contact Dr. Brittany Hay, assistant professor, at brittanyh1@usf.edu.

University of PittsburghJuly 6, 2022

The University of Pittsburgh began the long and diligent process of implementing the new AACN Essentials in 2021 with the help of AACN’s Essentials Implementation Webinar Series and additional resources, as well as insights from the University of Maryland. Leaders at Pitt formed a faculty task force representing their BSN, MSN, and DNP programs to develop student learning outcomes (SLOs) for each domain of the new Essentials. Drafts of these new SLOs are already under review by Dean Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacobs and will soon be fortified with the help of additional experts, clinical partners, and students to ensure graduates are prepared for Entry to Professional Practice or Advanced Nursing Practice. Pitt has mapped their courses’ learning outcomes to the Essentials competencies and does not believe new additional courses will be needed. Teaching faculty will be tasked to ensure their courses cover the relevant competencies. For more information about the University of Pittsburgh’s implementation efforts, contact Katelyn Sykes at katelyn.sykes@pitt.edu

Samuel Merritt University | College of NursingJune 29, 2022

Samuel Merritt University (SMU) has completed their first step in implementing the new AACN Essentials for their FNP program. The team at SMU focused on small steps to start the multi-year process of implementing the new curriculum standards. The first of these was a year-long review of each nursing course’s learning outcomes (CLOs) from the 2020-21 academic year to ensure all professional standards and programmatic outcomes were met, followed by a review of all 2021-22 academic year courses to align CLOs with the Essentials’ 10 domains. The implementation team found that at least one of the 10 domains was reflected in each course the college of nursing offered. SMU continues their work towards full Essentials implementation. For more information about Samuel Merritt University’s progress, contact Dr. Shelitha Campbell, assistant professor and co-director of the FNP program, at scampbell@samuelmerritt.edu.

Kent State UniversityJune 22, 2022

Kent State University has started their journey toward competency-based nursing education with the new AACN Essentials. The College of Nursing spent the 2021-22 academic year curriculum mapping courses in their BSN, eight MSN concentrations, post-master’s DNP, and BSN-to-DNP programs to the new Essentials domains, competencies, and sub-competencies. Soon, the college will evaluate each program’s alignment with the new competencies and assess if they are building on Bloom’s taxonomy – remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create – before making any necessary curriculum changes. In addition to these efforts, and with full support of their community partners, Kent State University is investigating if moving all MSN advanced practice programs to the DNP level is a good fit for Kent State. For more information about Kent State University’s implementation efforts, contact Dr. Tracey Motter, associate dean and associate professor, at tmotter2@kent.edu

Share Your School's Efforts

AACN is interested in hearing from member schools about efforts to adapt nursing programs to meet the expectations outlined in the 2021 Essentials. Consider the following questions:

  • What approaches are you using to revise your curriculum to meet the new standards?
  • Are there any tools or strategies particularly helpful in advancing this work?
  • Are you working closely with practice partners to implement new learning and assessment measures?

Please send us a short summary of the work underway at your school for publication in an upcoming issue of News Watch and posting on the website. 

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