Rounds with Leadership: Developing Nurse Well-Being and Leadership

Moving to implement AACN’s 2021 Essentials presents an ideal opportunity for faculty to adapt nursing curriculum to ensure graduates are prepared for contemporary practice. As leaders throughout the healthcare system, today’s nurses are expected to help foster practice environments that champion well-being, resilience, and optimal care for themselves and others. These expectations are embedded in the Essentials with specific competencies and sub-competencies related to developing nurse well-being and leadership. 

Fundamental to nursing practice, Domain 10 of the Essentials addresses preparation related to Personal, Professional, and Leadership Development, which includes activities and self-reflection focused on personal health, resilience, and well-being, as well as the assertion of leadership. Specific competency expectations include:

  • Demonstrate healthy, self-care behaviors that promote wellness and resiliency.
  • Contribute to an environment that promotes self-care, personal health, and well-being.
  • Evaluate the workplace environment to determine level of health and well-being. 
  • Engage in guided and spontaneous reflection of one’s practice.
  • Demonstrate leadership behaviors in professional situations.
  • Provide leadership to advance the nursing profession.

To assist schools with operationalizing this new emphasis area in their entry-level programs, AACN launched a two-year project in March 2022, titled A Competency-Based Approach to Leadership Development and Resilience for Student Nurses, with support from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation. Through this initiative, AACN convened an expert advisory group to identify learning strategies and assessment measures aimed at preparing the next generation of nurses with strong skills in the areas of leadership, resilience, self-care, and well-being. 

Once developed, AACN identified ten nursing schools with a practice partner to pilot test the content and assess the impact on student competency. The schools selected to participate included Adelphi University (NY), California State University-Chico, Fayetteville State University (NC), Georgia State University, Mount Carmel College of Nursing (OH), Nevada State University, Rutgers University – Camden (NJ), Samuel Merritt University (CA), University of Minnesota, and University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio. The new learning strategies were introduced during the Spring 2023 semester, and all assessment activities were completed by the end of the year.   

With the project now completed, all teaching approaches and lessons learned have been incorporated into a dedicated website and faculty tool kit, which was launched in March 2024. Titled Developing Nurse Well-Being and Leadership,  the tool kit features definitions, key learning resources, integrative learning strategies, case scenarios, recommended assessment methods, and a framework for program evaluation. Individual pages have been created to highlight the initiative’s four core content areas – Well-Being, Self-Care, Resilience, and Leadership – with each page highlighting the Essentials competencies and sub-competencies addressed. In all, more than 95 resources and references and 47 learning strategies were compiled to provide a wide range of options for all schools seeking guidance on meeting competency expectations. These teaching resources are also relevant to practice leaders and educators focusing on transitioning students to practice and maintaining healthy work environments. 

In addition, AACN has highlighted the work of each pilot school as exemplars, including products developed, videos, and photos that illustrate each school’s unique approach to student competency development.  We encourage all schools to review the work of their colleagues, which may provide inspiration and guidance to enhance your school’s Essentials implementation efforts, well-being initiatives, and leadership courses.

Additional Resources

Empowering New Nurses with Stronger Skills in Mindfulness, Self-Care, Well-Being, and Leadership. This on-demand webinar highlights the project’s goals and learning strategies initiated by two pilot schools: Nevada State University and Rutgers School of Nursing.

Flourishing in Health Care: Building Individual, Team, and System Resilience. This plenary session from the Transform 2023 Conference features insights from the grant’s advisory group on evidence-based methods for engendering resilience among nursing students and clinicians.  

Strengthening Mindfulness, Self-Care, Well-Being, and Leadership Skills for Emerging Nurses. This Emerging Solutions session from the Transform 2023 Conference features advice and lessons learned from two pilot schools – University of Minnesota and Mount Carmel College of Nursing.