Rounds with Leadership: Practice Ready or Not?

AACN Board Chair Cynthia McCurren and AACN CEO Deborah Trautman

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

Preparing practice-ready nurses to thrive across all healthcare settings is a top priority for academic nursing. Disruptive developments in health care, including growing burnout and mental health concerns among clinicians, changing employment expectations, and a wave of workforce exits call for reconsidering how best to educate new nurses and transition them into practice. AACN is committed to responding to these challenges and forging solutions through closer collaboration with members and practice partners.

AACN has played a central role in linking level of education to practice outcomes.  Our advocacy around preparing a more highly educated nursing workforce stems from a core belief that baccalaureate and higher degree nursing education benefits both the patient and the nurse’s ability to practice at the highest level.  Our latest policy brief - Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses are Essential to Quality Health Care  - illustrates the impact of BSN-prepared nurses on patient care, including a summary of the evidence showing that education does make a difference.

In addition, AACN’s collaborative work with Vizient, the nation’s leading healthcare performance improvement company, on a jointly developed nurse residency program is focused on the need to strengthen the practice-readiness of new graduates. Initiated in 2002, the Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program™ is a data-driven solution that allows healthcare organizations to better retain new nurses through a one-year program built on a state-of-the-art curriculum and the ability to benchmark and learn from peer institutions. The Vizient/AACN Nurse Residency Program™ encompasses more than 675 hospitals and health systems located in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and two foreign countries. To date, more than 250,000 registered nurses have completed the residency and report stronger skills in critical thinking, clinical leadership, and communications as well as higher level of professional commitment and decision-making competence.

Finally, AACN’s work to implement the 2021 Essentials and move beyond traditional models for nursing education will have a profound impact on the preparation of new nurses for practice. The Essentials call for adopting competency-based education, where learners must be able to demonstrate all competencies – multiple times and across healthcare settings – before progressing in their learning. We believe this approach will produce more practice-ready nurses with a common set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that can be applied in hospitals, community settings, and all places where nursing care is needed.

Preparing more practice-ready nurses is an important step in bridging the gap between what nursing students learn in school and what employers expect of new recruits.  AACN is taking action to address this concern on several fronts, including our work on the three-year initiative, Competency-Based Education for Practice-Ready Nurse Graduates, which is funded by the American Nurses Foundation. Through this initiative and across all our work, AACN is calling for academic nurse leaders to work more closely with their partners in practice to educate new nurses and ease the transition from student to professional nurse.