Rounds with Leadership: Preparing Graduate Nursing Students to Lead

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.

AACN member schools play a pivotal role in preparing the nation’s nurse leaders. Many more nurses with graduate preparation are needed to conduct research, teach future nurses, impact public policy, steer organizations, and implement evidence-based solutions that revolutionize health care. Nursing schools nationwide are redoubling their efforts to expand enrollment in master’s and doctoral programs to ensure an adequate supply of nurses to serve as leaders in all settings where health care is delivered.

Developing individual competency and encouraging professional engagement are critical to the formation of a nurse leader. Schools moving to implement the 2021 Essentials are being intentional about embedding leadership development into their curriculums in keeping with competency expectations for today’s nurse. Specifically, programs preparing advanced-level nurses – which encompass students in post-licensure master’s and practice-focused doctoral programs (DNP) – are designing learning experiences that will enable graduates to:

  • Provide leadership to advance the nursing profession.
  • Influence intentional change guided by leadership principles and theories.
  • Evaluate the outcomes of intentional change.
  • Evaluate strategies/methods for peer review.
  • Participate in the evaluation of other members of the care team.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills in times of uncertainty and crisis.
  • Advocate for the promotion of social justice and eradication of structural racism and systematic inequity in nursing and society.
  • Advocate for the nursing profession in a manner that is consistent, positive, relevant, accurate, and distinctive.

AACN is currently leading an initiative funded by Johnson & Johnson focused on identifying and piloting learning experiences that are effective at developing nurse leaders to meet the new Essentials. Titled a Competency-Based Approach to Leadership Development and Resilience, project staff and faculty at 10 pilot schools are working to identify competency assessment measures to gauge leadership development. A tool kit of faculty resources based on resources developed through this project is under development and will be shared with all nursing schools by the end of the year. To locate teaching resources currently available – including those connected to Essentials Domain 10: Personal, Professional, and Leadership Development – click here.

In addition, AACN has created a community of future nurse leaders through our Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GNSA). From webinars to career fairs to student success strategies and career planning, the GNSA provides a wealth of free programs and resources to master’s and doctoral nursing students. The GNSA promotes a variety of engagement opportunities, which are critical to preparing future leaders, that span digital innovation, health policy advocacy, peer outreach, organizational leadership, and other areas.  We strongly encourage faculty and deans to ask their students to sign up for free membership in the GNSA and take advantage of this valuable AACN member benefit.

In addition, we encourage you to consider sending your graduate students with strong leadership potential to the GNSA annual conference, which returns to Washington, DC on August 17 and 18.  With sessions reflecting the theme of Building Partnerships in Nursing: Addressing Current and Future Challenges, this year’s event will feature an exciting lineup of thought leaders chosen for their ability to inspire excellence and impart practical advice. Speakers include:

  • Kenneth Dion, President of Sigma Theta Tau International
  • Martha Dawson, President/CEO of the National Black Nurses Association
  • Adrianna Nava, President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses
  • Ali Tayyeb, Director of Educational Technology & Innovation at UCLA and creator of the RN-Mentor Podcast
  • Roberta Waite, Dean of the Georgetown University School of Nursing
  • And many other distinguished presenters

Don’t miss this opportunity to further the leadership development of your graduate students at the GNSA conference, which provides a stimulating forum for students to engage with peers and expand their professional network. Click here to find out more.

We also encourage you to explore AACN’s full complement of leadership development programs designed to meet the needs of academic nursing professionals, including graduate students with an interest in teaching and/or research. Under the umbrella of AACN LEADS, programs are available to meet the needs of aspiring, early career, and experienced nurse educators looking to expand their impact and effectiveness. Click here to find out more.