Defining Scholarship for Academic Nursing

Since the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN’s) Position Statement on Defining Scholarship for the Discipline of Nursing was published in 1999, academic nursing leaders have been continually evaluating nursing education programs to ensure that they are preparing the next generation of nurses to meet the healthcare needs of the public. Along with the need to determine what constitutes high quality education, the time is right to reconsider the role of the faculty in an increasingly complex learning environment where research, teaching, practice, and service are all of crucial importance. In today’s academic setting, scholarship should be inclusive and applicable to scientists, as well as practice, education, and policy scholars.

A number of landmark reports issued since 1999 have propelled us to this new day. Building a safer, high-quality, high-value healthcare system has become the focus of all health professions following numerous reports from the Institute of Medicine (IOM, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2012). In 2004, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) was advanced in a position statement adopted by the AACN membership, which forever changed how the profession prepares nurses for the highest level of practice. Doctoral programs in nursing are now available for nurses seeking a terminal research or practice doctorate.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine published a landmark study, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The interdisciplinary committee recommended that nurses: 1) should practice to the full extent of their education and training; 2) should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression; 3) be full partners, with physicians and other healthcare professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States, and 4) engage in effective workforce planning and policymaking that requires better data collection and an improved information infrastructure. As the recommendations were transitioned to action and policy, the need to expand access to baccalaureate through doctoral education for nurses accelerated.

In 2016, AACN released Advancing Healthcare Transformation: A New Era for Academic Nursing, a report that provides recommendations for enhancing nursing’s contributions to improving healthcare delivery and the health of the nation. The report advanced a new definition for “academic nursing”:

Encompassing the integration of practice, education, and research within baccalaureate and graduate schools of nursing. Faculty engaged in academic nursing demonstrate a commitment to inquiry, generate new knowledge for the discipline, connect practice with education, and lead scholarly pursuits that improve health and health care (AACN, 2016a).

As the need for academic and clinical partnerships has intensified, so has the demand for doctoral education for advancing practice and nursing scholarship. The paradigm shift to a broader definition ensures that academic nursing scholarship is at the highest level of scholarly endeavor.

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Endorsed on March 26, 2018 by AACN Member