Implementing the AACN's 2021 Essentials: Strategies unveiled

As a partner to Nursing education programs of all sizes, CORE is dedicated to sharing information...

As a partner to Nursing education programs of all sizes, CORE is dedicated to sharing information related to nursing education events, news, and updates such as the movement to competency-based education (CBE). Following our recent blog post, A quick guide to the new AACN Essentials, the AACN released supporting information in the format of comprehensive guides and talking points to help answer the most common questions and concerns about the transition and implementation of the concepts within the 2021 Essentials which includes (CBE). These resources are applicable to educators, practice partners, prospective nursing students, and development officers. 

In this blog post, we highlight the AACN'S responses to frequently asked questions related to the 2021 Essentials. 

As you may know, in 2021, the AACN created a new guidance for prospective nursing students to employ a more competency-based education approach, bridging the gap between education and practice. 

Transitioning to competency-based education and adopting the new model for nursing education will be a gradual journey, potentially spanning three years or more for full implementation. Nevertheless, schools can take proactive steps now to kickstart this process. 

Here are several recommended early actions:

1) Utilize the 2021 Essentials to cross-reference or map existing curricula within individual programs of study (or degree programs) with the Domains, Competencies, and Sub-competencies. Collaboratively, faculty members can utilize this cross-reference to pinpoint areas of deficiency across the curriculum and identify content and experiential gaps.

2) In the same discussions, identify existing points within the curriculum where learning experiences and activities already align with the competencies and examine how these experiences are interwoven throughout the curriculum.

3) Encourage faculty members to brainstorm and devise methods for assessing competencies using current or novel learning activities and scenarios.

4) Utilize the cross-reference to stimulate faculty discussions on how degree pathways either align or diverge from the new model for nursing education.

5) Continue these discussions to formulate pathways for how the program(s) can evolve to align with the new model for nursing education.

6) Organize or participate in faculty development sessions or workshops tailored to support this transition.

7) Engage with existing and prospective practice partners to strategize, plan, and implement the 2021 Essentials effectively.

In recognition of the time and resources required for institutions to implement the 2021 Essentials model, the AACN shares that a likely timeline for institutions to fully transition can take three years or longer. The Association continues addressing the ground-breaking transition by stating “It’s what our students need, what practice leaders expect, and what patients deserve.” 

Implementation strategies: 

To assist with the implementation of this new model for nursing education, the Association states the following plans:

Establishment of a Steering Committee: The Association will create a dedicated steering committee tasked with overseeing the implementation process. This committee will proactively identify potential challenges, generate supportive materials, and offer resources to facilitate successful adoption.

Provision of Learning Opportunities: Extensive educational opportunities will be made available to deans and faculty members. These resources will include webinars, conference sessions, online tools, and workshops designed to equip stakeholders with the knowledge and skills necessary for effective implementation.

Continued Collaboration: Ongoing engagement with practice-based organizations and external agencies will be prioritized. This collaborative approach aims to align efforts and foster a shared understanding of the Essentials, ensuring coordinated and synergistic implementation efforts.

Sustained Dialogue: The Association commits to maintaining dialogue with key entities such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Commission on Nurse Certification. This ongoing communication will enable the Association to remain informed about developments and perspectives relevant to the new model, facilitating informed decision-making and alignment with broader initiatives.

Development of Implementation Resources: A comprehensive Essentials Implementation Tool Kit is in development. This toolkit will offer up-to-date information on competency-based education and assessment, curated learning resources, and assessment examples for each domain. Input from faculty and stakeholders has already informed the toolkit's structure and content, with contributions from various stakeholder groups and specialty organizations actively encouraged.

Exploration of Digital Tools: The Association will explore the development of digital tools to enhance the documentation, tracking, and reporting of curricula and students' attainment of competencies. These tools aim to streamline administrative processes, improve data accuracy, and provide valuable insights for program evaluation and continuous improvement efforts.

Please note that the information provided in this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. For official information and updates regarding the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and its initiatives, we encourage readers to visit the AACN's official website.

CORE Higher Education Group is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or officially associated with the AACN in any capacity. Any views or opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of CORE Higher Education Group and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the AACN.

CORE Higher Education Group


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