Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education

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Nursing Education and Core Competencies for Professional

Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education

Essentials Core Competencies In Nursing Education,Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing ,The Essentials,Foundational Elements,Nursing as a Discipline.

Essentials Core Competencies In Nursing Education

    Since 1986, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has published the Essentials series that provides the educational framework for the preparation of nurses at four year colleges and universities. In the past, three versions of Essentials were published: 

The Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing 

    Practice, last published in 2008; The Essentials of Master's Education in Nursing, last published in 2011; and The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice, last published in 2006. Each of these documents has provided specific guidance for the development and revision of nursing curricula at a specific degree level. 

    Given changes in higher education, learner expectations, and the rapidly evolving healthcare system outlined in AACN's Vision for Academic Nursing (2019), new thinking and new approaches to nursing education are needed to prepare the nursing workforce of the future.

The Essentials

    Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education provides a framework for preparing individuals as members of the discipline of nursing, reflecting expectations across the trajectory of nursing education and applied experience. In this document competencies for professional nursing practice are made explicit. 

    These Essentials introduces 10 domains that represent the essence of professional nursing practice and the expected competencies for each domain (see page 26). The domains and competencies exemplify the uniqueness of nursing as a profession and reflect the diversity of practice settings yet share common language that is understandable across healthcare professions and by employers, learners, faculty, and the public. 

    The competencies accompanying each domain are designed to be applicable across four spheres of care (disease prevention/promotion of health and well-being, chronic disease care, regenerative or restorative care, and hospice/palliative/supportive care), across the lifespan, and with diverse patient populations. 

    While the domains and competencies are identical for both entry and advanced levels of education, the sub-competencies build from entry into professional nursing practice to advanced levels of knowledge and practice. 

    The intent is that any curricular model should lead to the ability of the learner to achieve the competencies. The Essentials also feature eight concepts that are central to professional nursing practice and are integrated within and across the domains and competencies. 

    Because this document has been shared with practice partners and with other nursing colleagues, the Essentials serve to bridge the gap between education and practice. The core competencies are informed by the expansion of higher education, nursing education, nursing as a discipline, and a breadth of knowledge. 

    The core competencies are also informed by the lived experiences of those deeply entrenched in various areas where nurses practice and the synthesis of knowledge and action intersect. The collective understanding allows all nurses to have a shared vision; promotes open discourse and exchange about nursing practice; and expresses a unified voice that represents the nursing profession.

    This introduction provides an overview of the evolution of nursing as a discipline, critical aspects of the profession that serves as a framework, and sufficient depth to inform nursing education across the educational trajectory (entry into practice through advanced education). Specific citations throughout provide immediate access to pertinent references that substantial relevance.

Foundational Elements 

    The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education has been built on the strong foundation of nursing as a discipline, the foundation of a liberal education, and principles of competency-based education.

Nursing as a Discipline

    The Essentials, as the framework for preparing nursing's future workforce, intentionally reflect and integrate nursing as a discipline. The emergence of nursing as a discipline had its earliest roots in Florence Nightingale's thoughts about the nature of nursing. Believing nursing to be both a science and an art, she conceptualized the whole patient (mind, body, and spirit) as the center of nursing's focus. 

    The influence of the environment on an individual's health and recovery was of utmost importance. The concepts of health, healing, well-being, and the interconnectedness with the multidimensional environment were also noted in her work. 

    Although Nightingale did not use the word “caring” explicitly, the concept of care and a commitment to others were evident through her actions (Dunphy, 2015). In the same era of Florence Nightingale, nurse pioneer Mary Seacole was devoted to healing the wounded during the Crimean war. 

    Following Nightingale, the nursing profession underwent a period of disorganization and confusion as it began to define itself as a distinct scientific discipline. Early nursing leaders (including Mary Eliza Mahoney, Effie Taylor, Annie Goodrich, Agatha Hodgins, Esther Lucille Brown, and Loretta Ford) sought to define the functions of the nurse (Gunn, 1991; Keeling, Hehman, & Kirchgessner, 2017). 

    Other leaders devoted their efforts to addressing discrimination, advancing policies, and creating a collective voice for the profession. It would be difficult to gain an understanding of this period of the profession's development without considering the work of Lavinia Dock, Estelle Osborne, Mary Elizabeth Carnegie, Ildaura Murillo Rohde, and many other fearless champions.

    Contemporary nursing as it is practiced today began to take shape as a discipline in the 1970s and 1980s. Leaders of this era shared the belief that the discipline of nursing was the study of the well-being patterning of human behavior and the constant interaction with the environment, including relationships with others, health, and the nurse (Rogers, 1970; Donaldson & Crowley , 1978; Fawcett, 1984; Chinn & Kramer 1983, 2018; Chinn, 2019, Roy & Jones, 2007). 

    The concept of caring was also described as the defining attribute of the nursing discipline (Leininger, 1978; Watson, 1985). Newman (1991) spoke to the need to sharpen the focus of the discipline of nursing to better define its social relevance and the nature of its service. 

    Newman, Smith, Pharris, and Jones (2008) affirmed caring as the focus of the discipline, suggesting that relationships were the unifying construct. Smith and Parker (2010) later posited that relationships were built on partnership, presence, and shared meaning.

    In a historical analysis of literature on the discipline of nursing, five concepts emerged as defining the discipline: human wholeness; health; healing and well being; environment-health relationship; and caring. When practicing from a holistic perspective, nurses understand the dynamic, ongoing body-brain-mind-spirit interactions of the person, between and among individuals, groups, communities, and the environment (Smith, 2019, pp. 9-12). 

    Smith purports that if nursing is to retain its status as a discipline, the explicit disciplinary knowledge must be an integral part of all levels of nursing. Nursing has its own science, and this body of knowledge is foundational for the next generation (Smith, 2019, p.13). 

    Why consider the past in a document that strives to shape the future? The historical roots of the profession help its members understand how the past has answered complex questions and shapes vital discipline concepts, traditions, policies, and even relationships. 

    D'Antonio, et. al (2010) also emphasize the disciplinary insights gained by considering the different histories that challenge the dominant and accepted historical narrative. Undoubtedly, many experts have contributed to the development of the discipline as it exists today. 

    While the work of early and current theorists is extensive, Green (2018) notes that none have been accepted as completely defining the nature of nursing as a discipline. No doubt, nursing as a discipline will continue to evolve as society and health care evolves.

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