American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Master’s Essentials


The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing, as explained by AACN (2011), serve as the foundation for Master’s programs in nursing. Using the original document, as well as other relevant sources, the paper attempts to review and explain Master’s essentials while also examining their effect on nursing practice. The paper shows that each Master’s essential proposed by the AACN (2011) allows nurses to achieve better results in one or more areas of clinical practice. Therefore, nursing programs meeting all the requirements are best suited for Master’s education in nursing, because they provide critical skills and knowledge that help nurses to succeed in their work.

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American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is an important American organization that advocates for various issues in nursing education and practice. In particular, the organization promotes the vision for enhanced nursing education that would equip nurses with skills, qualities, and knowledge critical for their continuous development in the field. The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing, published by the AACN in 2011, reflect the organization’s views on Master’s programs in nursing regarding their scope and content. The present paper will provide an overview of the Master’s Essentials, as proposed by AACN (2011) and evaluate how each of the essentials affects nursing practice.

Main Body

Essential I: Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities

The first essential recognizes that to provide high-quality patient care, it is critical for nurses to integrate knowledge from various fields, including public health, nursing, genetics, and organizational sciences (AACN, 2011). Therefore, Master’s programs in Nursing should have a scope broad enough to provide nurses with crucial knowledge from disciplines impacting patient care. The authors explain that nurses work in a highly complex environment and act as “integrators within and across systems of care” (AACN, 2011, p. 9).

Therefore, the authors’ interpret this essential in terms of the nurse’s ability to apply knowledge from various fields in order to provide care, address organizational issues, and engage in patient advocacy. Indeed, nurses work in close connection with patients, as well as other health professionals, and thus face various problems that require knowledge beyond medicine and health. This requirement aids nurses in their practice by ensuring that they receive necessary knowledge and skills from multiple disciplines and learn how to apply it in their practice.

Essential II: Organizational and Systems Leadership

The second Master’s essential states that Master’s programs in nursing must provide skills and knowledge required for nurses to exhibit organizational and systems leadership in their practice (AACN, 2011).

The authors interpret organizational and systems leadership as a variety of activities aimed to promote effective communication and collaboration in the workforce (AACN, 2011). This essential is indeed critical to practice, as nurses with higher leadership abilities can be more effective in their work and can contribute to working conditions, thus improving the quality of care throughout the facility (Wong, 2015). Moreover, leadership is also associated with patient advocacy, as nurses can initiate crucial change in their organizations or systems. Therefore, this essential helps to improve nurses’ leadership skills, thus allowing them to provide high-quality patient care.

Essential III: Quality Improvement and Safety

According to the authors, this requirement means that nurses should be equipped with knowledge of appropriate methods, tools, and standards that could aid in enhancing patient safety and the quality of care (AACN, 2011). Nurses’ commitment to and knowledge of factors and practices contributing to patient safety and care quality is indeed essential for them to achieve success in their work. By providing this knowledge as part of Master’s education in nursing, colleges can secure nurses’ contribution to care quality and patient safety, thus assisting nurses in achieving better results in clinical practice.

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Essential IV: Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice

The fourth essential is focused on the importance of evidence-based practice. The authors explain that nurses should seek evidence and apply current research findings to practice to ensure that their methods are consistent with the latest knowledge in health and medicine (AACN, 2011). The requirement also implies that evidence-based care can help to improve patient outcomes and promote continuous learning and improvement of care. Indeed, studies show that evidence-based practice is associated with enhanced patient health outcomes and higher care quality (Gillam & Siriwardena, 2014). Overall, as health care is subject to on-going development, knowing how to integrate current evidence into practice aids nurses in providing high-quality patient care.

Essential V: Informatics and Healthcare Technologies

This essential argues that Master’s programs in Nursing should provide nurses with knowledge of how to use technologies to improve patient care, communication, data management, and health information management (AACN, 2011). Besides, the authors mention that nurses should be equipped to use electronic health records (AACN, 2011). Technological developments achieved in the past decades allowed improving various processes associated with data management and care delivery, thus contributing to the efficiency of health care provision.

For instance, electronic health records enable easy access to patient information for care providers and authorized persons. Using electronic health records can help to speed up the delivery of care to the patient, as well as enhance decision-making outcomes by providing more data about diagnosed conditions, past surgeries, chronic diseases, and more. By learning about various technologies, nurses obtain knowledge and experience that allow using them in clinical practice.

Essential VI: Health Policy and Advocacy

According to AACN (2011), nurses should have excellent knowledge of policies affecting their work and engage in political activism to promote health and social justice agenda for their patients. Master’s programs should prepare nurses to take an active role in health policy and patient advocacy by teaching them about the effect of policy on health care delivery, the process of policy implementation, and methods used by nurses to affect or change health policy (AACN, 2011).

Indeed, nurses role in health advocacy is important, as nurses have a unique perspective on the issues affecting patients and medical institutions. Therefore, by learning about their role in health policy and advocacy, nurses obtain the power to use their clinical practice to influence health care in on organizational, local, state, or national levels.

Essential VII: Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes

The authors interpret this essential as the necessity to be able to work with other health professionals to ensure appropriate continuous and reliable care (AACN, 2011). Due to the nature of their work, nurses often have to collaborate with other staff on diagnostics or treatment of patients. However, interprofessional collaboration can be challenging if the parties lack the necessary skills and experience to ensure smooth communication.

For example, Irajpour and Alavi (2015) state that interprofessional teams often experience organizational, professional, and socio-cultural barriers to collaboration. According to the AACN (2011), Master’s programs should equip nurses with skills and knowledge to facilitate collaboration and communication. This training helps nurses to work more effectively, improves organizational climate, and contributes to patient safety.

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Essential VIII: Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving Health

According to the authors, this essential concerns nurses’ education with regards to clinical prevention and population health programs, activities, and initiatives (AACN, 2011). The rationale for this objective is based on the widespread health disparities that affect Americans from low- and medium-income backgrounds.

Preventive activities and programs targeting populations that are at risk for disease help to achieve better levels of overall population health while also reducing the burden of disease and healthcare expenditures. Therefore, by learning more about population health and disease prevention, nurses can assist at-risk populations in achieving improved health as part of their clinical practice, thus contributing to the government’s health promotion efforts.

Essential IX: Master’s-Level Nursing Practice

The final essential stipulates that Master’s programs should assist nurses in deepening their understanding of nursing practice and its components, such as decision-making, assessment, evidence-based practice, patient advocacy, leadership, and more (AACN, 2011). The authors also add that Master’s programs also have to explain the importance of lifelong learning, thus encouraging nurses to pursue continuous learning opportunities. This requirement affects clinical practice by providing them with enhanced knowledge of methods, activities, and standards affecting patient care, thus contributing to their nursing skills and experience.


Overall, the AACN (2011) Master’s Essentials provide a list of requirements for Master-level programs in Nursing. Each of the essentials concerns a specific part of nursing practice and thus applies to nurses’ work in clinical settings. Education programs that are built by the requirements equip nurses with skills, experience, and practical knowledge that they can use to be effective leaders, achieve better patient outcomes, provide a higher quality of care, or influence healthcare policy to improve population health.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). (2011). The essentials of Master’s education in Nursing. Web.

Gillam, S., & Siriwardena, A. N. (2014). Evidence-based healthcare and quality improvement. Quality in Primary Care, 22(3), 125-132.

Irajpour, A., & Alavi, M. (2015). Health professionals’ experiences and perceptions of challenges of interprofessional collaboration: Socio-cultural influences of IPC. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 20(1), 99-104.

Wong, C. A. (2015). Connecting nursing leadership and patient outcomes: State of the science. Journal of Nursing Management, 23(3), 275-278.

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