Master’s Education in Nursing and Leadership Skills

The last decade was a crucial time in nursing education that saw the shift towards the inclusion of leadership topics into healthcare curricula. The transformation of nursing practice has necessitated the greater focus on technology and accountability for the delivery of care; therefore, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) revised the Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing in 2011 (Gerard, Kazer, Babington, & Quell, 2014). The aim of this paper is to describe and assess the AACN’s Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing and their influence on clinical practice.

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Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities

The essential prepares nurses to integrate theories and concepts from social sciences into the delivery of patient-centered care (AACN, 2011). It also helps graduates to apply ethical analysis to designing care for different populations. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of the essential because without basing one’s care on ethical theories and related sciences; it is impossible to engender respect and build trust with patients (Darnell & Hickson, 2015). By preparing students to integrate theoretical foundations of the humanities into their practice, the essential will help them to deliver culturally competent care.

Organizational and Systems Leadership

The essential is needed to teach nurses to assume leadership roles and masterfully apply decision-making skills in different organizational contexts (AACN, 2011). It is clear that by studying different leadership theories, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) will be able to enhance the work quality of their teams. The essential has the potential to substantially affect the clinical practice by transforming managerial and leadership approaches of nurses, which can help to reduce turnover rates in hospitals.

Quality Improvement and Safety

Quality Improvement and Safety is essential that teaches graduates to analyze and implement quality improvement interventions (AACN, 2011). Taking into consideration the fact that many nursing environments suffer from high levels of burnout, low job satisfaction, and poor patient outcomes, it stands to reason to apply the essential for redesigning key clinical processes. The essential is needed to eliminate care gaps and errors, thereby making patients safer and staff happier.

Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice

This essential was designed to help masters prepared nurses to critically evaluate the extant academic literature and integrate the most current evidence and theories in their practice (AACN, 2011). This aspect of a master’s program positively affects clinical practice because it helps to increase the relevance and utilization of research. This is one of the most important essentials because it allows translating results of collaborative inquiry between scholars and practitioners into positive patient outcomes.

Informatics and Healthcare Technologies

The essential teaches nurses how to use modern computer technology for the creation of safe practice environments and the promotion of quality improvement (AACN, 2011). APRNs need this essential because it can help them to effectively utilize technology resources for the benefit of their patients. The degree to which this essential can transform the clinical practice is restricted by the rate of technological advances in healthcare, which is extremely high.

Health Policy and Advocacy

This aspect of a master’s program provides APRNs with information on healthcare-related policies, thereby teaching them to critically evaluate the influence of state and business on care delivery (AACN, 2011). The essential can change the clinical practice by providing graduates with the knowledge necessary to shape local, state, and federal policies. Furthermore, it revolves around the notion of nursing policy advocacy, which can improve the quality of health outcomes by improving the accessibility of healthcare.

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Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes

The essential teaches nurses to employ collaborative strategies in the delivery of care (AACN, 2011). The emphasis on relational coordination and interprofessional collaboration can provide more powerful solutions to challenges faced by nurses. It is hard to overemphasize the importance of this essential because it prepares nurses for maximum levels of relational coordination by providing them with effective cross-functional strategies for conflict resolution and performance measurement.

Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving Health

The essential teaches master-prepared nurses to assess, develop, and implement clinical prevention and health promotion strategies for different populations (AACN, 2011). The shift in educational focus to prevention will help to change the clinical practice by teaching healthcare professionals how to apply evidence-based strategies for avoiding a wide range of negative health outcomes. The essential is also needed to adequately respond to socio-economic and cultural diversities in the country’s population.

Master’s Level Nursing Practice

This is the most comprehensive essential that is defined as “any form of nursing intervention that influences healthcare outcomes for individuals, populations, or systems” (AACN, 2011, p. 26). Taking into consideration the fact that the essential encompasses all learning experiences of a master’s program, its effect will reach all healthcare facilities with APRNs. The essential can be interpreted as the integration of social and environmental data into the delivery of healthcare with an emphasis on social needs and accountability.


The paper has outlined and evaluated the AACN’s Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing. It has been argued that all nine essentials have the potential to drastically transform the clinical practice, thereby aligning the standards of nursing education with the requirements of modern healthcare delivery.


AACN. (2011). The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing. Web.

Darnell, L., & Hickson, S. (2015). Cultural competent patient-centered nursing care. Nursing Clinics of North America, 50(1), 99-108.

Gerard, S., Kazer, M., Babington, L., & Quell, T. (2014). Past, present, and future trends of master’s education in nursing. Journal of Professional Nursing, 34(1), 1-24.

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