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Master’s Education in Nursing in the United States


The 2011 Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reflect the field’s growing need for high-caliber specialists. The Essentials discuss the creative, transformative role that nurses take up in this day and age. The handbook covers numerous aspects of nursing practice, covering both hard and soft skills. However, the guide does not prescribe nurses specific functions and responsibilities as its authors are convinced that new roles might emerge. The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing is rather a handbook of nursing philosophy that might help young and experienced professionals build their own system of values.

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American Association of Colleges of Nurses acknowledges the substantial role that nurses play in transforming modern health care. The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing emphasizes the importance of continuing education, which is compliant with the objectives set by the Institute of Medicine of National Academies (IOM) (2010) in its Future of Nursing report. This paper will summarize the contents of the Essentials and briefly cover each of its chapters.

Essential I: Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities

According to Essential I, nurses need to be aware of the fact that the field is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary. Medical knowledge needs to be completed by biology, psychology, public health, and genetics (AACN, 2011). The diversity of subjects that a nurse needs to learn to obtain an MSc corresponds to the variety of roles he or she is expected to take up in their practice.

Essential II: Organizational and Systems Leadership

It no longer suffices to only stick to a given set of work responsibilities. In the modern world, nurses expand the scope of their practice beyond following instructions. They need to develop their leadership and management qualities to make much-needed changes to the healthcare system. Nurse leaders become successful patient advocates, train young professionals, make more effective decisions, and eventually enhance the organization environment.

Essential III: Quality Improvement and Safety

Patients’ safety, defined as “freedom from accidental injury,” should take front and center of nursing practice (AACN, 2011, p. 13). As AACN (2011) explains, a patient should never be at a greater risk of trauma or disease in the clinical setting than he or she would be within the confines of their home. A nurse with a master’s degree should be able to research quality improvement and safety models, compare and contrast them, and champion new initiatives.

Essential IV: Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice

A nurse needs to have an investigative attitude toward daily practice. He or she cannot solely rely on what is held as normal at their facility, and trust customs and traditions passed down by older nurses to younger professionals. Instead, nurses with an MSc should have a desire and an ability to read scientific literature, detect bias, and choose the best approaches for further ethical translation into practice.

Essential V: Informatics and Healthcare Technologies

Modern technology is revolutionizing the medical field, and nurses have no other choice but are on board with the changes. As Kroning (2016) puts it, no nurse should expect to have enough knowledge after graduation. Lifelong learning is what will help every health practitioner with a master’s degree adapt to the ever-changing environment and learn how to use emerging tools. The Essentials promote independent thinking: nurses cannot and should not blindly trust new hardware and software and, instead, critically evaluate their efficiency and reliability.

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Essential VI: Health Policy and Advocacy

Nurses should be outspoken advocates for patients’ rights and use their political efficacy to fight for greater causes. They should uphold basic ethical principles: nonmaleficence, beneficence, and patient autonomy. In daily practice, nurses have the power and knowledge to detect when patients are discriminated against and rectify these situations (AACN, 2011). It is essential that a nurse shares such values as social justice and is ready to stand for it in the clinical setting.

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

AACN (2011) argues that in the nearest future, nurses will need to build interprofessional teams and unite forces to improve public health. In a world that is more interconnected than ever, it is critical that health practitioners exchange their expertise and lift each other by providing guidance and support. For this reason, nurses need to learn how to be both team members and team leaders and collaborate.

Essential VIII: Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving Health

In the modern world, where the majority of diseases are well-researched and the primary risk factors are known, prevention should take priority over treatment. Preventive measures increase patients’ quality of life, and health promotion empowers them to make well-informed health decisions. AACN (2011) states that a nurse should use both evidence-based knowledge and communicative skills to counsel patients and explain to them their health risks.

Essential IX: Master’s-Level Nursing Practice

AACN (2011) argues that nurses with a master’s degree should possess a high level of nursing theory, science, and practice. They can apply their knowledge in a variety of clinical settings and ensure patients’ safety, dignity, and autonomy at all times. Masters-prepared nurses strive for continuous improvement and have mastered reflective tools that help them with decision-making, self-evaluation, and goal-setting.


One of the goals set by IOM (2010) is to increase the percentage of nurses with Bsc and higher degrees. Lifelong learning seems to be no longer arbitrary: nurses need to keep with new policies and medical advancements. In the Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing, the American Association of College of Nursing shares its vision on what attitude and values a nurse with an Msc should have. Overall, AACN highly values humanism, independent research, critical thinking, and openness to new tools, theories, and ideas.


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

Institute of Medicine of National Academies. (2010). The future of nursing. Leading change, advancing health. Report recommendations. Web.

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Kroning, M. (2016). Lifelong learning in nursing. Journal of Christian Nursing: A Quarterly Publication of Nurses Christian Fellowship, 33(1), p. 255.

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