The completion of master’s degrees is a key component in the professional development of nurses (Drennan, 2012). Graduates of master’s degree programs are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for the transition into clinical and educational settings. Nine essentials that outline skills and knowledge possessed by graduates of master’s degree nursing programs helped to better understand what future nurses require for evidence-based practice. This paper aims to examine and assess the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) essentials of master’s education in nursing.
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It is recognized that postgraduate nursing education substantially increases the quality of care delivery, thereby improving patient outcomes. The completion of master’s degrees is a key component in the professional development of nurses (Drennan, 2012). It prepares them for challenges associated with working in dynamic environments of healthcare organizations (AACN, 2011). Moreover, graduates of master’s degree programs are equipped with knowledge and skills necessary for the transition into “research or practice-focused doctoral program” (AACN, 2011, p. 3). This paper aims to examine and assess the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) essentials of master’s education in nursing.
The document contains nine essentials that outline skills and knowledge possessed by graduates of master’s degree nursing programs: background for practice from sciences and humanities, organizational and systems leadership, quality improvement, and safety, translating and integrating scholarship into practice, informatics and healthcare technologies, health policy and advocacy, interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes, clinical prevention and population health for improving health, and masters-level nursing practice (AACN, 2011).
Background for practice from sciences and humanities is the first essential of a master’s education that provides nurses with information necessary for the translation of nursing and other related sciences into the continual improvement of their practice (AACN, 2011). Master’s-prepared nurses can use their background in various disciplines to design nursing care programs as well as examine care delivery practices within a framework of medical ethics.
Organizational and systems leadership are elements of a master’s education that are essential for safe and effective healthcare delivery (AACN, 2011). The graduates acquire skills such as communication, negotiation, and delegation among others necessary for being leaders of health care teams. This essential of master’s education prepares nurses for assuming a leadership role to deliver culturally responsive care with a high degree of coordination and professional oversight (AACN, 2011).
Without focusing on continuous quality improvement and safety, masters prepared nurses cannot become real change agents in their organizations (Cotterill-Walker, 2012). Therefore, this essential is designed to ensure that nurses are equipped with the knowledge of principles necessary for recognizing the areas of nursing practice that can be subjected to improvement. Clinical practice significantly benefits from the contribution of graduates of master’s programs because they are the ones that strive for defragmentation of care (AACN, 2011).
Translating and integrating scholarship into practice is another essential of master’s education in nursing without which it is impossible to create a caring environment based on the current scientific knowledge (AACN, 2011). Program graduates are capable of the evidence-based practice that is achieved through the integration of “theory, evidence, clinical judgment, research, and interprofessional perspective” (AACN, 2011, p. 16) into working processes. Therefore, it is a key component of improving practice and delivering change.
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Informatics and healthcare technologies are the fifth essential that is focused on but not limited to the use of modern patient care technologies, communication technologies, data management methods, and tools, as well as electronic health records (AACN, 2011). This element is critical to the clinical practice because it is impossible to imagine the delivery of effective patient care without resorting to modern technological solutions. Moreover, program graduates are taught to espouse an open attitude towards the use of current technologies; therefore, they actively seek new methods of using innovation for the delivery of coordinated care that meets patient needs.
Health policy and advocacy are another essential that makes sure that nurses’ involvement in political discourse shapes the health delivery system (AACN, 2011). Master’s-prepared nurses know that they are accountable for the quality of care which should be constantly improved through active participation in policy debates. Moreover, the integration of principles of accountability, equality, social justice, and accessibility into the development of institutional, state, and federal policies and regulations is integral for program graduates (AACN, 2011).
Interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes is a key to achieving the majority of health promotion objectives; therefore, it was included in the essentials of master’s education in nursing. The essential can be considered a part of the development of a skill-set necessary for “communication, planning, and implementation of care directly with other healthcare professionals” (AACN, 2011, p. 22).
The eighth essential is needed to promote “clinical prevention and population health activities that are central to achieving the national goal of improving the health status of the population of the United States” (AACN, 2011, p. 24). Without this element of master’s education, it is impossible to implement preventive interventions necessary for the reduction of illnesses; therefore, it is critical for clinical practice.
The last but not least essential of master’s education in nursing is masters-level nursing practice. This element is a practice-focused one; therefore, it outlines clinical competencies and concepts associated with quality improvement, environmental science, health policy, organization management, and communication among others (AACN, 2011). The fundamental practical competencies delineated by this essential will help program graduates to better understand the role of nursing practice within the framework of the increasingly complex system of healthcare delivery.
The completion of master’s degrees is a key component in the professional development of nurses that substantially increases the quality of care delivery, thereby improving patient outcomes. The delineation of skills and knowledge that have to be possessed by program graduates helps to ensure that both the current and the future healthcare needs of the country’s citizens are addressed.
AACN. (2011). The essentials of master’s education in nursing. Web.
Cotterill-Walker, S. (2012). Where is the evidence that master’s level nursing education makes a difference to patient care? A literature review. Nurse Education Today, 32(1), 57-64.
Drennan, J. (2012). Masters in nursing degrees: An evaluation of management and leadership outcomes using a retrospective pre-test design. Journal of Nursing Management, 20(1), 102-112.