Nursing Education

Aligning the AACN Essentials With Existing Outcomes

A short video clip demonstrating how to evaluate your curriculum to discover what Essentials and competencies may already exist

Hear how faculty at Alverno College lightened their load for implementing the AACN Essentials by identifying which existing outcomes already align with the new domains and competencies.


So now you finished your mapping. And this is where Peg and I want to stress over and over again, no program needs to start from scratch. You’ve identified gaps. Just keep going.

Your existing outcomes might need some minor tweaks. And sometimes you may have things to review. But the next two slides here– or, I’m sorry, the next slide are a couple of examples– in our next slides, there are a couple of examples of our program outcomes that didn’t need revising. We just had to identify what competencies were already embedded in them. So next slide please.

So here we are. We’re using an existing program outcome. And we are making the connection. We’re looking at what essentials are embedded and then what competencies. So a quick review– a learning outcome or an outcome describes the overall purpose or goal from participation in an educational activity. Courses should be planned with a measurable learning outcome in mind. And, again, this is because we want these outcomes to be public.

So, next, you have to ask yourself a few questions. How do or how can the essential competencies align with what is already existing? There may be questions we need to ask before that, such as, to what extent do you, other faculty, and your students articulate and use your existing outcomes? Are they just written for creditors but don’t inform your teaching practices to the extent they could or should?

And why is this important? Because outcomes should be used by students and others to identify goals. I always review course outcomes and unit outcomes with my students. I tell them that it’s really hard to work toward a goal if you don’t know what that goal is.

So in this example here, our program outcome is apply leadership concepts and skills grounded in professional standards to support innovation and adaptation in evolving health care systems. Having said that, looking for the alignment, it looks like that aligns with Domain 10– Personal, Professional, and Leadership Development and also Domain 7– Systems-Based Practice. Going further and looking at the competencies, it looks like that aligns with 10.3– Developed Capacity for Leadership and 7.1– Apply Knowledge of Systems to Work Effectively Across the Curriculum– of the Continuum of Care. Next slide please.

So here is another example of the same process but at a graduate level. So you can see that our existing program outcome to skillfully engage in collaborative and transdisciplinary leadership to reconstruct or construct strategies for innovative and transformative change in complex health care settings aligns with the essentials Domain 10, again– Personal, Professional, and Leadership Development and Domain 7– Systems-Based Practice. The graduate competencies that are aligned with this then are 10.3– Developed Capacity for Leadership and 7.3– Optimize System Effectiveness Through Application of Innovation and Evidence-Based Practice