Nursing Education

Tackling Curriculum Transformation: Getting Your Team in the Game

Tackling Curriculum Transformation: Getting Your Team in the Game

In a previous blog, we reviewed the three critical preparation steps for incorporating the new AACN Essentials into your curriculum. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the first step: engaging faculty in the process. No matter how far along you are with implementing the new AACN Essentials, these tips will provide useful ways of getting people involved in the process. 

Select the Team

Most of us know that the key to any successful change is having the right people on board to plan and implement it. As basketball legend Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Individually, faculty and staff can make adjustments to their classes and pedagogy on their own, but the real magic is when teams come together, unify around a goal, and work together to achieve it. 

  • Be particular about who you identify to participate. Combine seasoned educators and new instructors to provide a blend of experience and fresh perspectives. Bring together the naysayers with those who understand and embrace the new Essentials and focus on competencies. 
  • Inject some energy into the team. There will need to be some cheerleaders on the team who can remind them of why they are doing the work and connect it with the team’s shared mission.
  • Identify a leader. Find someone who is respected by others, is ready for the challenge, and can cultivate a spirit of collaboration and partnership among the team. They should set the pace and tempo, being mindful not to exhaust the team too soon but applying enough pressure to make progress.

Members of this team will not only plan how to weave the Essentials into your existing program but they will also be your change ambassadors well past the planning phase. For example, maybe they can invite their fellow professors to attend one of their classes and observe some of the ways they are assessing the new competencies. Perhaps they can even share their updated syllabus that outlines some of the new expected outcomes. This peer-to-peer influence is a powerful element that will help ensure continued focus on evolving your program to support the Essentials and competency development. 

The team will also be the ears to the ground, hearing what some of the struggles are with the new approach so concerns and questions can be addressed immediately and broadly.

Set Goals 

Once the team is formed, it’s time to establish goals. Some members of the team may not know anything about the Essentials or the benefits of competency-based education. As you explain the new Essentials, make sure to personalize it to your program. Explain why making the changes now is important and how the change will benefit them as faculty as well as students. 

At the core of effective change are clearly defined outcomes of the proposed change, identified actions to attain the outcomes, and implementation of those actions (Monaghan, 2009; Nickols, 2007).

Faculty are accustomed to focusing on their course(s) and specialty areas. In order to effectively ensure the new Essentials and skills-based methodology are prioritized, they must think broader and work together to understand, evaluate, and retool the program’s curriculum. 

Continue to focus on preparing students for the ever-evolving healthcare environment, evaluating existing curriculum and reshaping it to incorporate new Essentials as well as opportunities to assess and validate skill development. 

Clearly articulate the purpose and goals of the team and talk through how they are expected to get to the goal. A team with a common purpose and clear understanding of roles and responsibilities creates a cohesive working unit that has an impact on the delivery of quality service and psychological well-being of the team members (Huber, 2013). 

Make sure the team deeply understands the Essentials and how students’ competency development fits into your program’s priorities. Expect that faculty perceptions of the curriculum change may vary from enthusiasm to skepticism to negativity. Manage attitudes early and frequently. 

Make sure they have the right equipment: time and understanding. Consider all they have on their plate and manage other asks of them so they can devote their time and energy to the team without being overloaded.

Check the Score and Celebrate

As your team reshapes the curriculum to incorporate the new skills-based requirements for nursing students, keep an eye on the scoreboard and the clock. Make sure the work is progressing at the right pace to reach the deadline. AACN has set the 2024-–25 academic year as a target date for programs to incorporate the new Essentials. Your team may decide on an earlier deadline and should have milestone dates built into their plan to ensure they are on track. 

Encourage the team to continually communicate and share wins and losses —what’s working and what’s not. Celebrate the victories and strategize how to tackle the blockers. 

When you take the time to create a winning team, you achieve stronger, more sustainable results. 

Hear firsthand in this webinar how Alverno College’s team tackled their curriculum changes by incorporating the new Essentials and gaining faculty and student buy-in. 

Don’t miss the next step in AACN Essentials implementation: Mapping Your Curriculum to the New Essentials.  


Huber, D. L. (2013). Leadership and nursing care management (5th ed.). Atlanta: Elsevier Health Science.

Monaghan, H. M. (2009). Change & change agents. In S. L. Bruce (Ed.), Core curriculum for staff development (3rd ed., pp. 111–137). Pensacola, FL: National Nursing Staff Development Organization. 

Nickols, F. (2007). Change management 101: A primer. Retrieved from /change.pdf