Master’s Education Essentials in American Nursing


American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) identifies nine crucial aspects of master’s education in nursing (MEN). Essentials I and IV recognize that master’s-prepared nurses should have an adequate background in related sciences and humanities to acquire the latest evidence, interpret the findings, and use them in practice. Essentials II, III, VI, and VII describe the organizational aspect of nursing, representing how nurses should operate in interdisciplinary teams. Essentials V, VIII, and IX provide further details on the matter, allowing a deeper understanding of how master’s-level nursing graduates are to provide evidence-based care and promote healthy practices. Mastering the nine essentials will enable students to improve the healthcare system and patient outcomes.

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The dynamic nature of healthcare calls for professional nurses to be able to anticipate future healthcare needs. Therefore, adequate master’s education in nursing (MEN) is required to prepare the graduates to face the challenges of today’s healthcare. Nurses with a master’s degree are to lead the changes in healthcare to improve its quality, collaborate with other professionals in medicine, integrate the latest scientific findings into practice, and design innovative nursing interventions. The present paper offers an overview of the nine essentials of master’s education in nursing provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

From Knowledge to Practice

Nurses with a master’s degree are to have a background in science and humanities and be able to transform this knowledge into practice. According to AACN (2011), Essential I of MEN is to have an understanding of “scientific findings from nursing, biopsychosocial fields, genetics, public health, quality improvement, and organizational sciences” (p. 4). Additionally, Essential IV states that nurses with a master’s degree are to be able to apply the latest research and the background mentioned in Essential I to everyday practice (AACN, 2011).

In simpler words, MEN is expected to enable graduates to acquire the latest evidence, interpret it using the background obtained during the education process, and utilize the findings to improve patient outcomes. According to Ellis (2019), analyzing evidence through the lens of the theoretical framework is central for professional growth and improvement of the healthcare system. In short, Essentials I and IV are closely correlated, as MEN is to provide the knowledge to the graduates and teach the strategies to implement and disseminate the findings.

Organizational Aspect

Nurses with a master’s degree are expected to improve the performance on the organizational level. Essential II states that MEN is to provide an understanding of the importance of leadership in healthcare and develop the students as leaders to improve their critical decision-making skills and working relationships (AACN, 2011). Essential III articulates that a master’s-prepared nurse needs to be aware of methods, tools, and standards of quality care.

At the same time, Essential VI declares that MEN should enable graduates to intervene at the system level through policy development (AACN, 2011). Additionally, Essential VII states that nurses with a master’s degree are expected to have interprofessional collaboration skills to improve patient and population health outcomes (AACN, 2011). These four aspects of MEN describe the abilities that can improve the everyday operations of healthcare organizations.

The four elements mentioned above are interconnected, as nurses should not only appreciate the significance of effective leadership but also become the leaders that would initiate an evidence-based change, improve cooperation between departments, or even design and advocate new guidelines or practices to improve the healthcare system. Ellis (2019) states that nurses provide leadership by acting as role models in delivering the best nursing care. Nurses play an equal role in interdisciplinary teams through effective communication and supporting, delegating, or supervising the care provided by others.

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Further Considerations

A master’s-prepared nurse is to use all the appropriate methods to improve patient outcomes. Essential V recognizes that MEN is to empower graduates to utilize informatics and healthcare technologies to deliver quality care (AACN, 2011). Knowledge in nurse informatics allows quick access to information when and where it is needed (McGonigle, Hunter, Sipes, & Hebda, 2014). Therefore, the latest technology can enable nurses to make evidence-based decisions under any circumstances. Essential VII states that nurses with a master’s degree should be aware of methods for clinical prevention and population health improvement (AACN, 2011).

In other words, instead of providing acute care, nurses are to focus on health promotion and prevention of illnesses. They are to acquire the latest knowledge in the sphere and utilize the findings in their practice. Lastly, Essential IX requires “master’s-level nursing graduates must have an advanced level of understanding of nursing and relevant sciences” (AACN, 2011, p. 5). In other words, MEN is to help the graduates comprehend not only the elements of nursing separately; instead, a master’s-prepared nurse is to understand the concept of nursing practice in its essence.


Nursing practice is a complex phenomenon that can be studied using various approaches. AACN (2011) outlines nine elements of nursing that are crucial for master’s-prepared nurses. MEN is to grant appreciation of the nine essentials to the graduates to improve the healthcare system and the quality of care.


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

Ellis, P. (2019). Evidence-based practice in nursing (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

McGonigle, D., Hunter, K., Sipes, C., & Hebda, T. (2014). Why nurses need to understand nursing informatics. AORN Journal, 100(3), 324-327. Web.

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