Master’s Education for American Nurses

Nursing is a complicated field of study covering various healthcare-related issues. Due to the complexity of the discipline, it is necessary to define the main principles of education in nursing and identify its major directions. While baccalaureate studies are aimed at providing students with basic skills and knowledge, graduate education is designed to improve their understanding of the field and their performance. This paper discusses the main features of graduate studies, which are identified and explained in The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The profound analysis of these principles and supportive ideas of other authors will demonstrate skills and knowledge that are considered necessary for Master’s students. The significance, purpose, and contents of the essentials will also be evaluated in the paper.

The field of healthcare demands constant development of students’ knowledge. Graduate education in nursing is aimed at improving the skills of future healthcare workers so that they can effectively apply them in their profession. However, educators need to clearly identify the framework and focus of Master’s programs to make studies as productive as possible. The AACN essentials are the basis of graduate education in nursing; they do not only provide students with clear objectives and approaches but also identify desirable outcomes.

These essentials are applicable to all American nursing educational institutions. They are identified and described in The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2011). According to the Essential I (Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities), graduate studies are based on the knowledge and competencies gained through baccalaureate programs. Master’s education implies a “more sophisticated understanding” of how to combine skills from sciences and humanities to solve healthcare-related issues (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2011, p. 9). Indeed, in clinical practice, nurses who successfully apply their background knowledge can demonstrate better performance.

The following essentials cover more specific educational principles and objectives. The Essential II, Organizational and Systems Leadership, is aimed at encouraging students to initiate and organize healthcare-related activities. It is hard to deny that since nurses often work in a team, leadership skills allow them to promote and realize their ideas. According to the author, the knowledge of the organizational structure and leadership principles helps nurses effectively participate in the implementation of healthcare. As expressed in the Essential III (Quality Improvement and Safety), students need to understand possible risks of unsafe healthcare practices and be able to prevent and eliminate them (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2011). This principle is vital for nursing practice since the knowledge of the general rules and regulations of healthcare guarantees effective standardized work. The Essential IV (Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice) emphasizes that nurse’s actions should be supported by proper evidence. In nursing, students with a proper theoretical basis are able to conduct research, refer to facts, and make healthcare-related predictions.

Today, modern technologies are used in many fields, including nursing; therefore, graduate students need IT-related skills that facilitate their clinical work. In the Essential V (Informatics and Healthcare Technologies), the Association confirms that the knowledge of the healthcare technologies guarantees the quality of the medical services. In addition, AACN emphasized the ability to access data and use standardized terminology (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2011). Furthermore, Master’s students should be aware of policy-making principles, which are mentioned in the Essential VI: Health Policy and Advocacy. They need to understand how policies influence healthcare outcomes to improve the healthcare system on the local, state, and federal levels. With the knowledge of official regulations, students will be able to make appropriate decisions in their clinical practice.

It is evident that nursing includes interdisciplinary teamwork; collaboration provides comprehensiveness of medical practices. According to the Essential VII (Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes), nurses should be able to “lead and coordinate interprofessional teams across care environment” (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2011, p. 22). The Essential VIII, Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving Health, focuses on developing plans for overall health improvement. As clinical practice includes work with individuals and the public, the ability to design preventive interventions and identify threats to population health is the basis of effective healthcare decisions. The Essential IX (Master’s-Level Nursing Practice) is explained as gaining real-life experience in different settings to demonstrate excellent performance in nursing (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2011). The sample content includes a variety of activities, such as evidence-based practices, health promotion, and risk assessment. Indeed, such skills may help students prepare for the challenges of their future profession.

The AACN essentials cover various objectives of the Master’s education. King et al. (2018) emphasize that these principles reflect “imagination, transformative thinking, and evolutionary change of graduate education” (p. 369). According to the researchers, these essentials are highly valuable for different roles in healthcare, and can even serve as a core for doctoral studies. Stewart and DeNisco (2018) remind that the essentials discussed are universal for all programs on the graduate level. Understanding of nursing and relevant fields, together with the integration of theory into practice, are the common principles of Master’s studies in nursing in America.

In conclusion, the AACN essentials demonstrate different skills that underlie graduate nursing. They are described in detail and are followed by suggested studies that can be included in the Master’s curriculum; this paper covered the most important aspects of these essentials. These principles include integrated work, research, ability to access technologies, and other significant knowledge and skills. Finally, properly designed Master’s education allows nurses to make their essential contribution to the improvement of the overall health of citizens.


  1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2011). The essentials of Master’s education in nursing [PDF document]. Web.
  2. King, C.R., Gerard, S., & Rapp, C.G. (Eds.). (2018). Essential knowledge for CNL and APRN nurse leaders. Springer Publishing Company.
  3. Stewart, J.G., & DeNisco, S.M. (Eds.). (2018). Role development for the nurse practitioner (2nd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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NursingBird. (2022) 'Master’s Education for American Nurses'. 20 February.


NursingBird. 2022. "Master’s Education for American Nurses." February 20, 2022.

1. NursingBird. "Master’s Education for American Nurses." February 20, 2022.


NursingBird. "Master’s Education for American Nurses." February 20, 2022.