The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for academic nursing. AACN works to establish quality standards for nursing education; assists schools in implementing those standards; influences the nursing profession to improve health care; and promotes public support for professional nursing education, research, and practice.
From an original 121 member institutions in 1969, AACN today represents nearly 840 member schools of nursing at public and private universities nationwide. These schools offer a mix of baccalaureate, graduate, and post-graduate programs. The dean or chief nurse administrator serves as the representative to AACN, though the association serves the entire academic enterprise, including faculty, administrative staff, and students. AACN maintains seven Leadership Networks for nursing school faculty and staff involved in instructional development, research, organizational leadership, faculty practice, business operations, graduate student recruitment, and communications/development. Each network hosts an annual meeting for participating members. See membership brochure for additional information and how to join.
Curriculum Standards: Using a national consensus-based process, AACN has led the development of a series of Essentials documents that outline competency expectations for graduates of baccalaureate, master’s, and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. Using these documents, schools of nursing are able to ensure they adhere to the highest standards for their educational programs and meet accreditation guidelines. AACN also has published quality indicators for research-focused doctoral programs, a white paper on the Clinical Nurse Leader, and guidelines defining the essential clinical resources for nursing education, research, and faculty practice.
Health Policy Advocacy: In government relations and other advocacy, AACN works to advance public policy on nursing education, research, and practice. AACN is a leader in securing sustained federal support for nursing education and research; shaping legislative and regulatory policy affecting nursing schools; and ensuring continuing financial assistance for nursing students.
Research and Data Services: Each year, AACN surveys all baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs as part of its work to maintain the Institutional Data System, a comprehensive databank reporting current statistics on student enrollments and graduations, faculty salaries and demographics, budgets, institutional resources, and other trends in baccalaureate and graduate nursing education. Several annual reports assist member schools in benchmarking efforts and making policy decisions.
Conferences and Webinars: Dean and faculty development is a high priority for AACN as evidenced by the many national meetings, conferences, and webinars sponsored every year. The semiannual meetings in Washington, D.C. advance the business of the association and enable deans to address emerging issues. Faculty and staff development is accomplished by a number of conferences geared toward educators teaching in baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs as well as those engaged in faculty practice. AACN also offers a free webinar series exclusively for nurse educators teaching in baccalaureate and higher degree programs.
Leadership Development: Leadership development has been a cornerstone of AACN’s programs and services since the association’s inception nearly 50 years ago. To ensure that all AACN members have access to leadership enrichment experiences tailored to their needs, AACN has launched AACN LEADS. Designed to provide a variety of learning opportunities at all career levels along the leadership continuum, AACN LEADS introduces a portfolio of programs and conferences for new, early career, and experienced deans, associate deans, program directors, and faculty.
Diversity and Inclusion: AACN is a primary advocate for advancing diversity and inclusivity within academic nursing. AACN’s position statement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Academic Nursing reflect the core interests of AACN Membership. To further explore innovative approaches to enhance diversity, AACN has convened the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Network (DEILN), compromised of AACN faculty members that unite expertise, experience, and guidance for academic nursing in Leading Across Differences. Other ongoing projects include the new Diversity Tool Kit, Holistic Admissions Tool Kit and workshops. These resources assist colleges and universities to employ a holistic admission process to assemble a diverse class of students with the background, qualities, and skills needed for success in the profession.
Special Projects: AACN actively seeks grant-funding to launch initiatives of special interest to nurse educators at member schools. These projects are currently focused on end-of-life nursing care, informatics, population health nursing, and quality and safety in nursing education. AACN is working to advance the integration of the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) role into the healthcare delivery system while promoting the benefits of CNL certification. Other ongoing projects include advancing the adoption of nurse residency programs, facilitating the transition to the Doctor of Nursing Practice, and promoting support for the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation. AACN is also leading several initiatives to enhance diversity in the nursing workforce, including the Johnson & Johnson Minority Nurse Faculty Scholars program. Also for students, AACN launched the Graduate Nursing Student Academy to provide free webinars and resources to those enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs and operates NursingCAS, the centralized application service for prospective nursing students.
Accreditation: An autonomous arm of AACN, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate and graduate education programs preparing effective nurses. Officially recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency, CCNE serves the public interest by assessing and identifying programs that engage in effective educational practices. CCNE is the nation’s leading accrediting agency for baccalaureate, master’s, DNP programs, as well as, post-baccalaureate nurse residency and post-graduate APRN certificates at schools of nursing.
Certification: The Clinical Nurse Leader Certification Program is managed by the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC), an autonomous arm of AACN, and governed by the CNC Board of Commissioners. CNC recognizes individuals who have demonstrated professional standards and knowledge through CNL certification. CNC promotes lifelong learning through CNL recertification.
AACN publishes the bi-monthly Journal of Professional Nursing and Syllabus newsletter, a weekly email advisory AACN News Watch, and a variety of other publications for faculty, administrators, and students. As needed, AACN produces position statements, news releases, white papers, fact sheets, and other timely reports on a wide variety of topics. AACN maintains a wealth of Web resources, including faculty tool kits, information for prospective nursing students, and the latest news on professional issues, including the nursing shortage and diversity in nursing.
AACN is governed by a 14-member Board of Directors, 11 of whom represent a member institution, and 2 represent nursing practice. AACN’s President and CEO also serves as an ex-officio member of the Board. The Association supports several committees, including the Government Affairs, Finance, Nominating, Membership, Program, and Diversity and Inclusion Committees, and sponsors task forces on a variety of professional concerns. Leadership Network Steering Committees oversee the activities of AACN’s seven Leadership Networks for faculty and staff. A Joint Council convenes annually and provides an opportunity for committees, task forces and advisory groups to engage directly with the Board of Directors.