February 2009

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the University of North Carolina School of Nursing today announced that the two institutions have been awarded grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation totaling $4.25 million to conduct an innovative and far-reaching project aimed at preparing future nurses to continuously improve the quality and safety of the healthcare systems in which they work.

The grants – $2.45 million for AACN and $1.8 million for the UNC School of Nursing – will support the third phase of the multi-year Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) initiative. The overall goal of the QSEN initiatives are to prepare nurses with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to continuously improve the quality and safety of the healthcare systems within which they work, based on the six quality and safety competencies. In the first two phases of the project, begun in 2005, QSEN faculty – experts drawn from institutions across the nation – defined a comprehensive set of quality and safety competencies for nursing and proposed training targets for each. QSEN faculty then surveyed nursing colleges to gauge the extent to which these competencies are already included in curricula, whether faculty are sufficiently expert to teach them, and how well nursing students are learning them.

In Phase III, the UNC School of Nursing and AACN will work to develop the faculty expertise necessary for the nation’s nursing schools to teach the competencies; focus on instilling the competencies in textbooks, licensing, accreditation, and certification standards; and promote continued innovation in teaching the competencies.

The six competencies are patient-centered care, teamwork and collaboration, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, safety, and informatics.

Linda Cronenwett, PhD, FAAN, Dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, is the project’s principal investigator. She leading the project with Geraldine P. Bednash, PhD, RN, FAAN, Executive Director of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“Our health care system has significant safety and quality problems,” Cronenwett said. “To fix that, we need to redesign what and how we teach the next generation of nurses and other healthcare professionals so that they understand what goes into ensuring good and safe care, and can identify and bridge the gaps between what is and what should be. In the first two phases of this project, we’ve tried to identify what’s out there now, what’s missing, and what’s wrong. One conclusion we reached is that our nursing schools need to equip the next generation of nurses to help drive change in health care. So in this phase of the project, we’re going to promote innovation in the way we teach, test, and certify.”

“Our healthcare system faces a number of critical problems,” said Bednash. “The financing system is broken, too many patients lack access to care, a severe nursing shortage looms, and safety and quality are suffering. Nurses – particularly the next generation of nurses – can make important contributions on all these fronts but we need to be sure they are prepared for the challenge. We’re delighted to participate in this important initiative, and eager to move forward with this third phase of the project.”

The project will:

  • Promote continued innovation in the development and evaluation of methods to promote and assess student learning of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of the six competencies and the widespread sharing of those innovations
  • Develop the faculty expertise necessary to assist the learning and assessment of achievement of quality and safety competencies in all types of nursing programs
  • Create mechanisms to sustain the will to change among all programs through the content of textbooks, accreditation and certification standards, licensure exams and continued competence requirements.

 

Faculty development will be supported with curricular resources developed and disseminated through regional conferences, a QSEN Speaker’s Bureau, QSEN National Forums, web-based modules, and the QSEN.org. In addition, QSEN will partner with the VA National Quality Scholars Fellowship Program (created by the Veteran’s Health Administration) to support nursing pre- and post-doctoral students in an interprofessional program of training in quality improvement and safety.

In addition to UNC’s Cronenwett and AACN’s Bednash, the project’s steering committee will include Gwen Sherwood, UNC-Chapel Hill; Jane Barnsteiner, University of Pennsylvania; Joanne Disch, University of Minnesota; Pamela Ironside, Indiana University; Jean Johnson, George Washington University; and Shirley Moore, Case Western Reserve University.