Crisis in Competency: A Defining Moment in Nursing Education

Joan M. Kavanagh, PhD, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN; Patricia A. Sharpnack, DNP, RN, CNE, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN


Online J Issues Nurs. 2021;26(1) 

In This Article


The 2010 Institute of Medicine report argued that entry-level nurses must be able to efficiently transition from their academic preparation to a range of practice environments, with an increased emphasis on community and public health settings (IOM, 2010). Ten years have elapsed without discernable change in our outcomes, based upon quantifiable outcomes of preparedness for practice or residency. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, one could contend that we lost ground. Despite advances in technology, in practice, and accessibility, nursing education struggles to own the outcomes of the graduate nurse.

The initiatives proposed by AACN may provide an opportunity to re-examine our efforts. Nurse educators must mobilize to prepare future nurses for successful, collaborative, AI-infused, clinical practice. The call for transformation is more robust because of the pace of change and obvious gaps that can no longer be tolerated. We must adapt and embrace pedagogies relevant to a new generation of learners and a new world order replete with quantum leaps in technology, addressing each student as a unique learner (Hopkins et al. 2018; Presti & Sanko, 2019). Risling (2017) warns that the evolving technological advances will necessitate responses and navigational shifts, unlike any that we have ever negotiated. The time is now. We have an unprecedented opportunity to become architects to advance nursing education in a digital age!

Ludvik reminds us that the requisite demonstration of whether learning can be applied in "real-life" contexts requires collaboration with the professionals who will either hire the students or admit them into ongoing professional or academic degree programs (2018, p. 13). Whether our primary role is practice or academe, we are called to evolve from the perspective that an educator's job is just one part of the whole, to the belief that the job is a system. Practice and academe must work together as a system supporting student success and that of the eventual NGRN, a collaborative belief long held but infrequently realized. Almost five decades ago, Myrtle Aydelotte (1972), founding Dean and Professor at the University of Iowa College of Nursing, shared: "What is needed is a reexamination of nursing leadership and a new thrust forward. Nursing leadership must reorient itself and restructure itself in such a way that nursing education and practice are inseparable, are symbolic, and are united in purpose" (1972, p.23). That defining moment is now.