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UNC School of Nursing Joins AACN in Helping Nursing Faculty Improve Quality and Safety Education

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Press Release  
For Immediate Release

UNC School of Nursing Joins AACN in Helping Nursing Faculty
Improve Quality and Safety Education

Multi-Million Dollar Grants from the
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Support Initiative

February 23, 2009 - The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill 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 health care systems.

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 QSEN is to prepare nurses who have the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to continuously improve the quality and safety of the health care systems within which they work, with a particular focus on developing 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. A national learning collaborative with three faculty members from each of 15 schools of nursing spent the past 15 months experimenting with new curricular objectives and teaching strategies and sharing their findings with each other.

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 and 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, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, is the UNC project’s principal investigator, and Gwen Sherwood, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N. is co-investigator. Geraldine P. Bednash, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., CEO and executive director of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, leads the AACN grant and will work with expert consultants Jane Barnsteiner, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., professor, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Joanne Disch, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., clinical professor and Katherine R. and C. Walton Lillehei Chair in Nursing Leadership, University of Minnesota School of Nursing, and Jean Johnson, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., senior associate dean for health sciences programs, The George Washington University.

“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 health care 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 students should learn, and promote experiments with new teaching strategies. 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 faculty development and innovation in the way we teach, test and certify.”

“AACN has long recognized the strong link between nursing education and the ability to provide safe patient care,” said Bednash. “This important faculty development effort – modeled after AACN’s successful “train-the-trainer” initiatives in the areas of geriatric nursing and end-of-life care – will provide nurse educators with the expertise needed to better prepare new graduates for contemporary nursing practice. We welcome this important opportunity to work with our colleagues at QSEN to lead faculty development in the areas of quality and safety in our nation’s schools of nursing.”

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 website: 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 inter-professional program of training in quality improvement and safety.


The School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was established in 1950 in response to the overwhelming need for nurses in North Carolina. It was the first nursing school in the state to: offer a four-year bachelor's degree (1950), offer a master's degree in nursing (1955), initiate continuing education for nurses (1964), offer a Ph.D. in nursing (1989), and offer an accelerated bachelor's degree option for second degree students (2001).

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for university and four-year college education programs in nursing. Representing more than 640 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN's educational, research, governmental advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor's- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice.

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Matt Freeman, Gretchen Wright, QSEN, 202-371-1999

Robert Rosseter, AACN, 202-463-6930