Operational Definitions | ACTC


Core competencies in nursing education are those elements of Associate Degree Nursing that are essential to entry level registered nursing practice and are inherent of nursing practice.  The National League for Nursing (NLN) Outcomes and Competencies for Graduates of Associate Degree Programs in Nursing which serve as goals of nursing education for entry into nursing practice are defined as:

  • Human Flourishing: “…an effort to achieve self-actualization and fulfillment within the context of a larger community of individuals, each with the right to pursue his or her own such efforts. ...Human flourishing encompasses the uniqueness, dignity, diversity, freedom, happiness, and holistic well-being of the individual within the larger family, community, and population.” (NLN, 2010, p.33)
  • Nursing Judgment: encompassing “…critical thinking, clinical judgment, and integration of best evidence into practice. Nurses must employ these processes as they make decisions about clinical care, the development and application of research and the broader dissemination of insights and research findings to the community, and management and resource allocation.”  (NLN, 2010, p.34) This process is driven by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to assist in the prioritization of patient-centered care.
  • Professional Identity: “… the internalization of core values and perspectives recognized as integral to the art and science of nursing. The nurse embraces these fundamental values in every aspect of practice while working to improve patient outcomes and promote the ideal of the nursing profession.” (NLN, 2010, p.35)
    • Holistically Evolving: encompasses all mind-body-spirit interactions along the continuum of the human experience while providing care in a dynamic and progressive health care environment
  • Spirit of Inquiry: “…a persistent sense of curiosity that informs both learning and practice. A nurse infused by a spirit of inquiry will raise questions, challenge traditional and existing practices, and seek creative approaches to problems.” (NLN, 2010, p.36)

Quality and Safety Education in Nursing (QSEN) competencies which were developed to prepare future nurses to have the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to continuously improve the quality and safety of healthcare are defined as:

  • Patient-Centered Care: “Recognize the patient or designee as the source of control and full partner in providing compassionate and coordinated care based on respect for patient’s preferences, values, and needs” (QSEN, 2018).
  • Safety: “Minimizes risk of harm to patients and providers through both system effectiveness and individual performance” (QSEN, 2018).
  • Informatics: “Use information and technology to communicate, manage knowledge, mitigate error, and support decision making” (QSEN, 2018).
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: “Function effectively within nursing and inter-professional teams, fostering open communication, mutual respect, and shared decision-making to achieve quality patient care” (QSEN, 2018).
  • Evidence-Based Practice: “Integrate best current evidence with clinical expertise and patient/family preferences and values for delivery of optimal health care” (QSEN, 2018).
  • Quality Improvement: “Use data to monitor the outcomes of care processes and use improvement methods to design and test changes to continuously improve the quality and safety of health care systems” (QSEN, 2018). 


National League for Nursing. (2010). Outcomes and Competencies for Graduates of Practical/Vocations, Diploma, Associate Degree, Baccalaureate, Master’s, Practice Doctorate, and Research Doctorate Programs in Nursing.  New York, NY:  National League for Nursing.

Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) Institute. (2018). QSEN Competencies.  Retrieved from: http://qsen.org/competencies/pre-licensure-ksas/