In general, “hallmarks of excellence” can be thought
of as characteristics or traits that serve to define a level of
outstanding performance or service. The following statements serve
to define “hallmarks of excellence” in nursing education.
For each of the 30 “hallmarks,” we offer suggested “indicators” … questions
faculty may wish to discuss with one another to help them determine
the extent to which their program(s) are achieving that “hallmark.” These “indicators” are
not intended to be complete or all-encompassing lists; instead,
they are suggestions for the type of things faculty may want to
address as they strive to achieve a level of outstanding performance
or service. Finally, the NLN Hallmarks of Excellence in Nursing
Education© have been developed to be relevant for all types
of programs and all types of institutions; exceptions to this are
Students are excited about learning, exhibit a spirit
of inquiry and a sense of wonderment, and commit to lifelong learning
Do students come to class and clinical with references
they have found on their own and use the information discovered
- Do students brainstorm together
about concepts presented in class, references read, clinical experiences,
and other learning experiences they have had?
Do students question
why things (e.g., approaches to patient care, the design of
the way clinical experiences
are structured, existing policies, etc.)
are done the way they are?
- Do students ponder “What if” questions?
Students are committed to innovation, continuous quality/performance
improvement, and excellence
- Do students ask for critical/constructive feedback and then use
that feedback to make improvements in their performance?
- Are students open to trying new things?
- Are students satisfied with mediocrity and merely “getting
by,” or do they “push” themselves and one another
to do their absolute best?
NOTE: Words in BOLD and underlined are defined in the Glossary
Students are committed to a career in nursing
- Do students express anticipatory excitement about continuing
their education, pursuing graduate study, assuming leadership roles
in their employment setting and in the profession and becoming actively
involved in professional associations, writing for publication,
as well as the contributions they hope to make to the nursing profession?
- Can students propose a realistic 5- and 10-year career
trajectory for themselves?
The faculty complement includes a cadre of individuals who have
expertise as educators, clinicians, and, as is relevant to the institution’s
- Does the faculty selection process include specific hiring criteria
that deliberately search for candidates whose excellence in education,
clinical practice or research will help create a balanced cadre
of full-time faculty?
- Do faculty job responsibility statements specifically
address the expert behaviors required for the roles of educator,
clinician, and researcher?
The unique contributions of each faculty member in helping the
program achieve its goals are valued, rewarded, and recognized
- Are the unique contributions of faculty whose expertise is in
education valued, rewarded, and recognized?
- Are the unique contributions of faculty whose expertise
is in clinical practice valued, rewarded, and recognized?
- Are the unique contributions of faculty whose expertise
is in research valued, rewarded, and recognized?
- Do criteria for faculty reward and recognition acknowledge
that one’s expertise and significant professional contributions
may be in education, practice, or research?
Faculty members are accountable for promoting excellence and providing
leadership in their area(s) of expertise
- How are faculty expected to demonstrate expertise?
- How do expert faculty provide leadership to other faculty
regarding their area(s) of expertise?
- What sanctions are in place if faculty expectations related
to promoting excellence and providing leadership in their area(s)
of expertise are not met?
Faculty model a commitment to lifelong learning, involvement in
professional nursing associations, and nursing as a career
- Are faculty expected to continue learning and acquiring knowledge
in their area of expertise through CE courses, certification, post-master’s
courses, post-doctoral courses, or other formal or informal mechanisms?
- Do most faculty make significant contributions to state,
national, and/or international professional organizations?
- Do faculty express excitement about a lifelong career
in nursing when talking with students and with one another?
All faculty have structured preparation for the faculty role, as
well as competence in their area(s) of teaching responsibility
- Do all full- and part-time faculty receive an in-depth orientation
to the faculty role?
- Is there a mentoring program in place to assist faculty
as they progress in their career?
- Is an established set of faculty competencies used to
prepare individuals for the faculty role and help them maintain
competence or expertise in that role?
CONTINUOUS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT
The program engages in a variety of activities that promote excellence,
including accreditation from national nursing accreditation bodies
- Does each program seek and maintain national nursing accreditation?
- Does the strategic plan utilize a continuous quality
improvement process in which faculty, students, administrators,
alumni, and community partners participate?
- Is program willing to try new things?
The program design, implementation and evaluation are continuously
reviewed and revised to achieve and maintain excellence
- Is there a mechanism in place for continuous review of program
design, implementation, and evaluation?
- Are revisions made that allow the program to keep current
with changes in health care and health care economics, trends in
health care delivery systems, trends in education, societal changes,
research findings, and changing expectations of nurses?
The curriculum is flexible and reflects current societal and health
care trends and issues, research findings and innovative practices,
as well as local and global perspectives
- Are there opportunities for students to take electives that match
- Are there opportunities for students to take courses
in a sequence that makes sense to them or that allows them to study
areas when they have learning needs in that area?
Are “open, uncommitted” areas available throughout
the curriculum that allow faculty to address new issues, current
trends, and scientific developments without having to wait for a
major curriculum revision?
Is the curriculum regularly refined to incorporate current
societal and health care trends and issues, research findings,
innovative practices, and local as well as global perspectives?
The curriculum provides experiential cultural learning activities
that enhance students’ abilities to think critically, reflect
thoughtfully, and provide culturally-sensitive, evidence-based nursing
care to diverse populations
- Do all students have an extended, relatively intense learning
experience with individuals from cultures other than their own?
- How do faculty draw on learning experiences to enhance
students’ abilities to be culturally-sensitive in the care
- How do faculty help students heighten their awareness
of their own values, biases, and stereotyping?
The curriculum emphasizes students’ values development, socialization
to the new role, commitment to lifelong learning, and creativity
- How much class time is devoted to self-reflection, values clarification,
analysis of what it means to be a nurse in the 21st century, and
developing and living one’s commitments to the profession,
lifelong learning, career development, etc.?
- To what extent are students allowed and encouraged to
- How do faculty respond to students who are “different” in
terms of their approach to doing assignments, the ways they learn,
the way they think, and how they set priorities?
The curriculum provides learning experiences that prepare graduates
to assume roles that are essential to quality nursing practice,
including but not limited to roles of care provider, patient advocate,
teacher, communicator, change agent, care coordinator, user of information
technology, collaborator, and decision maker
- What learning experiences give students the
opportunity to develop confidence in their ability to advocate
for patients/families, teach
individuals and groups about health care, serve as a
member of a multidisciplinary team, serve as a leader of a nursing
change, manage conflict, and make decisions that affect
their own well being and the health of the patients/families
for whom they
- How are students helped to develop confidence in their
ability to use technological resources and manage large amounts
- How do faculty help students develop their writing skills,
ability to speak to groups, ability to argue convincingly, ability
to listen effectively, and other effective communication skills?
The curriculum provides learning experiences that support
evidence-based practice, multidisciplinary approaches
to care, student achievement
of clinical competence, and, as appropriate, expertise
in a specialty role
- To what extent does each clinical experience help students
develop their ability to provide culturally-competent, evidence-based
care to patients/families/ communities experiencing a wide range
of health problems?
- Do graduate students have learning experiences that help
them develop as experts in the full scope of their new role (i.e.,
advanced practitioner, educator, administrator, consultant, etc.),
as members and leaders of multidisciplinary teams, and as professionals
whose services (i.e., primary care, public health, teaching and
curriculum development, etc.) are evidence-based?
The curriculum is evidence-based
- What research has been used to determine how the curriculum is
- How is current research used to help faculty determine
when to make changes in the curriculum and what those changes will
Teaching/learning/evaluation strategies are innovative and varied
to facilitate and enhance learning by a diverse student population
- Are teaching and learning strategies varied to meet the needs
of diverse student populations?
- Do faculty document the research that supports their
selection of specific teaching/learning/evaluation strategies?
Teaching/learning/ evaluation strategies promote collegial dialogue
and interaction between and among faculty, students, and colleagues
in nursing and other professions
- Are informal, open forum opportunities in place where faculty,
students and colleagues in nursing and other professions can discuss
current teaching/ learning strategies and evaluate their effectiveness?
- How are student evaluations of teaching and peer review
findings used to stimulate dialogue about the nature of excellence
and innovation in nursing education?
Teaching/learning/evaluation strategies used by faculty are evidence-based
- Do faculty document evidence-based research that support strategies
used in the program?
- Do faculty regularly review pedagogical research reports
(from nursing and other disciplines) and revise their teaching/learning/evaluation
strategies based on findings from those studies?
Partnerships in which the program is engaged promote excellence
in nursing education, enhance the profession, benefit the community,
and expand service/learning opportunities
- What are the criteria the nursing program uses to determine the
agencies/ organizations with which it will partner?
- How are partners engaged with faculty and students to
achieve excellence in the nursing program?
Technology is used effectively to support teaching/learning/evaluation
- To what extent is state-of-the-art technology available to support
the nursing program?
- How are faculty and students prepared for/supported in
the use of technology for teaching and learning?
- What commitment has the nursing program made to integrate
the use of technology throughout the program?
- Is technology used appropriately and effectively to promote
and evaluate student learning?
Student support services are culturally-sensitive, innovative,
and empower students during the recruitment, retention, progression,
graduation, and career planning processes
- Do students of all backgrounds report that the recruitment and
admission process was a welcoming one that acknowledged their unique
- Do students of all backgrounds express comfort about
seeking out and using the student services that are available to
- Do students of all backgrounds report satisfaction with
the extent of support they receive throughout the program, at graduation,
and in relation to entering a new career?
- Do students of all backgrounds feel empowered?
Financial resources of the program are used to support curriculum
innovation, visionary long-range planning, faculty development,
an empowering learning environment, creative initiatives, continuous
quality improvement of the program, and evidence-based teaching/
- Do the resources available to faculty, students and administrators
support efforts to be innovative, continually develop as members
of the nursing profession and the academic community, and enact
The design and implementation of the program is innovative and
seeks to build on traditional approaches to nursing education
- Can faculty, students, and alumni identify the features of the
program that are truly innovative and serve to set it apart from
and distinguish it from other programs?
- Is there administrative support for faculty to be innovative
in their approach to teaching and learning, as well as in their
approach to the design, implementation and evaluation of the curriculum?
- Has the faculty made a commitment to challenge traditional
approaches to nursing education and implement more innovative, evidence-based
- Do most faculty utilize innovative approaches in the
design and implementation of the course(s) for which they are responsible?
- Do faculty and students systematically evaluate the impact
of innovative teaching and curriculum approaches on student learning,
student satisfaction, and other student-centered outcomes?
The innovativeness of the program helps to create a preferred future
- Is the program structured in such a way that faculty, students,
and alumni are prepared to and do shape a new reality for nursing
and nursing education?
- Do faculty, students, and administrators engage in discussions
about what kind of future they envision for nursing and nursing
- How do faculty workloads support faculty in their efforts
to create a new future for nursing education, nursing practice,
or nursing research?
Faculty and students contribute to the development of the science
of nursing education through the critique, utilization, dissemination
or conduct of research
- Do faculty and students engage in conversations about research
findings related to teaching and learning?
- Are faculty and students involved in pedagogical research
that contributes to the development of the science of nursing education?
Faculty and students explore the impact of student learning experiences
on the health of the communities they serve
- What strategies are used to systematically document the extent
to which student learning experiences affect health care outcomes
for the populations they serve?
- Do leaders in partner healthcare facilities report improved
patient care outcomes or more effective nursing practices in areas
where students have extended learning experiences?
- What long-term commitment has the nursing program made
to improving the health of selected populations through student
and faculty teaching and learning activities?
The educational environment empowers students and faculty and promotes
collegial dialogue, innovation, change, creativity, values development,
and ethical behavior
- Do faculty and students engage in collegial dialogue about what
constitutes a positive teaching/learning environment and the roles
of both faculty and students in creating such an environment?
- Do faculty, students and partners engage in thoughtful,
sustained, collegial dialogue about the teaching/learning environment?
- Do faculty, students and partners think the educational
environment empowers a diverse student population, promotes creativity
and innovation and prepares graduates for today’s uncertain,
constantly changing healthcare environment?
Faculty, students, and alumni are respected as leaders in the parent
organization, as well as in local, state, regional, national, or
- Do faculty hold influential positions on institutional committees,
task forces, or other similar bodies?
- Are faculty and alumni appointed to, invited to serve
on or elected to prominent boards, institutes, or other similar
bodies (e.g., Presidential Committee on Aging, IOM, health care
- Do students bring resolutions to NSNA or proposals to
the school of nursing/ institution that will influence change?
Faculty, students, and alumni are prepared for and assume leadership
roles that advance quality nursing care; promote positive change,
innovation, and excellence; and enhance the power and influence
of the nursing profession
- Do faculty or alumni serve on committees or boards of health
care partner institutions that address quality nursing care issues?
- Do faculty, students, or alumni receive awards in recognition
of their contributions to the institution, profession, local community,
or health care?
- To what extent do the curriculum and faculty development
activities focus on the development of leadership knowledge and
Prepared by the National League for Nursing Task Group on Nursing
Education Standards: April 21, 2004
Copyright, National League for Nursing, 2004
Competence: The application of knowledge and interpersonal,
decision making and psychomotor skills in the performance of a
task or implementation of a role.
Competency: A principle of professional practice that identifies
the expectations required for the safe and effective performance
of a task or implementation of a role.
Continuous Quality Improvement: A comprehensive, sustained, and
integrative approach to system assessment and evaluation that aims
toward continual improvement and renewal of the total system.
Creativity: A process that calls upon an individual's curiosity,
inquisitiveness and ability to generate new ideas and perspectives
that result in products and practices unique but useful.
Curriculum: The interaction among learners, teachers, and knowledge
-- occurring in an academic environment -- that is designed to accomplish
goals identified by the learners, the teachers, and the profession
the learners expect to enter. It is more than a collection of courses
or the sequencing of learning experiences, and it is more than an
outline of the content to be "covered" during an academic
Empowerment: Enabling experiences that foster autonomy, choice,
control, and responsibility and that encourage individuals to display
existing abilities, learn new abilities, and continually grow.
Ethical Behavior: A system of moral conduct based on one’s
personal beliefs, values, customs and character, as well as those
of one ’s profession.
Experiential Cultural Learning: Purposefully-designed learning
experiences that help students gain greater understanding of, insight
to, and sensitivity regarding (a) the practices and beliefs of people
whose culture, history, and life experiences are different from
their own, and (b) the meaning that people give to their life experiences.
Evidence-based Nursing Care/Practice: The provision of nursing
care to individuals, groups and communities that evolves from the
systematic integration of research findings related to a particular
clinical problem. Intervention strategies are designed based on
the evidence garnered through research, questions are raised about
clinical practices that lead to new research endeavors, and the
effectiveness of interventions are systematically evaluated in an
effort to continually improve care.
Evidence-based Teaching Practice: Using systematically-developed
and appropriately-integrated research as the foundation for curriculum
design, selection of teaching/learning strategies, selection of
evaluation methods, advisement practices, and other elements of
the educational enterprise.
Excellence: “Striving to be the very best you can be in everything
you do--not because some … ‘authority figure’ [demands
it], but because you can’t imagine functioning in any other
way. It means setting high standards for yourself and the groups
in which you are involved, holding yourself to those standards despite
challenges or pressures to reduce or lower them, and not being satisfied
with anything less than the very best.” (Grossman & Valiga,
2000, p. 214).
Expertise: Having or displaying special skill, knowledge or mastery
of a particular subject, derived from extensive training or experience.
Global Perspective: Knowledge about and critical understanding
of global issues that enable an individual to (a) effectively address
those issues; (b) acquire values that give priority to ecological
sustainability, global interdependence, social justice for all the
world’s people, peace, human rights, and mutually-beneficial
processes of economic, social, and cultural development; (c) develop
the will and ability to act as mature, responsible citizens of the
world; and (d) develop a commitment to creating acceptable futures
for themselves, their communities, and the world. Such a perspective
is critical in light of the increasing connectivity and interdependence
of the world ’s social, economic, educational, and other systems.
Innovation/Innovative Practices: The adoption of new ideas, change
in the core structure of systems and using unique approaches to
manage familiar situations. In education, it refers to dramatic
change in “the nature of schooling, learning, and teaching
and how curricular designs promote or inhibit learning, as well
as excitement about the profession of nursing, and the spirit of
inquiry necessary for the advancement of the discipline” (National
League for Nursing, 2003, p. 1).
Leadership: A “complex, multifaceted phenomenon [that involves
the elements of] vision, communication skills, change, stewardship,
and developing and renewing followers” (Grossman & Valiga,
2000, p. 11). Tasks assumed by the individual who chooses or agrees
to “make a difference in the lives of others and in the directions
of groups and organizations” (Grossman & Valiga, 2000,
p. 18) include envisioning goals, affirming values, motivating,
managing, achieving a workable unity, explaining, serving as a symbol,
representing the group, and renewing (Gardner, 1990).
Partner/Partnerships: An alliance between individuals or groups
in which all parties mutually develop goals, collaborate to achieve
those goals, and benefit from the alliance.
Pedagogical Research: Systematic inquiry into all aspects of the
teaching/learning process, including how students learn, effective
teaching strategies, effective assessment or evaluation methods,
curriculum design and implementation, program outcomes, learner
outcomes, environments that enhance learning, and other components
of the educational enterprise.
Preferred Future for Nursing: “What should happen or what
we would like to see evolve … Creat[ing] the future we want
and orchestrat[ing] events and situations to achieve the goals we
set for ourselves and to fulfill the roles we envision for ourselves” (Valiga,
1994, p. 86).
Reward: Recompense made to or received by an individual
for some service or merit. In the educational environment, traditional
faculty rewards are tenure, promotion, and salary increase. Other
types of rewards for faculty are those that derive from factors
that motivate individuals to pursue the faculty role, including
autonomy, belonging to a community of scholars, recognition, and
efficacy (i.e., having an impact on one's environment).
Science of Nursing Education: An integrated, systematically-developed
body of knowledge that “address[es] questions related to student
learning, new pedagogies, graduate competencies, program outcomes,
innovative clinical teaching models, effective student advisement
strategies, recruitment and retention strategies, and other elements
of quality nursing education ” (Tanner, 2003, p. 3).
Socialization to the Role: A process whereby an individual learns
about the intricacies of a new role she/he will assume. Those "intricacies" involve
an historical perspective on the role, legal parameters related
to the role, common issues regarding role implementation and projections
about anticipated changes in the role, as well as the knowledge,
skills and values required to successfully implement the role. Such
socialization occurs through formal education, mentoring, on-the-job
experiences and other means, and it occurs whenever an individual
prepares to move into a new role (e.g., RN, nurse manager, faculty
member, advanced clinician, researcher, etc.).
Spirit of Inquiry: A “yen to discover” (Van Bree Sneed,
1990, p. 36). “Asking questions to satisfy one’s curiosity” (p.
Structured Preparation for the Faculty Role: “The nurse educator
role requires specialized preparation… There is a core of
knowledge and skills that is essential if one is to be effective
and achieve excellence in the role. That core of knowledge and skills
entails the ability to facilitate learning, advance the total development
and professional socialization of the learner, design appropriate
learning experiences, and evaluate learning outcomes. … It
is critical that all nurse educators know about teaching, learning
and evaluation; and nurse educators who practice in academic settings
also must have knowledge and skill in curriculum development, assessment
of program outcomes, and being an effective member of an academic
community, among other things. … Competence as an educator
can be established, recognized, and expanded through master’s
and/or doctoral education, post-master’s certificate programs,
continuing professional development, mentoring activities, and professional
certification as a faculty member.” (National League for Nursing,
Student Support Services: Services that promote the comprehensive
development of the student and help strengthen learning outcomes
by reinforcing and extending the educational institution’s
influence beyond the classroom. Such services include but are not
limited to admissions, financial aid, registration, orientation,
advisement, tutoring, counseling, discipline, health, housing, placement,
student organizations and activities, cultural programming, childcare,
security, and athletics.
Technology: The use of science and the application of scientific
principles to any situation, often involving the use of sophisticated
equipment and computers.
Traditional Approaches to Nursing Education: Teacher-directed,
highly structured approaches that rely heavily on the delivery
of content through lecture, the evaluation of learning through
multiple-choice examinations, highly structures and relatively
inflexible curriculum designs, and strict adherence to policies.
The focus is on cognitive gain, “covering” content,
a simple-to-complex approach, problem-solving and efficiency.
Values Development: The evolution of personal principles, character,
and customs that provide the framework for making decisions about
one’s daily actions. Values are the product of one’s
life experiences, give meaning and direction to life, and are influenced
by family, friends, religion, culture, environment, education and
Wonderment: “Awe, astonishment or surprise; something producing
wonder; puzzlement or curiosity” (Webster’s II New College
Dictionary, 1995, p.781 ).
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