In April 2021, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing adopted new guidelines – The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education. The new AACN Essentials, as they are commonly called, are shaking up nursing education by moving toward a new model and framework using a competency-based approach. The new guidelines set basic levels of competency for nurse learners at all levels and provide direction, so curricula align with these critical competencies.

Here’s what these changes mean for the future of simulation in nursing:

The Value of Simulation Learning is Formally Recognized

It’s important to note that the word “simulation” appears multiple times throughout the new AACN Essentials. The AACN has high regard for the value of simulation in nursing education. It often cites the findings of the landmark 2014 Hayden simulation study from the National Council State Board of Nursing which found that “substituting high-quality simulation experiences for up to half of traditional clinical hours produces comparable end-of-program educational outcomes.”

“Competency-based education” serves as the foundation of simulations and clinical activities, and research shows simulations are effective in supporting the achievement of required capabilities. Learners work through various scenarios, taking the knowledge they learned in the classroom and applying it to a virtual situation based on real life. Our simulations encourage conscious connections between knowledge and action. That’s the core of competency-based education.

This further validates what Sentinel U® has long professed: our gamified and animated approach to simulation provides learners with multiple modalities where critical thinking and nursing care scenarios can be practiced repeatedly, ensuring competency in a structured and risk-free environment.

Institutions Using Simulation are Ahead of the Game

The AACN expects full implementation of the new Essentials to take three years. But schools using Sentinel U products are poised for an effortless transition and should hit that milestone much sooner.

Sentinel U’s vast product lines align seamlessly with many of the domains, competencies and subcompetencies outlined in the new AACN Essentials:

  • Our Interprofessional Teams® product perfectly speaks to the ability to “Engage the individual and the team in plan development” subcompetency.
  • Our flagship products Sentinel City® and Sentinel Town®, embedded with real-world connection activities, are the perfect examples of conscious connection.
  • When a student works through the Prioritization of Care® series they learn to organize their content and interventions.
  • Our Prioritization of Care products will fulfill Competency 2.3 “Integrate Assessment Skills in Practice” and Subcompetency 2.3e “Distinguish between normal and abnormal health findings.”
  • The Patient Management and Delegation® or the Telehealth series are uniquely appropriate in this instance.

Nurse learners can then take the knowledge they have gained in our simulations and apply it at the bedside during clinical rotations. Our goal is for students to think: “I remember seeing this. I get it.” That’s what our simulation encourages – these conscious connections.

As we forge ahead, enhancing existing products while developing new ones, we will continue to ensure our simulation products map to its domains, competencies, and subcompetencies.

If you are interested in integrating simulation into your curricula or enhancing your current course offerings, we invite you to contact our sales team to discuss your options for the new year. Please email us at