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Essential Standards

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The VCU School of Nursing is responsible for providing education without regard to disability while assuring that essential standards are met. This document describes the criteria for advancement through and graduation from the VCU School of Nursing. The standards for each category identified below are consistent with the expectation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, including changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The essential areas include motor, sensory/observation, communication, cognitive and behavioral requirements.

These standards were excerpted from Marks, B & Ailey, S. A. (2014). White Paper on Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Nursing Educational Programs. Sacramento, CA: California Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (CCEPD). Used with permission.

Requirement: Acquiring fundamental knowledge

Essential standards to meet with or without reasonable accommodations:

  1. Ability to learn in classroom and educational settings
  2. Ability to find sources of knowledge and acquire the knowledge
  3. Ability to be a life-long learner
  4. Novel and adaptive thinking


  • Acquire, conceptualize and use evidence-based information from demonstrations and experiences in the basic and applied sciences, including but not limited to information conveyed through on-line coursework, lecture, group seminar, small group activities and physical demonstrations
  • Develop health care solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based

Requirement: Developing Communication Skills

Essential standards to meet with or without reasonable accommodations:

  1. Communication abilities for sensitive and effective interactions with patients (persons, families and/or communities)
  2. Communication abilities for effective interaction with the health care team (patients, their supports, other professional and non-professional team members
  3. Sense-making of information gathered from communication
  4. Social intelligence


  • Accurately elicit or interpret information: medical history and other information to adequately and effectively evaluate a client or patient's condition
  • Accurately convey and interpret information using one or more means of communication (verbal, written, assisted (such as TTY) and/or electronic) to patients and the health care team
  • Effectively communicate in teams
  • Determine a deeper meaning or significance in what is being expressed
  • Connect with others to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions

Requirement: Interpreting Data

Essential standards to meet with or without reasonable accommodations:

  1. Ability to observe patient conditions and responses to health and illness
  2. Ability to assess and monitor health needs
  3. Computational thinking
  4. Cognitive load management


  • Obtain and interpret information from assessment maneuvers such as assessing respiratory and cardiac function, blood pressure, blood sugar, neurological status, etc.
  • Obtain and interpret information from diagnostic representations of physiologic phenomena during comprehensive assessment of patients
  • Obtain and interpret information from assessment of patient's environment and responses to health across the continuum
  • Obtain and interpret for evaluation information about responses to nursing action
  • Translate data into abstract concepts and to understand databased reasoning

Requirement: Integrating Knowledge to Establish Clinical Judgement

Essential standards to meet with or without reasonable accommodations:

  1. Critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making ability needed to care for persons, families and/or communities across the health continuum and within (or managing or improving) their environments-in one or more environments of care
  2. Intellectual and conceptual abilities to accomplish the essential of the nursing program (for example, baccalaureate essentials)
  3. New-media literacy
  4. Transdisciplinarity
  5. Design mindset


  • Accomplish, direct or interpret assessment of persons, families and/or communities and develop, implement and evaluate of plans of care or direct the development, implementation and evaluation of care
  • Critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  • Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across disciplines
  • Represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes

Requirement: Incorporating Appropriate Professional Attitudes and Behaviors into Nursing Practice

Essential standards to meet with or without reasonable accommodations:

  1. Concern for others, integrity, ethical conduct, accountability, interest and motivation
  2. Acquire Interpersonal skills for professional interactions with a diverse population of individuals, families and communities
  3. Acquire Interpersonal skills for professional interactions with members of the health care team including patients, their supports, other health care professionals and team members
  4. Acquire the skills necessary for promoting change for necessary quality health care
  5. Cross-cultural competency
  6. Virtual collaboration


  • Maintain effective, mature, and sensitive relationships with clients/patients, students, faculty, staff and other professionals under all circumstances
  • Make proper judgments regarding safe and quality care
  • Function effectively under stress and adapt to changing environments inherent in clinical practice
  • Demonstrate professional role in interactions with patients, intra and inter professional teams
  • Operate in different cultural settings (including disability culture)
  • Work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team

To be qualified for VCU’s Nursing Program individuals must be able to meet the essential standards with or without reasonable accommodations. For further information regarding services and resources to students with disabilities and/or to request accommodations, please contact the Division of Academic Success.


Virginia Commonwealth University

Division for Academic Success

1000 East Marshall Street, Second Floor

Box 980124

Richmond, VA 23298-0124

Phone: (804) 828-9782

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