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AACN Calls for a Healthy Work Environment 'Starting Now'

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   May 23, 2023

Thousands of critical care nurses gather for the 2023 National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition.

A healthy work environment (HWE) is crucial for nurses to provide high-quality care and be fulfilled at work, so the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is going to take “bold steps” to implement them, Amanda Bettencourt, PhD, APRN, CCRN-K, ACCNS-P, president of AACN, told attendees of the organization’s National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition (NTI).

NTI annually brings together thousands of nurses and other healthcare professionals who care for acutely and critically ill patients and their families. This year, the in-person convention is being held May 22-24 in Philadelphia, with the theme “Starting Now.”

“So, starting now, we’re taking bold steps toward implementing AACN’s HWE standards,” said Bettencourt, also an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Health at University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. “One step will focus on implementing the standards in individual units. The other step focuses on them in hospitals.”

AACN’s HWE standards consist of six pillars:

  1. Appropriate staffing
  2. Authentic leadership
  3. Skilled communication
  4. True collaboration
  5. Effective decision-making
  6. Meaningful recognition


Nurses in AACN’s Clinical Scene Investigator (CSI) Academy have already been making changes that contribute to creating a healthy work environment, Bettencourt said.

Change projects from the CSI program have resulted in significantly improved outcomes such as reduced CLABSIs, CAUTIs, and falls, along with an estimated $84 million in hospital savings, she told attendees.

“This fall, AACN will start to roll out 60 nurse-driven CSI teams to develop change projects focused specifically on unit-based HWE standards implementation,” Bettencourt said. “Several months after that, we have envisioned a multi-site project that will connect 45 hospitals across the country to study how zeroing in on the health of the work environment impacts the patient journey across the continuum of care—including outcomes for patients, nurses, and the organization.”

Next year is NTI’s 50th anniversary, Bettencourt noted.

“What do we want our ancestors to say about us in another 50 years, when they reflect on how critical care nurses took on one of the most difficult times, one of the greatest challenges in the history of healthcare?” she said.

“I’ve been quoted by several media outlets when I said our healthcare system is being brought to its knees. Because it is,” she said. “We can either surrender to that narrative, or we can start to change it—starting now.”

Bettencourt’s comments kicked off three days of learning in such formats as more than 200 educational sessions, supersessions featuring motivational keynote speakers and AANC leaders, online pharmacology classroom sessions, posters, and exhibitors.

NTI also includes the Critical Care Exposition, the largest and most comprehensive trade show expressly for progressive and critical care nurses.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


NTI annually gathers thousands of nurses and healthcare professionals who care for acutely and critically ill patients and their families.

One of AACN’s primary initiatives this year is creating a healthy work environment (HWE) for nurses.

Change projects from AACN’s CSI program have totaled $84 million in hospital savings.

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