Essential Qualifications for Students

The professional curricula of Columbia University School of Nursing requires that students engage in diverse, complex, and specific experiences essential to the acquisition and practice of nursing at basic, master’s, and doctoral levels. Unique combinations of cognitive, affective, psycho-motor, physical, and social abilities are required to perform satisfactorily these functions. In addition to being essential for successful program completion, these qualifications are also necessary to ensure the health and safety of patients, fellow students and faculty, and other healthcare providers.

Essential Abilities

1) Motor Skills

  •  Students must have sufficient motor function to be able to execute movements required to provide general care and treatment to all patients in all health care settings. Examples include performance of basic life support; to function in an emergency situation or to safely assist a patient in moving from one place to another.

2) Sensory/Observation

  • Students must be able to acquire information presented through demonstrations and experiences in the basic and nursing sciences.
  • They must be able to observe a patient accurately, at a distance or close at hand; to observe and appreciate non-verbal communications.
  • They must be capable of perceiving signs of disease and/or infection as manifested through physical examination. Such information is derived from visual images of the body surfaces, palpable changes in various organs and tissues, and auditory information (patient voice, heart sounds, bowel, and lung sounds).

3) Communication

  • Students must communicate effectively and sensitively with other students, faculty, staff, patients, families, and other professionals.
  • Students must express their personal ideas and feelings clearly and demonstrate willingness to give and receive feedback.
  • Students must be able to convey or exchange information at a level allowing the development of a health history, to identify problems presented, to explain alternative solutions, to give directions during treatment and post-treatment.
  • Students must be able to communicate effectively in both oral and written modes.
  • Students must be able to process and communicate information on the patient’s status with accuracy in a timely manner to members of the health care team. The appropriate communication may also rely on the student’s ability to make a correct judgment in seeking supervision and/or consultation in a timely manner.
  • Students must be sensitive and accommodating to various points of view beyond their own.

4) Cognitive

  • Students must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, integrate, and synthesize in the context of the level and the focus of their curricular program.
  • Students must be able to read quickly and comprehend extensive written material.
  • Students must be able to evaluate and apply information and engage in critical thinking in the classroom and clinical/research settings.
  • Students must possess and demonstrate factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive knowledge.

5) Behavioral/Emotional

  • Students must possess the emotional health required for the full utilization of their intellectual abilities, to exercise good judgment, to complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, families, populations.
  • Students must be able to maintain mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients, other students, faculty, staff, and other professionals under all circumstances, including highly stressful situations.
  • Students must have the emotional stability to function effectively under stress and to adapt to an environment that may change rapidly without warning and/or in unpredictable ways.
  • Students must be able to experience empathy for the situations and circumstances of others and effectively communicate that empathy.
  • Students must know that their values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions, and experiences affect their perceptions and relationships with others and use that knowledge in interpersonal communications.
  • Students must be willing and able to examine and change their behavior when it interferes with productive individual or team relationships.
  • Students must possess the skills and experience necessary for effective and harmonious relationships in diverse academic, cultural, and work/study environments.

6) Professional Conduct

  • Students must be able to reason morally and practice nursing in an ethical manner.
  • Students must be willing to learn and abide by the professional standards of practice defined by the discipline.
  • Students must possess attributes that include compassion, empathy, altruism, integrity, honesty, responsibility, respect, accountability, and tolerance.
  • Students must be able to engage in patient care delivery in all settings; to deliver care to all patient populations including, but not limited to, children, adolescents, adults, developmentally challenged persons, medically compromised patients, and vulnerable adults.

Adapted with permission.

Katz JR, Woods SL, Cameron CA & Milam S. (2004). Essential Qualifications for nursing students. Nursing Outlook, 52, 277-288.

University of Washington. (2007). Essential behaviors for admission, continuation and graduation for UW Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma masters students, including UW Seattle post-licensed MEPN students. Retrieved May 15, 2008 from

University of Washington. (August 2007). Essential behaviors for undergraduate and pre-licensure MEPN and GEPN admission, continuation and graduation. Retrieved May 15, 2008 from,