Current Students

Memo 27: Essential Qualifications for BSN and ABSN Students

The University of Washington School of Nursing Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) signify that the holder of the BSN degree has been educated to competently practice nursing in all healthcare settings and to apply for RN licensure in the State of Washington.

The education of a nurse requires assimilation of knowledge, acquisition of skills, and development of judgment through patient care experiences in preparation for an independent, semi-autonomous practice where making appropriate decisions is required. The practice of nursing emphasizes collaboration among physicians, nurses, allied health care professionals, and the patient.

The curriculum leading to the BSN from this School requires students to engage in diverse, complex, and specific experiences essential to the acquisition and practice of essential nursing skills and functions. Unique combinations of cognitive, affective, psychomotor, physical, and social abilities are required to satisfactorily perform these functions. In addition to being essential to the successful completion of the requirements of the BSN, these functions are necessary to ensure the health and safety of patients, fellow candidates, faculty and other healthcare providers.

The essential abilities necessary to acquire or demonstrate competence in a discipline as complex as nursing and needed for successful admission and continuance by candidates for the BSN and ABSN at the University of Washington School of Nursing, in addition to the standards of behavior and academic conduct set forth in the UW Student Conduct Code, include but are not limited to the following abilities:

Motor skills

Candidates should have sufficient motor function so that they are able to execute movements required to provide general care and treatment to patients in all health care settings.

For example: for the safety and protection of the patients, the candidate must be able to perform basic life support, including CPR, and function in an emergency situation. The candidate must have the ability, within reasonable limits, to safely assist a patient in moving, for example, from a chair to a bed, or from a wheelchair to a commode.


Candidates must:

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


Candidates must:

  • communicate effectively and sensitively with other students, faculty, staff, patients, family, and other professionals
  • express his or her ideas and feelings clearly and demonstrate a willingness and ability to give and receive feedback
  • must be able to:
    • convey or exchange information at a level allowing the development of a health history;
    • identify problems presented;
    • explain alternative solutions; and
    • give directions during treatment and post-treatment
  • be able to communicate effectively in oral and written forms
  • 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 candidate’s ability to make a correct judgment in seeking supervision and consultation in a timely manner)


Candidates must:

  • be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, integrate and synthesize in the context of undergraduate nursing study
  • be able to quickly read and comprehend extensive written material
  • be able to evaluate and apply information and engage in critical thinking in the classroom and clinical setting


Candidates must:

  • possess the emotional health required for the full utilization of his or her intellectual abilities
  • exercise good judgment
  • promptly complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients and families
  • be able to maintain mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients, students, faculty, staff, and other professionals under all circumstances, including in highly stressful situations
  • 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
  • be able to experience empathy for the situations and circumstances of others and effectively communicate that empathy
  • be accountable for any behaviors or actions that convey racism, bias, or discrimination and engage in reparations as necessary
  • know that his or her values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions, and experiences affect his or her perceptions and relationships with others
  • be able and willing to examine and change his or her behavior when it interferes with productive individual or team relationships
  • possess skills and experience necessary for effective and harmonious relationships in diverse academic and working environments

Professional conduct

Candidates must:

  • possess the ability to reason morally and practice nursing in an ethical manner
  • be willing to learn and abide by professional standards of practice
  • not engage in unprofessional conduct
  • possess attributes that include compassion, empathy, altruism, integrity, honesty, responsibility, and inclusiveness
  • be able to engage in patient care delivery in all settings and be able to deliver care to all patient populations including but not limited to:
    • children
    • adolescents
    • adults
    • developmentally disabled persons
    • medically compromised patients, and
    • vulnerable adults

Reasonable accommodation for disabilities

The School of Nursing is committed to ensuring that otherwise qualified students with disabilities are given equal access through reasonable accommodations to its services, programs, activities, education, and employment for students with disabilities. The School of Nursing works closely with Disability Resources for Students (DRS) (Seattle campus) in this process. DRS (Seattle) is the contact point for students with permanent or temporary sensory, physical or psychological disabilities interested in requesting reasonable accommodations due to the effects of a disability.

Students who wish to request reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact DRS (Seattle) to start the process for documenting their disability and determining eligibility for services prior to the start of the program. While this process can be started at any time, reasonable accommodations may not be implemented retroactively so being timely in requesting your accommodations is very important. The University does have policies regarding the type of documentation required in order to diagnose different disabilities and a process for requesting accommodations. To learn more about the process for establishing services through these offices please contact the appropriate office given your campus location:

Disability Resources for Students (Seattle)
448 Schmitz Hall, Box 355839, Seattle, WA 98195-5839
Disability Resources for Students

Students with disabilities are expected to perform all the essential functions of the program with or without reasonable accommodation. The School of Nursing will work with the student and the respective campus disability office to provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations. While the School of Nursing will make every effort to work with our students with disabilities to accommodate their disability-related needs, it is important to note we are not required to provide requested accommodations that would fundamentally alter the essential functions or technical standards of the program.

Implementation of the Essential Qualifications of candidates for undergraduate admission, continuance, and graduation

Potential students will be advised of the Essential Behaviors for Admission, Continuance, and Graduation in application materials online. Incoming students will be alerted to the Essential Behaviors expectations during program orientation and told where to locate them in The Essential Behaviors document on the School’s Web site under ‘Policies’ for all students.

  1. Regular, Ongoing Evaluation
    Because of the close working relationship with the students, the clinical instructor will be responsible for monitoring whether the BSN/ABSN student is meeting the Essential Qualifications. The clinical instructor, in conjunction with the Course Coordinator, shall do so by the following actions:

    • Direct interaction with and supervision of the students in the clinical section related to clinical activities, including clinical seminar
    • Attendance at course and level Connected Teaching Meetings, paying attention to any concerns about behavior in theory courses by students in the clinical section
    • Ensuring that each student in the clinical section completes a self-evaluation of the Essential Qualifications at the end of the quarter
    • Completion of an evaluation of the Essential Qualifications at the end of the quarter for each student in the clinical section
  2. Annual Evaluation
    Students will be evaluated on an annual basis by the BSN Coordinating Committee (BSNCC) and will be informed in writing of their status.
  3. As-Needed Evaluation
  4. Problematic behavior documented: Problematic behavior will be documented by faculty in the student’s academic file.
  5. Problematic behavior results in an Essential Qualifications warning and contract: If a pattern of problematic behavior or a single, very serious lapse in the essential behaviors becomes evident, the steps below will be followed:
    1. Warning letter: A letter indicating that the student’s continuation in the program is in jeopardy is prepared.
    2. Composing contract: The student’s instructor(s) and/or academic adviser in consultation with an official of Academic Affairs will prepare an individual student contract that must accompany the warning letter identifying what needs to be demonstrated in order to meet the essential behaviors and thus remain in the program.
    3. The contract is approved: The individual student contract is reviewed and approved by BSNCC Subcommittee. Documentation of the lapses in the essential behaviors must accompany the contract.
    4. The student is given warning letter and contract: The instructor(s) and/or academic adviser in consultation with the Course Coordinator, an official of Academic Affairs, and/or the chair of the BSNCC Subcommittee meet with the student to present the warning letter and individual student contract. After the student reads and signs the warning letter and contract (signature indicates that the student has read it), the letter and a copy of the contract is placed in the student’s academic file until completion of the program.
  6. Contract monitored quarterly by BSNCC Subcommittee: If the contract is not upheld by the student, the student may be dismissed.

Revised December 2014