Essential Standards for Admission, Progression and Graduation

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The curricula leading to degrees in Nursing from UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Nursing require students to engage in diverse and complex experiences directed at the acquisition and practice of essential nursing knowledge, skills, and functions. Combinations of cognitive, affective, psychomotor, physical and social abilities are required to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to perform the varied roles of nurses. In addition to being essential to the successful completion of the requirements of a nursing degree, these skills and functions are necessary to ensure the health and safety of patients, fellow students, faculty and other health care providers.

The following standards comprise the five core professional nursing competencies. In addition to academic qualifications, the School of Nursing considers these personal and professional qualifications essential for entrance to, continuation in and graduation from its nursing degree programs.

Students who seek disability accommodations should contact the University’s Department of Disability Services at (919) 962-8300. The Department of Disability Services will determine a student’s eligibility for accommodations and will recommend appropriate accommodations and services.


A. Visual, Auditory and Tactile

  • Ability to gather data from written reference materials (including, without limitation, illustrations), oral presentations, demonstrations, observations of a patient and his/her environment and observations of procedures performed by others.
  • Ability to perform health assessments and interventions; observe diagnostic specimens; and obtain information from digital, analog and waveform representations of physiologic phenomena to determine a patient’s condition.

Examples of relevant activities:

1.Visual acuity – to draw up the correct quantity of medication in a syringe or detect changes in skin color or condition.

2.Auditory ability – to detect sounds related to bodily functions using a stethoscope or to detect audible alarms generated by mechanical systems used to monitor patient physiological status.

3.Tactile abilities – to detect unsafe temperature levels in heat-producing devices used in patient care or detect anatomical abnormalities, such as edema or small nodules.

B. Communication

  • Ability to communicate, including ability to ask questions and receive answers, with accuracy, clarity, efficiency and effectiveness with patients, their families and other members of the health care team. This includes: expressive and receptive oral and non-verbal communications, such as interpretation of facial expressions, affect and body language.
  • Communications (expressive and receptive) include: oral, hearing, reading, writing, and computer literacy.
  • Mastery of both written and spoken English, although applications from students with hearing or speech disabilities will be given full consideration. In such cases, use of a trained intermediary or other communication aides may be appropriate if this intermediary functions only as an information conduit and does not serve integrative or interpretive functions.

Examples of relevant activities:

1.Ability to give verbal directions to or follow verbal directions from other members of the health care team and to participate in health care team discussions of patient care.

2.Ability to elicit and record information about health history, current health state or responses to treatment from patients or family members.

3.Ability to convey information to patients and others as necessary to teach, direct and counsel individuals.

C. Motor

  • Motor and psychomotor function to execute movements required to provide general care and treatment to patients in all health care settings.
  • Motor functions include: gross and fine motor skills, physical endurance, strength, stamina and mobility to carry out nursing procedures; perform basic laboratory tests and provide routine and emergency care and treatment to patients.

Examples of relevant activities:

1.Fine motor skills to obtain assessment information by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers.

2.Physical endurance to complete assigned periods of clinical practice.

3.Mobility sufficient to carry out patient care procedures, such as tracheostomy care or performing emergency airway suctioning.

4.Strength to carry out patient care procedures, such as assisting in the turning and lifting/transferring of patients.

D. Behavioral, Interpersonal and Emotional

  • Ability to relate to colleagues, staff and patients with honesty, integrity and non-discrimination.
  • Capacity for the development of a mature, compassionate, respectful, sensitive and effective therapeutic relationship with patients and their families, including sufficient emotional and intellectual capacity to exercise good judgment and complete patient care responsibilities promptly and professionally. .
  • Ability to work constructively in stressful and changing environments with the ability to modify behavior in response to constructive criticism and to maintain a high level of functioning in the face of taxing workloads and stressful situations.
  • Ability to participate collaboratively and flexibly as a member of a health care team.
  • Capacity to demonstrate ethical behavior, including adherence to the professional nursing and student honor codes, as well as applicable laws and regulations governing the nursing profession.
  • Openness to examining personal attitudes, perceptions and stereotypes which may negatively affect patient care and professional relationships.

Examples of relevant activities:

1.Emotional skills to remain calm in an emergency situation.

2.Interpersonal skills to communicate effectively with patients and families of diverse religious, cultural or social backgrounds.

3.Behavioral skills to demonstrate the exercise of good judgment and prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of clients.

E. Cognitive, Conceptual and Quantitative

  • Ability to exhibit behavior and intellectual functioning which does not differ from acceptable professional standards.
  • Ability to read and understand written documents in English and solve problems involving measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis and synthesis.
  • Ability to gather data, develop a plan of action, establish priorities and monitor treatment plans and modalities.
  • Ability to comprehend three-dimensional and spatial relationships.
  • Ability to learn effectively through a variety of modalities, including, but not limited to, classroom instruction, small group discussion, individual study of materials, preparation and presentation of written and oral reports, and use of computer-based technology.

Examples of relevant activities

1.Cognitive skills to calculate appropriate medication dosage given specific patient parameters.

2.Conceptual ability to analyze and synthesize data and develop an appropriate plan of care.

3.Quantitative ability to collect data, prioritize needs and anticipate reactions.

4.Ability to comprehend spatial relationships adequate to properly administer intramuscular injections or assess wounds of varying depths.

Disability Accommodations for Students section of the UNC SON student handbook.

Created 05/02; revised 08/11