The importance of the AACN Synergy Model in nursing education

AACN Synergy
AACN Synergy

The AACN Synergy Model is a framework for understanding and promoting patient-centered care in nursing that was developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The model involves the synergy between the patient and the nurse to support the best possible outcome in health and illness. This model focuses on patient-centered care and the nurse’s ability to use evidence-based clinical judgment to create an environment that is positive and supportive for patients.

The Synergy Model is based on eight characteristics of the patient and eight competencies of the nurse that are separated into degrees. An example of a characteristic of a patient that nurses must take into consideration includes resiliency and the different levels of how resilient the patient is. Degrees of resiliency include highly resilient, moderately resilient, and minimally resilient. Other characteristics include vulnerability, stability, complexity, resource availability, participation in care, participation in decision making and predictability.


Resiliency of a person is measured by their level of adaptability, flexibility and the coping strategies they possess to help them handle and manage stressors in their environment. The levels include Level 1 which is minimally resilient and unable to cope, Level 3 which includes a moderate amount of coping skills and some degree of compensatory mechanisms while Level 5 includes the ability to mount a response to a verbal attack or stressor.


Vulnerability in the AACN Synergy Model is used in nurse education as an opportunity to identify and recognize the physical, psychological or social factors that may affect a person’s experience and response within a health care environment. It is important for nurses to understand the dynamics of vulnerability so that they can assess, plan and deliver care with sensitivity and compassion, regardless of a person’s background and beliefs.

Vulnerability levels include Level 1 which is highly vulnerable and fragile, Level 3 which is moderately vulnerable and somewhat susceptible but with a small amount of personal protection, and Level 5 which is minimally vulnerable, protected and safe. Understanding the vulnerability levels of individuals is something that can be taught in adult gero acute care NP programs. An online degree from an accredited school such as Baylor University can enhance a nurse’s knowledge and career prospects.


In nursing education, the stability of a person is used to recognize the physical, emotional and environmental qualities of that individual that can affect their capabilities in responding to healthcare scenarios. Understanding a person’s stability can help nurses assess and treat each individual as a unique individual, so they can provide healthcare services that are tailored to the needs of the patient. The levels of this characteristic follows the same succession as previous traits, ranging from level one to five.


Complexity of a person in the synergy model is used to help nurses recognize the interrelated physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual aspects of a person. By comparing individual components to the model, nurses can gain a better understanding of a person’s current state of health and how this can affect their care experience. This helps them create individualized care plans that are tailored to the unique needs of each patient.

Resource availability

The level of resource availability in the AACN Synergy Model is used to help nurses understand how the availability of resources can affect the patient’s care experience. This helps nurses create evidence-based care plans that consider the different factors that influence each patient’s health and care experience.

The availability of resources such as healthcare and family support can affect a patient’s ability to access adequate care and their overall wellbeing. For this reason, the AACN Synergy Model promotes the availability of resources as a major factor that should be considered when designing an evidence-based care plan for a patient. The model suggests that nurses assess the resources available to a patient to ensure that individualized care plans reflect the patient’s unique needs and circumstances. The Synergy Model recognizes that the availability of resources can vary widely between different socio-economic contexts, so it is important for nurses to consider how this affects their care plans.

Participation in care

This characteristic is used by nurses to promote participation in care by fostering collaborative partnerships with patients and their families. The model emphasizes the importance of involving patients in the planning and delivery of their care and encourages nurses to be culturally aware and flexible in their approach. This can include incorporating patient’s stated wishes, preferences and knowledge into care planning. Nurse educators can use the model to encourage nurses to provide patient-centered care and practice interventions that are grounded in evidence-based practices.

Participation in decision making

The synergy model encourages nurses to involve patients in decision making by involving them in the care planning process and providing them with the opportunity to give their input and specify their preferences. The model stresses the importance of recognizing and understanding the cultural impact of care decisions and the need to respect and honor patient preferences. Nurse educators use the model to teach nurses to be more patient-centered in their care.


Predictability stresses the importance of engaging with the patient’s attitude, knowledge and preferences in order to tailor a care plan to the individual’s needs. In this way, the predictability of a person’s preferences can be considered when creating a care plan. This information can then be used by nurse educators to teach nurses how to better customize their care for individual patients.

This model also provides a list of competencies that nurses must possess and levels of competency. These include clinical judgement, advocacy and moral agency, caring practices, collaboration, systems thinking, response to diversity, facilitation of learning and clinical inquiry. The level of importance of each one of these competencies is a direct result of the characteristics of the patient, which creates a synergy between the two.

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