Essential Qualifications of Nursing Students Preparing for Professional Practice

The Essential Qualifications for Participation in School of Nursing Degree Programs (below) constitute important elements of academic performance criteria in the PLU School of Nursing degree programs. As such, the Essential Qualifications become part of the criteria by which students are evaluated for satisfactory performance and program progressions.  The Essential Qualifications reflect a sample of the performance abilities and characteristics that are necessary to successfully complete the requirements of all nursing programs at PLU.  All new and current PLU School of Nursing students are expected to embody these skills. Nursing students must attest to and demonstrate essential motor, sensory/observation, communication, cognitive, and behavioral/emotional skills necessary to be successful in the nursing profession.

The Essential Qualifications for Participation in School of Nursing Degree Programs are used to assist the student in determining whether or not they meet essential qualifications, or if accommodations or modifications might be necessary for successful completion of the program at the School of Nursing.

The School of Nursing at PLU is approved by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission. Only graduates of approved programs are eligible to apply for licensing examination.  Mental, physical or emotional impairment may result in the commission suspending a license or denying initial licensure.  The Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission would expect, and the law requires, nursing programs to evaluate student performance and not pass them if they are unsafe for any reason.  Refer to WAC 246 840 710 (5)(b).

A student’s inability to fulfill program requirements, due in part or in whole to her/his ability to meet the Essential Qualifications, may affect the student’s grade in a nursing course or courses, program progression, continued program enrollment, and/or program completion/graduation. Such consequences do not imply discrimination and/or harassment on the part of the faculty member assigning such grades. Inability to meet classroom and clinical performance expectations, with or without accommodations, will result in progressions consequences.

Students are required to sign a statement of understanding, acknowledgement, and compliance

each semester of the nursing program. For further information, contact the School of Nursing at PLU and the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, P. O. Box 47864, Olympia, Washington 98504-7864.

Essential Qualifications for Participation in School of Nursing Degree Programs

The Bachelors of Science in Nursing, Masters of Science in Nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice signify that the holder of the degree from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) is prepared to practice as a Registered Nurse and/or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner in the State of Washington.  For further health information regarding licensing for the State of Washington, potential students are encouraged to look at the Washington Department of Health documents.

Nurses must be educated to assimilate clinical, classroom, and laboratory knowledge, acquire skills, critically think and develop judgement through patient care experiences in preparation for semi-autonomous and independent practice, based on the level of nursing preparation.  This is often done in collaboration with the patient and among other health care providers including physicians, nurses, and other health professionals.  Therefore, intra- and inter-professional communication that is respectful, collegial, civil, and responsible is a requirement of every student enrolled in the program.

Motor Skills

A student should possess motor function sufficient to provide general care and treatment to patients across a variety of health care settings. The student should be able to move safely within work spaces and treatment areas.  For safety, students must be able to assist with moving patients in a safe manner and must be able to perform emergency procedures such as basic life support (including Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and/or function in other emergency situations.


A student must be able to use and interpret information presented through demonstrations and experiences in nursing. He or she must be able to observe a patient accurately, at a distance and in close proximity, and observe and appreciate non-verbal communications when performing nursing assessment and intervention or administering medications. The student must 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).  The student must be able to modify decisions and actions when dictated by new relevant data or after analysis of existing data. The student should be capable of recognizing and responding appropriately to life-threatening emergencies.


The student must communicate effectively verbally, non-verbally, and in writing in a timely manner with other students, faculty, staff, patients, family, and other healthcare professionals. He or she must be able to express ideas clearly and must be open to giving and receiving feedback.  The student must be able to convey and exchange information regarding assessments, solutions, directions, and treatments.  The student must be able to communicate relevant data to clinical faculty and other healthcare professionals in a timely manner.  The student must be able to ask for assistance and supervision when needed.  Students are expected to be professional, responsible, sensitive, accountable, and ethical in all interactions that require communication among peer and other professionals on the healthcare team.


A student must be able to accurately elicit, measure, calculate, analyze, integrate, evaluate, and synthesize information collected throughout clinical, lab, and/or classroom settings across all levels of nursing study to adequately and effectively evaluate a patient’s condition.  This includes being able to modify decisions and actions when dictated by new relevant data or after analysis of new or existing data. The student is expected to use information gained in courses based in the liberal arts, basic and applied sciences in the development of the plan of care which includes being able to relate pathophysiological and psychological basis of disease to client’s status. Students must be able to problem solve and think critically in order to develop appropriate treatment plans.  Students must be aware of their abilities and contextual scope of practice depending upon setting and level within the program.

The student must be able to quickly read, comprehend, and apply extensive data obtained from written, digital and/or other materials in computer-information systems to the care of patients.  The student must be able to acquire and apply information from demonstrations and experiences in the clinical setting, through prepared case studies, and/or through laboratory work.  This information may be conveyed through online coursework, lecture, group seminar, small group activities and/or physical demonstrations.


A student must possess the emotional health required for the full utilization of his or her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients and families. In addition, the student must be able to maintain mature, sensitive, tolerant, professional, and effective relationships with patients, students, faculty, staff and other professionals under all circumstances. The student 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. The student must be able to experience empathy for the situations and circumstances of others and effectively communicate that empathy. The student must know that his or her values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions, and experiences affect his or her perceptions and relationships with others. The student must be able and willing to examine, evaluate, and change his or her behavior when it interferes with productive individual or team relationships. The student must possess skills and experience necessary for effective and harmonious relationships in diverse academic and working environments.

Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities

It is our experience that a number of individuals with disabilities (as defined by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act) are qualified to study in the School of Nursing with the use of reasonable accommodations. To be qualified to attend the School of Nursing at PLU, all individuals must be able to meet all academic standards including the Essential Qualifications, with or without reasonable accommodations. The School of Nursing will work with the student and the Disability Support Services office to provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to contact Disability Support Services. 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. Additionally, we cannot guarantee that specific accommodations will be accepted within our partnering clinical settings and organizations.  Further information on nursing students with disabilities can be found at the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities:

For further information regarding services available to students with disabilities and/or to request accommodations please contact Disability Support Services at: