The AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care

The AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care is a nursing professional practice model developed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). The AACN Synergy Model steps offers a comprehensive framework that enhances patient outcomes and ensures effective collaboration among healthcare professionals. The model is based on the premise that the best care for patients is achieved when the needs of the patient and the competencies of the nurse are aligned.

In this article, we delve deep into the AACN Synergy Model, exploring its components, benefits, and significance in modern healthcare.

The Genesis of the AACN Synergy Model

The AACN Synergy Model was introduced by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in 1999 as a response to the evolving challenges in critical care nursing. The model is grounded in the belief that effective patient care is achieved when the nurse’s competencies align with the patient’s characteristics and needs.

Unlike traditional nursing models that focus solely on the nurse’s expertise, the Synergy Model places equal emphasis on patient acuity and complexity.

Components of the AACN Synergy Model

Aacn synergy model
The aacn synergy model for patient care 2

Patient Characteristics

At the core of the Synergy Model lies the recognition that every patient is unique, with individual needs and characteristics. These characteristics include physiological, psychological, social, and developmental aspects.

By understanding these factors, nurses can tailor their care to each patient’s specific requirements, thus promoting better outcomes.

AACN Synergy Model 8 Universal Patient Characteristics

  1. Stability: The patient’s physical and emotional stability.
  2. Complexity: The complexity of the patient’s illness or condition.
  3. Predictability: The predictability of the patient’s course of illness.
  4. Resilience: The patient’s ability to cope with stress and adversity.
  5. Vulnerability: The patient’s susceptibility to injury or harm.
  6. Participation in decision making: The patient’s willingness and ability to participate in decisions about their care.
  7. Participation in care: The patient’s willingness and ability to participate in their own care.
  8. Resource availability: The availability of resources to support the patient’s care.

Nurse Competencies

The model identifies eight core competencies that nurses must possess to provide high-quality care. These competencies range from clinical judgment and advocacy to collaboration and systems thinking.

By leveraging these competencies, nurses can effectively address the diverse and dynamic needs of their patients.

AACN Synergy Model 8 Nurse Competencies

  1. Clinical judgment: The nurse’s ability to make sound clinical decisions.
  2. Advocacy and moral agency: The nurse’s ability to advocate for the patient’s rights and to act ethically.
  3. Caring practices: The nurse’s ability to provide compassionate and individualized care.
  4. Collaboration: The nurse’s ability to work effectively with others to provide care.
  5. Systems thinking: The nurse’s ability to understand the complex systems that influence patient care.
  6. Response to diversity: The nurse’s ability to provide care that is sensitive to the patient’s cultural and individual differences.
  7. Facilitation of learning: The nurse’s ability to teach and mentor others.
  8. Clinical inquiry (innovator/evaluator): The nurse’s ability to critically evaluate practice and to use research to improve care.

Patient Outcomes

The Synergy Model envisions positive patient outcomes as the ultimate goal of nursing care. These outcomes encompass not only physical recovery but also emotional well-being and overall quality of life. By aligning nurse competencies with patient characteristics, the model aims to enhance the likelihood of achieving these desired outcomes.

The Synergy Model in Action

Matching Nurse Competencies with Patient Characteristics

The crux of the Synergy Model lies in the alignment of nurse competencies with patient characteristics. For instance, a patient with complex cardiac issues requires a nurse who excels in critical thinking, clinical expertise, and the ability to manage intricate medical interventions.

By matching the nurse’s strengths with the patient’s needs, the model maximizes the potential for successful outcomes.

Promoting Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Modern healthcare is characterized by its multidisciplinary nature. The Synergy Model emphasizes collaboration among healthcare professionals to ensure holistic patient care.

Nurses, physicians, therapists, and other team members work together to exchange insights and create a comprehensive care plan that addresses the patient’s unique requirements.

Enhancing Job Satisfaction

Nurses who feel their skills are being effectively utilized and who see positive outcomes from their efforts experience higher job satisfaction.

The Synergy Model empowers nurses to make impactful contributions, resulting in increased job fulfillment and motivation.

Benefits of the AACN Synergy Model

  1. Personalized Care: The Synergy Model underscores the importance of understanding each patient’s distinctive attributes. By tailoring care plans to individual needs, nurses can optimize treatment outcomes and improve patient experiences.
  2. Improved Patient Outcomes: When nurse competencies align with patient characteristics, the likelihood of positive outcomes increases significantly. Patients are more likely to recover faster and experience a higher quality of life.
  3. Effective Resource Allocation: By accurately assessing patient acuity and complexity, healthcare facilities can allocate resources more effectively. This prevents overburdening certain units and ensures that patients receive the appropriate level of care.
  4. Enhanced Nurse Satisfaction: Nurses who see the direct impact of their efforts on patient well-being are more likely to experience job satisfaction. This can lead to decreased burnout rates and increased retention of skilled nursing professionals.

Implementing the Synergy Model

  1. Education and Training: To effectively implement the Synergy Model, healthcare institutions must invest in educating their nursing staff about the model’s principles and applications. Training programs can help nurses understand how to match their competencies with patient characteristics.
  2. Assessment Tools: Developing assessment tools that help nurses evaluate patient characteristics and determine their own competencies is crucial. These tools facilitate the process of aligning nurse-patient synergy.
  3. Collaborative Culture: Fostering a culture of collaboration is essential for successful implementation. Nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals must be encouraged to work together, exchange insights, and contribute to comprehensive care plans.


The AACN Synergy Model is a valuable tool for nurses to use in planning and providing patient care. By understanding the patient’s characteristics and the nurse’s competencies, nurses can match the right resources to the right patients, resulting in better outcomes for everyone.

Table of Contents