Skip to content
Skip to content
Open navigation

ANCC Pathway to Excellence® Program

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Pathway to Excellence® Program recognizes a health care organization’s commitment to creating a positive practice environment that empowers and engages staff.

By investing in the optimum workplace for nurses, organizations demonstrate a culture of sustained excellence, resulting in the successful recruitment of top candidates and staff retention through high job satisfaction. Nurses are even empowered in the Pathway to Excellence application process itself; since frontline staff must validate that their experience with the organization meets the Pathway Standards – before designation can be achieved.


Benefits of Pathway to Excellence® Designation

A positive working environment reaches to the very depths of an organization’s success. From patient outcomes to financial results, Pathway-designated organizations are leading the way in global models for nursing care. Across all practice settings and sizes of organization, the ideal standards set by the Pathway to Excellence are benefitting nurses, patients, and the communities they serve.

Pathway to Excellence standards are strongly associated with the following:

  • Improving nurse satisfaction;
  • Retaining the best staff and nursing leaders;
  • Cultivating inter-professional teamwork;
  • Championing high quality nursing practice; and
  • Supporting business growth.


Our hospital is committed to nursing excellence, to what nurses identify as important to safe and effective practice, and to a positive work environment – all of which translates to good patient outcomes. Everyone inside the hospital knows this, but the Pathway to Excellence designation assures the outside world that Union Hospital provides superior care. It is an indicator of excellence that attracts patients, top talent, and national recognition.”

Katie Boston-Leary MBA MHA BSN CNOR NEA-BC Chief Nursing Officer & Senior Vice Pres

Who can earn Pathway to Excellence Designation?

All health care organizations that provide nursing care across the health care continuum may be eligible to apply. A multi-facility system is ineligible to apply as a whole; however, individual entities within the system may apply. Applicants may contact the Pathway Program Office for additional guidance.

Organizations can hold both Magnet Recognition® and Pathway to Excellence concurrently.

Pathway Standards

Applicant organizations seeking the Pathway designation must demonstrate that they successfully meet the six Pathway Standards. Each standard reflects foundational elements for a positive practice environment.

Pathway Standard #1: Shared Decision-Making

Organizations achieving Pathway to Excellence® designation have an established shared governance structure as the foundation for involving direct care nurses in decision making.

Allowing direct care nurse input into decision making influences all aspects of care delivery.

Interprofessional collaboration is integral within the organization, engaging staff, building teamwork, and strengthening the shared governance culture.

Nurses should:

  • Be included in organizational shared governance initiatives
  • Have input into operational decisions, including changes in practice and workflow
  • Be involved in the interdisciplinary process addressing ethical concerns
  • Be engaged in the decision-making process regarding product evaluation
  • Provide input into the hiring of nursing staff

Pathway Standard #2: Leadership

Effective and competent leadership within Pathway to Excellence–designed organizations fosters the foundation of collaboration among staff and supports a shared governance environment.

CNOs and nurse managers actively engage direct care nurses for input in the areas of:

  • Resource allocation
  • Cost management, and
  • Patient advocacy

 As leadership champions within the organization, the CNO and nurse managers are accessible and effective advocates for direct care nurses and patients, especially in times of organizational change.

Leaders continuously strive to increase their core knowledge and role competency through leadership development activities along with feedback from colleagues and nursing staff. 

Pathway Standard #3: Safety

Pathway to Excellence organizations protect the safety of nurses, staff, and patients through safety policies and processes.

Developed and revised by interprofessional collaboration, the safeguards provide mechanisms for monitoring patient and staff-related events as well as professional practice behaviors.

A safe environment includes measures to prevent violent incidents within the organization against staff and patients. Leaders establish safety practices that incorporate a collaborative decision-making approach to staffing, and include consideration of safety concerns related to fluctuations in patient acuity and transitions in care. 

Pathway Standard #4: Quality

Quality initiatives in Pathway to Excellence organizations are developed through interpersonal collaboration.

The organization-wide quality initiatives are evidence-based, focused on improving patient outcomes, and implemented based on internal and external benchmarking.

These initiatives include developing and revising patient care standards and policies as well as staff education.

Interprofessional teams within Pathway organizations are patient advocates driven by strong missions, visions, goals, and values.

Pathway Standard #5: Well-Being

This standard focuses on providing staff the opportunity to develop a balance between work and personal life. Wellbeing is a core component of Pathway designated organizations, and is what makes the program unique.

Staff is actively involved in organizational initiatives that promote work-life effectiveness. Nurses’ important contribution and participation in community service, patient advocacy, and improving population health are encouraged, supported, and recognized by Pathway organizations.

Scheduling is another organizational element to assist staff achieve a balance between work and personal life. Organizations collaborate with frontline staff to create innovative strategies that foster optimal wellbeing.

Having such programs in place, as well as providing opportunities during work hours for nurses to care for themselves, supports nurses and provides organizational benefits through higher staff retention rates and more involved, motivated, and confident staff. 

Pathway Standard #6: Professional Development

Pathway to Excellence organizations recognize the importance of staff orientation, collaboration, and development in the delivery of safe and effective patient care.

The foundation for developing competent and collaborative staff begins with a comprehensive orientation that includes individualization of learning needs and clinical experiences to allow smooth transition into practice with the support and guidance of mentors, preceptors, or other nursing experts.

Pathway to Excellence organizations value and recognize the importance of lifelong learning, ongoing education, and professional development activities.  

Research demonstrates that nurses are attracted to, and remain at, their place of employment when opportunities exist that allow them to advance professionally. 

The Pathway to Excellence® Program recognizes a health care organization’s commitment to creating a positive practice environment.

ANCC Pathway To Excellence

Introducing your Nursing Team to Pathway to Excellence

You May Also Like

You are now leaving the American Nurses Foundation

The American Nurses Foundation is a separate charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Foundation does not engage in political campaign activities or communications.

The Foundation expressly disclaims any political views or communications published on or accessible from this website.

Continue Cancel

Item(s) added to cart

Go to cart Continue Shopping