To recognize excellence at the unit level, where direct care nurses have the greatest impact on outcomes, AACN established the Beacon Award in 2003. This award recognizes a positive and supportive work environment with greater collaboration, higher morale and lower turnover.

The Beacon Award program encourages units on all stages of their journey toward excellence to engage with AACN in support of continual measurement and improvement, rather than waiting until they feel ready to apply for an award. When a unit partners with AACN through the Beacon Award program, in addition to meaningful recognition, they receive valuable feedback from their application and recommendations for improvement using current evidence and best practices.

Beacon Award Application

The comprehensive Beacon Award program modules reflect the areas in which nurses have the most significant influence on healthcare: Patient Outcomes, Work Environment and Nursing Workforce.

Each module application helps units share the processes used by direct care nurses, nurse leaders and collaborative partners to achieve positive unit outcomes. Units are required to provide supporting evidence that includes the following dimensions:

  • Predetermined quantitative data measures
  • Qualitative exemplars
  • Specific process measures
  • Healthy Work Environment Assessment Tool (HWEAT) scores

Please note: The current Patient Outcomes module includes data monitored by most acute and critical care inpatient units. Specialty units such as PACU, teleICU, cath lab/interventional radiology, etc. may not have this data. Once these additional Patient Outcomes modules are developed with subject matter experts from the AACN community these units will be eligible for a Beacon Award. These modules will be available in a future cycle.

Application Evaluation

A comprehensive evaluation structure, which is unique to the Beacon Award, measures the success of a unit on their journey to excellence to determine Beacon Award recipients as well as additional recognition for top-tier performance.

Each unit receives an extensive feedback report that includes:

  • The score for each measure, including a benchmark comparison
  • Identified areas of strengths and opportunities
  • Resources to support the unit’s journey


In addition to earning a bronze-, silver- or gold-level Beacon Award, applicants may receive additional recognition from AACN through our website or other platforms. We want to recognize your unit and staff for the incredible contributions you make every day!

Determining Your Level of Participation

AACN is pleased to offer units the flexibility to choose their level of participation in the program.

Units can choose to complete one, two or three modules based on available financial and/or leadership support, or to report the required data. However, to be eligible for the Beacon Award, all three modules must be completed during the application period. Units that complete one or two modules can achieve recognition for top-tier performance within individual modules.

How Much Does It Cost?

The Beacon Award for Excellence program is offered at a starting price of $3,500 per year for all three modules. Considering the enhanced features and benefits, this pricing represents a compelling value proposition for your unit’s continual improvement. While we encourage units to take advantage of the comprehensive program by engaging in all three modules, we understand that resource constraints may influence your decision. As part of our commitment to supporting your unit and hospital, we are pleased to offer the flexibility of participating in individual modules for $1,300 per module. With our annual program design, units can monitor their continual improvement efforts yearly, ensuring progress is regularly assessed and tracked.

Special Introductory Offer: For units applying in the 2024 application period, we are delighted to offer a discounted price of $2,500 per bundle and $1,100 per module.

Applicants From International Hospitals

We welcome international units to participate in the Beacon Award program and ask that they contact a Beacon team member at before purchasing an application. Applicants from international units are required to submit the same data as domestic units.

Are you ready to begin?

For questions about the Beacon Award for Excellence, please email