Nurse educators inspire, educate and mentor the next generation of nurses. Without skilled nursing instructors, graduating nurses would be ill-equipped to face the evolving demands of today’s dynamic healthcare systems.
With nursing personnel shortages increasing worldwide, the country must educate the next generation of healthcare workers to change the industry. Nurse educators create and distribute education that prepares nursing students for a complex and evolving medical environment. When these nurses are equipped and prepared to anticipate challenges, they can work toward adjusting and improving the current healthcare system.
Over the last decade, the US has improved healthcare and the consumer experience. However, these improvements haven’t paid dividends, with only 7% of Americans reporting to be satisfied with the current healthcare system. With dissatisfaction rates skyrocketing and the American healthcare system changing rapidly, nurse instructors are at the forefront of altering current practices and molding effective nurses who can provide quality and equitable care standards.
Bridging the gap between academia and practice
The American healthcare system faces countless issues, but nothing more pressing than the academic-practice gap. Academia is criticized for producing nurses who are unprepared for patient care, while practice settings are disparaged for having unrealistic expectations of new graduates. The incompatibility of theoretical education with the performance of nurses in the clinical setting can result in inappropriate use of scientific resources and adherence to traditional clinical strategies.
Several strategies, such as residency mentorship, preceptorship programs and internships, have been implemented to bridge this gap. Although some were proven to be successful, it wasn’t entirely enough to solve the problem. As a nurse educator, you are in a prime spot to ground education in the realities of clinical practice and competency. Unlike residency mentorship and internship programs, nurse educators can help students realize the realities of the profession the moment they first enter the classroom.
By letting students understand these realities early, nurse educators can build a solid foundation for helping them bridge the gap between academia and practice. It is not uncommon for older nurses to have fixed mindsets and to resist change. After all, why fix something that is not broken? On the surface, this might seem like logical advice, but when you dig deeper, it can do more harm than good, especially in a constantly evolving field.
Unlike older individuals with fixed beliefs, aspiring nurses do not know the industry’s inner workings. Recent data shows that younger individuals appear to be more exploratory than adults, and this exploration seems to help them learn and be open-minded to new beliefs and practices. Nurse educators can add more practical examinations grounded in the profession’s realities to reduce the theory-practice gap.
They can also educate students on how to stay on top of new research, technologies and techniques. This establishes the path for continuous learning that highlights enhancing professional skills and abilities throughout their careers. Moreover, nurse educators can empower their students to apply this knowledge to work efficiently and effectively in meeting evolving health needs.
Guiding students through clinical rotations
Nursing clinical rotations are where theory meets reality. These hands-on experiences are critical in shaping aspiring nurses into competent professionals. Nursing clinical rotations go beyond classroom learning. They infuse practical knowledge into theoretical understanding by guiding students through a life-changing journey from newcomers to proficient caregivers. This riveting process sets a robust groundwork for nursing adaptability and competency and a steadfast dedication to patient health and safety.
As a nurse educator, you will collaborate with healthcare faculty and clinical rotation managers to guarantee a positive educational outcome for students. This includes ensuring that the assignment of nursing students to clinical sites involves a combination of site availability, student preferences and curriculum requirements. Doing so makes sure that the assigned clinical rotations align with the specific learning objectives established for every student.
Moreover, nurse educators help aspiring nurses assimilate into an interdisciplinary team by creating opportunities for everyone to learn together, practice techniques and hone their problem-solving skills. Nurses work as part of an interdisciplinary team. By introducing a collaborative framework early, nurse educators can encourage student discussions and self-reflection activities regarding their clinical experiences.
Encouraging lifelong learners in the industry
The healthcare sector is constantly changing, partly driven by regulatory developments and technological advancements. Healthcare professionals, especially nurses, must commit to lifelong learning to maintain competence and provide high-quality care.
Nurse educators help current nursing professionals stay updated on best industry practices and promote continuous learning and self-directed education. By encouraging lifelong industry learners, nurse educators can help aspiring and current nursing professionals validate their practice and competence, acquire new knowledge and skills, reduce or close practitioner-identified performance gaps, and generate professional satisfaction and identity to prevent burnout.
An area where nursing educators can potentially infuse lifelong learning skills and evidence-based practice research is the senior semester final clinical assignment, where students are preparing for the transition from school to practice. While there are several strategies to infuse lifelong learning skills, nurse educators can provide an alternative clinical experience on top of the one-on-one preceptor clinical work. On the surface, this could prove unnecessary and require additional work from nurse educators and students. However, this can be essential in polishing the skills of aspiring nurses, considering that there are several flaws to traditional preceptor clinical experience.
This alternative clinical experience can be a simulation activity wherein nurse educators encourage students to demonstrate their critical thinking skills to make clinical patient care decisions in specific scenarios. It is, however, worth noting that lifelong learning does not only occur in classrooms. Besides instructing students in a classroom, nurse educators can also support working registered nurses (RNs) through experiential learning opportunities to foster staff development. By taking the initiative toward continuous learning, nurse educators can equip working RNs with the right tools and methods without feeling too overwhelmed.
Why become a nurse educator?
Other than shaping the future of healthcare, those interested in becoming nurse educators have several reasons to enter this specialty within nursing. Regardless of your specific reasons, here are the advantages of becoming a nurse educator.
It opens more career advancement opportunities
Rapid nursing technological advancements demand highly competent nurse educators who are prepared to provide aspiring students with specialized nursing skills in different clinical and service areas. Moving up within their school or nursing institution allows nurse educators to lead research efforts and become involved with the administrative aspects of the profession. Tying together clinical observations and research helps nurse educators empower current and future RNs in developing new care approaches to improve outcomes.
It has a strong job outlook
There is a significant nursing shortage in the US. This ultimately results in a high need for nursing educators who can help provide these nurses with the education they require to excel. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, available nursing positions are expected to grow by 6% between 2022 and 2032. In connection with job security, the job outlook also looks favorable for those wanting to become nurse educators. Nursing has several specialties, meaning that educators will have more opportunities to teach and mentor future nurses in specialized fields.
It has a good salary potential
While money is not everything, it can certainly be a significant factor in any career decision. Steady pay can smooth over any mundane moments that come with work. Nursing educator careers are among the most lucrative job options because of high demands. If you have the right educational qualifications, skills and experiences to back everything up, you can increase the likelihood of demanding a salary that would fit your abilities. According to Salary.com, the average American nurse educator earns between $85,000 and $110,000 per year.
Become a lifelong learner
Nurse educators not only promote lifelong learning, but they also become lifelong learners themselves. As a nurse educator, you will have access to recent and cutting-edge data and research. You will be able to collaborate with other professionals to improve your skills further. You can bring your students your years of experience in nursing. What adds to the discussion is the diversity and experiences they provide. Through reciprocal learning, nurse educators can learn to actively monitor their existing knowledge and ensure that it remains relevant to industry practices.
Become a field leader
Nurses constantly encounter new challenges and opportunities due to unpredictable changes in the health landscape. Nurse educators can lead students and help them understand the dilemmas they may encounter as professionals and how to solve them ethically. They can also offer them a comprehensive framework for critical thinking and decision-making to evolve and adapt to the changing industry demands.
Essential steps to becoming a nurse educator
Effective education of nursing professionals is essential in shaping the future of healthcare. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing suggests that education significantly impacts nursing competencies, knowledge and other healthcare providers.
However, before you work toward becoming a nurse educator, you must first understand the nurse educator’s role. As a nurse educator, your day may be spent in a classroom preparing for classes, offering lectures, grading papers, managing administrative duties and staying on top of current nursing knowledge.
You will design curricula to ensure that courses meet the state accreditation requirements. You will also supervise internships and research. While patient treatment is not the primary duty of nurse educators, they must be proficient in it because they often supervise nursing students as they work with patients.
Acquire a nursing license
Obtaining a nursing license is the first step to becoming a nurse educator. You may qualify to become an RN with an associate or a four-year nursing degree. You must also pass a licensure exam organized by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Gaining an RN license is essential to becoming a nursing instructor, as you will teach students based on your field experience. Although it varies based on academic institutions, a three-year, hands-on nursing experience is required before instructors can begin teaching.
Enroll in a nursing education program
Once you’ve amassed the required field experience as an RN, the next logical step on the journey to becoming a nursing instructor is enrolling in the nursing education program. You might consider an institution like the University of Indianapolis, which is renowned for its nursing program, to gain a deeper insight into how to become a nursing instructor.
Before enrolling, however, you must find the right educational program by examining the university and the program’s accreditation status, the university’s reputation in healthcare education, and the availability of virtual degrees for full-time students.
Those looking to become a nurse educator will likely be holding down a full-time nursing job that requires them to clock at least 10 hours daily. By enrolling in a flexible nursing education program, you can complete your studies at the most comfortable time and guarantee more focused learning. As online nursing education programs have small class sizes, you will receive specific, personalized teaching and comprehensive, timely feedback.
Obtain a nurse educator certification
After completing your academic requirements, you can apply for teaching roles immediately. However, nurse educator certification is recommended as it can help you boost your credentials and stand out. In particular, specialties such as nursing education can demonstrate a superior clinical and teaching experience while helping to advance your nursing career.
The Certified Nurse Educator headed by the National League of Nursing is an excellent credential for aspiring nurse educators. It is available to licensed nurses with a master’s or doctoral degree. Alternatively, you can pursue certifications such as the Certified Academic Nurse Educator to help you become a more valuable job candidate to potential employers.
Starting a meaningful career as a nurse educator
Everyone wants to find meaning in their work, yet only a few manage to do so. As a nurse educator, you can educate aspiring nurses in adopting new practices and gaining competencies that improve health outcomes.