What is a Nurse Educator?
Nurse educators combine specialized nursing expertise with a passion for teaching. Drawing on years of clinical experience, nurse educators bring their particularized knowledge and enthusiasm into the classroom to train and prepare the current generation of nurses and generations of nurses to come.
Whether it is teaching an aspiring nurse a new skill or offering continued education to seasoned nurses, the nurse educator is vital to the nursing community at large. Choosing a career in nurse education means cultivating and nurturing your own skills so that you may one day be well enough versed and properly credentialed to assume the nurse educator role and pass on your knowledge and skills to colleagues and pupils alike.
Nursing Educator Roles
Despite transitioning to a pedagogical role, many nurse educators continue to treat patients throughout their career. In doing so, nurse educators constantly educate themselves as to the most current practices and advancements in nursing, so that they may, in turn, transmit this knowledge to their students. Nurse educators enjoy the opportunities that come with devoting themselves to an intellectual and educational community, oftentimes engaging in research and utilizing technologies that represent the cutting edge of the nursing industry.
Nurse Educator Core Competencies
The National League for Nursing (NLN) set forth eight core competencies for nurse educators:
- Facilitate Learning
- Facilitate Learner Development and Socialization
- Use Assessment and Evaluation Strategies
- Participate in Curriculum Design and Evaluation of Program Outcomes
- Function as a Change Agent and Leader
- Pursue Continuous Quality Improvements in the Nurse Educator Role
- Engage in Scholarship
- Function Within the Educational Environment
Further, these competencies are what nurse educators are held to and further outline their role in universities and teaching future nurses. They instruct at the undergraduate level, guiding future licensed practice nurses (LPN) and registered nurses (RN); they teach at the graduate and doctoral level, leading future advanced practice nurses, nurse researchers, nursing leaders and even other nurse educators. Generally, nurse educators deliver clinical courses that align with their specific fields of expertise, especially related to the area of concentration or focus from their graduate nursing education program. These fields of interest vary widely and include such subjects as psychiatric/mental health, oncology, pediatrics, women’s health, family health and acute care.
Become a Nurse Educator
In order to become a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE), aspiring nurse educators must earn a master’s degree. Degree programs specializing in nursing education are designed to train registered nurses (RNs) to teach other nurses. Topics covered include curriculum development, student counseling, principles of learning and adult education techniques. Earning a doctoral degree in nurse education can also fulfill the requirements to teach at the academic level.
Aspiring nurse educators who have already obtained a postgraduate degree in a nursing subject other than nursing education may also obtain their Certification for Nurse Educators following two years of employment or more in a nursing program.
Clinical experience is an indispensable aspect of becoming a nurse educator. To effectively teach, nurse educators must first personally encounter the many challenges that are inherent in nursing. Like any other academic field, nursing education demands a strong foundation in practice before teaching is possible. Many nurse educators spend several years working in hospitals, clinics, and private practices before pursuing a master’s degree with a concentration in nursing education. To build a successful career in nursing education, a passion for teaching must be laid upon a strong clinical foundation.
Why Become a Nurse Educator?
Nurse educators often find their careers extremely rewarding, as they are able to influence the next generation of nurses, who will eventually provide healthcare to innumerable patients. The opportunity to continue practicing as a nurse as well as educating other nurses also adds to the allure of becoming a nurse educator.
The nurse educator salary varies by level of education (nurse educators with doctoral degrees tend to earn more than their colleagues with only master’s degrees) and on location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing instructors earned a mean wage of $81,350 as of May 2018, but as mentioned, this can vary widely by region and experience. Nurse educators who earn salaries on the higher end of the spectrum may hold doctoral degrees and are involved in their academic settings as deans or administrators of the nursing department or school.
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