Nurse educators make a vital contribution to healthcare and the provision of high-quality services thanks to their knowledge, experience, and dedication to healthcare systems and delivery.
Without the continuation of knowledge, growth, and evolution in healthcare—which nurse educators are trained to provide—systems would stagnate and fail to fulfill their aim of delivering the best care to patients. That’s why the role of the nurse educator is so important—it’s the vital link between the status quo and a healthcare system that’s of the highest quality and fit for the future.
Nurse educators are already experienced health professionals who’ve gained a wealth of experience in clinical care and have a calling to deepen and expand their skill set, making them ideally placed to revolutionize health services.
In this article, we’re going to examine the importance of nurse educators and learn about the vital role they play in healthcare. On the way, we’ll find out about the qualities of a successful nurse educator, and we’ll also discover why it’s a rewarding career path for nurses with a passion for education. If you’re intrigued to know more about this career path, you’ll be glad to know that we’ll also explain the steps you need to take to get there through studying in a flexible and fulfilling way.
Why are nurse educators important?
Nurse educators are the link between the present and future of the nursing profession.
They are in a unique position where they draw on their skills and experience to help others strive for better care provision and a more streamlined, high-quality health service. Because their role is held in high esteem by the public and other professionals, they are well-placed to provide educational services because they are respected for their knowledge and experience. And perhaps most importantly, because they have stood in the shoes of the students under their care, they are able to deliver education and impart their knowledge with compassion, experience, and wisdom.
As nurse educators support, mentor, and inspire new, inexperienced nurses, they are also crucial to ensuring retention rates. Nursing is a challenging path to follow, and it figures that many nurses quit within their first year following qualification.
However, in organizations that value the role of nurse educators and promote continuing professional development, the turnover rate is significantly less. So, not only do nurse educators help foster a positive work culture, but they also inspire the nurses of tomorrow to continue their work in improving the care of patients right across the spectrum.
What exactly is a nurse educator?
Nurse educators first have a wealth of practical experience caring for patients and then diversify into teaching roles to pass on this expertise. In addition to being a qualified licensed nurse, a nurse educator must have a higher qualification, either a master’s or a doctoral degree, to qualify in this capacity, demonstrating their dedication and commitment to lifelong learning.
Nurse educators generally work in an academic setting, clinical setting, or a combination of the two. Let’s take a close-up look at how nurse educators work in these environments, as well as some more specialized nurse educator roles.
Nurse educators in academic settings
In an academic environment, nurse educators typically provide instruction on university or college nursing courses. As well as delivering teaching, this role includes planning curricula and lesson plans, preparing course materials, marking papers, and engaging and supporting students.
As part of their remit, nurse educators must also collaborate with healthcare organizations to arrange clinical placements for their students and contribute to their clinical objectives and evaluate their students’ performance.
The nurse educator’s role in an academic setting is multi-faceted, which requires nurse educators to not only fulfill their teaching requirements but also to provide pastoral support to students and to collaborate successfully with other faculty members. They will represent not just the nursing profession but the educational establishment they are attached to, therefore holding a dual position of responsibility.
Nurse educators in clinical settings
In clinical settings, nurse educators instruct colleagues at all levels about practices and techniques beneficial to patients and healthcare. A crucial part of this role is ensuring that healthcare professionals are using the latest techniques and practices in nursing care, achieved through applying evidence-based and best practices.
Nurse educators also have a responsibility to identify learning and growth opportunities for the nurses in their charge, acting proactively to ensure that appropriate training and education are offered.
It ensures that the healthcare offered is of the best quality and works towards the aim of achieving ever-improving patient outcomes, making the role of nurse educators crucial in revolutionizing healthcare systems and patient care for the future.
Specialized nurse educator roles
Specialized nurse educator roles are also available, providing plenty of opportunities for career development. Nurse educators may focus on a particular discipline, for example, pediatrics, geriatrics, or critical care, with their tasks including developing curricula and learning experiences for students.
Simulation nurse educators are specialists in simulation technology, which provides realistic but safe training for students in a wide range of skills and techniques, for example, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and taking basic observations like pulse and blood pressure.
Forensic nurse educators work in the field of forensics with victims of crime, supporting them after assault, for example. Part of their role involves teaching colleagues about the specialized processes and techniques they use.
And nurse education consultants work in the private sector, offering advice to healthcare establishments on their nurse education needs. This work includes designing and delivering targeted training programs to ensure that the organization’s requirements and obligations are met.
Other roles and responsibilities of the nurse educator
The nurse educator’s role extends far beyond teaching. The position automatically assumes a number of other responsibilities, all of which have the end goal of improving patient outcomes.
Nurse educators as researchers
As their ultimate mission is to improve patient care by applying and teaching best practices, nurse educators must commit to keeping up with the latest research in their field.
This could involve reading papers, reports, and journals, attending professional conferences and meetings, and networking to stay in touch with the latest developments in nursing care. Their role can also involve leading or being involved in research projects. These could be as simple as collecting data from patient surveys or large projects across a number of institutions.
The nurse educator is expected to incorporate this knowledge of best and evidence-based practice into their role so that they can impart it into their teaching and care plans. It ensures that best practice is continually communicated, with the ultimate aim of achieving better patient outcomes.
Nurse educators as leaders
Nurse educators must also take on leadership responsibilities. It could mean that they join boards or committees that deal with human resources, quality improvement, or drugs and therapies, either as members or as chairs. Leadership can also be expressed in their behavior and attitude towards the students they teach. As role models, they set an example for their students and provide inspiration to the clinical leaders of the future.
Nurse educators may also show their capacity for leadership by challenging the status quo, questioning existing practices, and serving as agents for change. All these actions have the primary motivation of improving healthcare systems, achieving equality in healthcare, and improving patient outcomes.
Qualities of a good nurse educator
The role of nurse educator is a demanding yet highly rewarding one. It is more likely to come naturally to professionals who can demonstrate the following qualities:
Nursing and compassion go hand-in-hand, and this should continue in the role of nurse educator. Through compassionate understanding of what both those offering and those receiving care need, the best outcomes can be achieved.
Passion for learning
Great nurse educators have an innate passion for learning and a curiosity to know more about their professional field. This passion must extend to wanting the best for their students so that they instruct them in the most useful techniques and knowledge to progress their careers and, ultimately, benefit patients.
Nurse educators must advocate for their students and for patients too. In their position of responsibility, nurse educators must recognize the rights and needs of both groups and use their influence and position to ensure these are met.
A good educator is a good communicator who is clear about the aims of their lesson plans or curricula and how these will be achieved. They must also be able to communicate at all levels of the organization they work in; for example, if that’s a clinical setting, then they must feel equally comfortable and competent in communicating with patients as with leaders, stakeholders, and senior members of staff.
This is a vital requirement of the nurse educator role. Nurses in this position must have a thirst to understand the latest developments in research, technology, and patient care and be prepared to apply this knowledge to their and their students’ practice.
These are essential to any nursing role, but even more so in a nurse educator role that requires constant interaction with a range of individuals, including other professionals, students, administrative and faculty staff, patients, and their families.
How do I become a nurse educator?
If you have a passion for nursing, education, and striving for excellence, then a career as a nurse educator makes a stimulating and rewarding pathway. One of the most rewarding aspects of this career will be seeing the next generation of nurses flourish and take healthcare forward into the future.
You’ll already be a registered practicing nurse with a bachelor of science in nursing, a proven track record of academic excellence, and solid clinical skills. Your next step will be to take a higher degree, for example, a master of science in nursing, to consolidate your existing knowledge and skills and equip you with the expertise to teach and supervise student nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Studying for a masters in nursing education online is often the most convenient and efficient way for practicing nurses to gain the qualifications they need to progress in their careers. The online master of science in nursing (MSN in nursing education) program offered by Cleveland State University is perfect for busy professional nurses with existing commitments. The coursework is 100% online, and you can complete the course in two years part-time, so it can fit around your schedule and allow you to study in the location of your choice and at your own pace.
You will also be fully supported to complete the required learning hours in your community, offering you the best of both worlds with this combination of online study and a practical element. There’s a strong focus on evidence-based practice and applying it to clinical situations, which means that the pursuit of excellence runs as a constant theme throughout this course.
You’ll also learn about other essential topics like nurse education leadership to give you the confidence to step into your new role and curriculum development in nursing to give you a grounding in developing and implementing meaningful curricula.
Once you’ve completed the course, you’ll be ready for the National League for Nursing (NLN) Certification for Nurse Educators (CNE) exam, enabling you to develop your career in this rewarding direction. Know that this program of study is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and is respected nationwide by institutions and professionals.
The course is an obvious choice for professional nurses passionate about lifelong learning, whether that applies to themselves or the students they will be qualified to teach. It will help you lay the firm foundations that you’ll need to pursue a career as a nurse educator—but in a way and at a pace that suits you.
The prospects for nurse educators
As well as offering the satisfaction of seeing others thrive in their chosen careers and healthcare systems evolve for the better, nurse educators can expect rewards when it comes to remuneration. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing instructors and teachers in the postsecondary sector earn a median annual wage of $78,580 and have the capacity to earn up to $127,290. This generous financial reward is in line with the expertise, knowledge, and commitment that nurse educators invest in their careers and is rightly earned.
What’s more, with healthcare changing at a rapid rate due to both demographic shifts, such as an aging population and changes in the types of medications, treatments, and technology on offer, the nurse educator role is becoming all the more necessary and valuable to lead these changes.
Nurse educators, as advocates for transformation and development and inspiring leaders, are essential to driving the changes needed to deliver healthcare that’s fit for the future. It means their role is valuable now and will continue to be for a long time ahead, securing the profession of nurse educator for years to come.
Step into the role of nurse educator
If you’re a dedicated nurse committed to continuing professional development—not just for yourself but for others too—and ready to drive the changes needed to revolutionize healthcare, then step into the role of nurse educator.
You can do this by choosing a flexible, online master of science in nursing program to deepen your knowledge and learn new skills like leadership and curriculum development. Once you’ve completed the course, you can use your new-found skills and draw on your existing experience to help educate nurses and healthcare professionals of the future on a rewarding and fulfilling career path that can take you in countless fascinating directions.