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What Do Nurse Educators Really Do?

As a nurse, you have come in contact with many nurse educators throughout your educational and professional career. However, nurse educators are more than just university professors or seminar speakers — they encompass many health education roles. While they may go by different job titles, all nurse educators have a passion for education.

Nurse educators are often responsible for designing, developing, delivering and evaluating education. They strive to improve the quality of patient care by incorporating best practice standards and evidence-based practice into their teaching strategies. They act as role models, mentors and advisors, and they continuously evaluate their teaching methods for effectiveness.

What Positions Do Nurse Educators Fill?

The term "nurse educator" applies to many different roles, responsibilities and positions. Job titles might include:

  • Instructor, lecturer, faculty, professor, adjunct professor, teaching staff, online faculty
  • Educator, RN nurse educator
  • Staff development expert, hospital educator
  • Clinical educator, clinical nurse educator, clinical liaison, clinical education specialist
  • Nurse educator specialist, education development specialist

From students to experienced nurses, nurse educators are there to advance nursing skills and knowledge.

What Do Nurse Educators Do?

Roles and responsibilities depend on the position, employer and clients they serve. Examples are listed below.

SETTING

ROLE

Classroom

Lecture and/or clinical instruction for nursing students in classroom, clinical, or online instruction

Skills lab

Oversee or instruct in a learning environment or skills lab at a school of nursing, regional facility or individual hospital using high and low fidelity simulation

Staff development

Implement staff development and clinical competency programs such as orientation, clinical placement or as an internship coordinator

Service line

Create and implement professional development strategies for a specialty area that may include one unit, several units or facilities, or multiple locations

Field-based

Collaborate with sales team for safe and compliant use of drugs/products and medical devices or with case managers and educators within a third-party payer; some work with patient education and advocacy groups

Nurse educators may work with students, nurses, unlicensed assistive personnel, inter-professional team members, patients/caregivers, or even pharmaceutical sales representatives or payers in a clinical support role. Clinical educators may be unit specific (e.g., progressive care unit), department-based (e.g., oncology) or within a service line. They may coordinate or oversee clinical orientation, preceptorships, internships or education for a specific specialty such as pediatrics, operating room, heart and vascular services, diabetes, home care, palliative care, or hospice. Others focus on new hire orientation and required continuing education within a staff development department.

Why Choose Nurse Educator As a Career?

There are many reasons to become a nurse educator. Here are just a few:

Benefits - Most nurse educators have multiple reasons for choosing this area of nursing. Some simply enjoy teaching, while others want to pay forward their own experience to impact someone else's career. Others may seek to challenge themselves in a new role. For more seasoned nurses, they may want to leave a legacy by training the next generation of nurses.

There is an adage: "You don't truly understand something until you can teach it to another." Educating nurses can help refresh and re-evaluate your own practice. Nurse educators must explain not only how to perform certain techniques, but why they are best practice. Additionally, the development of teaching materials, tools, skills and knowledge can bring out your inner creativity.

Demand - Nurse educators are in high demand due to extreme nursing shortages, especially in rural areas. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that thousands of qualified applicants are unable to enter nursing programs due to a lack of faculty resources.

In certain areas, government agencies, professional groups and some nonprofit organizations are providing incentives to recruit young adults into nursing. For example, the Nursing Education Loan Repaymentprogram stipulates that if you work in a medically underserved area, you can have up to 85% of your student loan balance forgiven.

Independence and Influence - Educators often control their schedule, and some work fully remote as a virtual clinical educator or online nurse faculty. Usually they are part of a leadership team working with managers, administrators, risk management or quality assurance to meet specific staff or patient goals. This mix of independence and influence is often very attractive to nurses who want more flexibility and the ability to impact their facility or community.

If you are looking for an opportunity to put your skills to work and help train the next generation of nurses, then a nurse educator role may be right for you.

Learn more about USM's online Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Education program.



Sources:

NP Schools: What is a Nurse Educator?

HCA Healthcare: The Center for Clinical Advancement

AACN: Fact Sheet: Nursing Shortage

Benefits.gov: Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program

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