Nurse Educator – A Day in the Life
In 2020, more than 251,000 students were enrolled in bachelor’s level nursing programs in the US, according to a survey completed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). This enrollment was up 5.6 percent over the previous year. Master’s level nursing programs also saw a strong 4.1 percent increase, but the real standout was doctor of nursing practice programs with an impressive 8.9 percent increase.
However, over 80,000 nursing school applicants were turned away in 2020. While some of these rejections had to do with student qualifications, overwhelmingly, programs had to deny admission due to a lack of staff, facilities, and internship sites. Currently, there are 11 new RN baccalaureate programs in the works, and they will all need outstanding nurse educators on their staff.
Nurse educators are responsible for helping to train the next generation of nurses. They work in all nursing programs, from associate degrees to doctorates. The two primary places nurse educators work are in educational programs providing instruction and in clinical settings supervising nursing student clinical internships.
Demand for nurse educators is high, with an estimated 1,637 faculty vacancies in 892 nursing schools across the country, according to the AACN survey. This can be a lucrative career, with nurse educators earning $78,474 per year, based on data aggregated by Payscale.com (June 2022).
Continue reading to learn more about this exciting profession that trains aspiring nurses to be outstanding healthcare providers.
Work Environment of Nurse Educators
Nurse educators work anywhere nurses are being trained or educated. Most nurse educators can find themselves working in a formal educational setting such as a nurse education program. These programs are offered at technical schools, community colleges, universities, and nursing schools. The level of degree offered can range from an associate degree to a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. Nurse educators can teach lecture courses, labs, or clinical skills.
Aside from working in a formal educational setting, nurse educators can be employed by hospitals, clinics, and healthcare centers to supervise nursing students who are completing their clinical experiences. This nurse educator role is much more hands-on and often includes supervisory duties. In a clinical setting, nurse educators may have the title of clinical supervisor, and they will work directly with students who are learning to apply their nursing education.
One other place nurse educators may work is on the administrative side of a healthcare agency, clinic, or hospital, providing education support for staff working for that facility. Typically they are called staff development officers, and they can be responsible for ensuring appropriate continuing education programs are provided for nursing staff. They may also be a resource for nurses who are looking to complete specialized continuing education to move into a different specialty of discipline,
Clinical Team of Nurse Educators
While nurse educators are responsible for the direct education of nursing students or staff, they do not work alone. They are often members of robust educational teams, including administrative support staff, career counselors, admissions team, and executive leadership. In addition, they work with peer nurse educators who may teach different subjects or labs than they do. As part of these larger teams, nurse educators must ensure they can work seamlessly across departments and roles to help nursing students succeed.
In clinical settings, nurse educators are part of a larger team that provides direct care to patients. While they are responsible for nursing students’ hands-on education, they are also responsible for ensuring that the patients receive quality care. In this role, nurse educators can expect to report to a management team, whether a nurse manager or nursing education staff.
Depending on a given nurse educator’s level of expertise and education, they may also report to a board of directors or their school board. Nurse educators may also be directly involved with curriculum and accreditation teams, helping to craft new courses and ensuring current programming meets accreditation standards.
Daily Responsibilities of Nurse Educators
Nurse educators are responsible for educating the next generation of nurses. They work primarily in nursing education programs but may also be found providing clinical supervision at nursing student internship sites. Day-to-day responsibilities for nursing educators will vary based on their workplace and the time of year. Since this is primarily an academic job, workload and tasks will fluctuate with the terms. In general, job duties for nurse educators can include:
- Evaluating current curriculum and syllabi to ensure they meet educational goals
- Developing new classes
- Teaching nursing lecture courses in person or virtually
- Advising students one-on-one on coursework
- Grading papers or classwork
- Supervising lab classes
- Overseeing clinical practices
- Recording student grades and clinical skills improvements
- Maintaining nursing credentials through continuing education
- Providing written reports of student progress and outcomes to management
- Participating in scholarly research
On the whole, nurse educators are skilled at multiple jobs and must switch between tasks regularly, be it daily or with the seasonal changes of the school year.
Required Skills & Knowledge of Nurse Educators
Skilled nurse educators have a wide depth of skills and knowledge. First, they must be excellent nurses with a strong grasp of the profession, healthcare systems, and patient care. They must be adept at thinking on their feet, problem-solving, and staying calm in crisis situations. Compassion, empathy, and a good bedside manner are also critical.
In addition to being nurses, nurse educators have to have a knack for teaching. Not everyone can be a skilled teacher, so the very best nurse educators will be able to inspire, engage, and train the next generation of nurses.
To succeed at this, nurse educators must be able to develop coursework, manage a classroom, and collaborate with colleagues. It is also essential that nurse educators be able to develop deep and meaningful connections with their students to inspire them in their careers.
At a minimum, nurse educators must have completed a general nursing program and some kind of nurse educator training. The most common degree earned is a master’s of science in nurse education. Many MSN in nurse education degrees can be completed online, allowing nurses to embark on this career path while working full time.
Certification & Licensure for Nurse Educators
All nurse educators must be licensed registered nurses in the state where they practice and provide education. The requirements to become a registered nurse varies by state but typically include:
- Passing the National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) test
- Complete an approved and accredited nursing program and submit original transcripts
- Submit an online application
- Pass a background check and drug screening
- Be of good moral character
Certification as a nurse educator is a voluntary step that can help demonstrate a high level of competency in this field. Some employers may even require nurse educators to obtain and maintain certification as a condition for employment. The most common certifications nurse educators earn are either the Certification for Nurse Educators (CNE) or the Academic Clinical Nurse Educator Certification (CNE®cl) from the National League of Nursing (NLN).
To be eligible to sit for the CNE exam candidate must have an unencumbered registered nursing license and one of the following requirements:
- A master’s degree or higher in nursing education
- A master’s degree or higher in any area of nursing plus a post-master’s certificate in nursing education
- A master’s degree or higher in nursing along with an additional nine or more credits of graduate-level education courses
- A master’s degree or higher in nursing in any field and two years of experience in nursing education in the last five years
The CNE®cl requires that applicants also have an unencumbered registered nursing license and one of the following:
- A graduate degree with a focus in nursing education and three years of professional practice in any area of nursing
- A bachelor’s of science in nursing or higher, three years of professional practice in any area of nursing, and two years of teaching experience in an academic setting within the last five years