If a career that blends teaching and nursing sounds appealing, you might consider becoming a nurse educator. A nurse educator is a specialist qualified to educate future nurses and guide them on a path of professionalism, compassion and qualitative patient care. They are Registered Nurses who have advanced degrees, typically a Master’s or a Doctoral degree in Nursing and they use their clinical experience to train learners and instruct them on the latest developments in the nursing field. As you probably realize, becoming a nursing educator is no easy feat. It takes a great deal of dedication, it takes time and effort, but taking that leap of faith and switching from a career in patient care to a career in education is just as meaningful. If you’ve ever thought about becoming a nurse educator, keep on reading to find out everything you wanted to know about planning this career change.
In this piece, we’ll explore what makes the nursing educator such a significant, as well as desirable profession, what it takes to become a teacher of nursing, and what this job actually implies, from exploring working environments to highlighting the main responsibilities of a nurse educator.
What Are the Steps to Becoming a Nurse Educator?
Right off the bat, it is clear that becoming a nurse educator requires passion and commitment. Aspiring nurses who wish to enter the educational field have to undergo a lengthier, more time consuming and more expensive academic path, but the result – significantly higher compensation, a less stressful working environment, career options that don’t involve direct patient care – make it all worth it.
Here is a list of the steps you need to take in order to become a nurse educator:
- Get your high school diploma or your GED diploma. Unsurprisingly, but knowledge in elementary subjects such as Math, English, Science are mandatory before starting a BSN
- Apply to an accredited BSN program. Earning a BSN is the first step towards getting into this profession. Make sure the college you choose to attend is accredited, if you want to avoid unnecessary challenges during job interviews. Aside from simply applying to a program you must actually complete its requirements, which will lead you to the next step
- Apply for RN licensure and take the NCLEX-RN® exam.
- Get some years of hands-on clinical experience. Admittedly, nurse educators focus on teaching, however, having at least 3 years of prior hands-on experience in clinical settings is expected.
- Apply for and complete an MSN Degree. Aspiring nurse educators must have a Master’s of Science in Nursing under their belt in order to actually get the job.
- Consider getting a Doctoral degree. Although having an MSN will allow you to work in most educational environments, if you want to pursue work in more advanced academic settings, like higher university levels, you might encounter the need of actually having a doctoral degree in nursing, such as a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) or a PdD (Doctor of Nursing Philosophy).
You can find MSN programs that prepare educators in both online and classroom settings. As an aspiring nurse educator, these programs will help you gain competencies in community nursing and global health trends, health promotion, disease prevention, leadership, policy, ethics, informatics, statistics, pharmacology, and other key nursing educator concepts. MSN programs typically take into account the busy lives of nursing professionals, making career advancement more attainable for the RNs.
At Nightingale College, you can choose the Master of Science in Nursing for Educators (MSN Ed) Program, designed for BSN-prepared nurses who have a profound passion for teaching. This educational path is recommended for the busy professionals and nurses who have to tackle numerous responsibilities, be it job or family-related. This online MSN Program uses full-distance delivery of instruction, where learners engage in online didactic and Capstone experiences in diverse fields. You can find out more about the MSN Ed Program here.
This is your chance to have a real impact on the next wave of associate and bachelor degree nurses. Moreover, this career track will allow you to work in various settings like hospitals, community agencies, schools, industry, and businesses, depending on your preferred environment.
What Can You Do as a Nurse Educator?
A nurse educator’s main goal is educating the future generations of nurses. Generally, as a nurse educator you can choose whether to teach general nursing classes or specialize in specific areas of nursing, such as pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing or informatics. Regardless, nurse educators must have a thorough knowledge of all nursing fields and a drive for life-long learning, as nursing is in constant evolution.
In addition, you can also choose to specialize in specific student levels: students who pursue their ADN, BSN, or MSN degree. Granted, for training more advanced students, such as learners pursuing a Master’s Degree, you will most likely have to get a Doctoral Degree, such as a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) or PdD (Doctor of Nursing Philosophy).
Where Can You Work as a Nurse Educator?
As a nurse educator your main focus will be teaching. Usually, you will be able to work in academic environments, but you can also find plenty of career opportunities in other spaces that won’t necessarily bind you to a classroom.
If, when you become a nurse educator, you want to follow a more traditional employment path you might find a job in:
- Community colleges
- Technical and vocational schools
If you are not set on leaving the healthcare ecosystem, you might make a living out of working in:
- Teaching hospitals
- Clinical settings
One thing is for sure: working in either of these environments as a nurse educator will likely be less stressful than your current role as a hospital, BSN prepared nurse. You will gain more flexibility without sacrificing the meaningfulness of the career. Being a nurse educator you will discover that nursing careers can be as fulfilling even if you don’t work with patients on a day to day basis.
What Are Your Main Responsibilities as a Nurse Educator?
Probably by now you already imagined what your day as a nurse educator could look like. From holding lectures to helping a nervous student insert a catheter for the first time, it will all involve a set of responsibilities – some that you might already have as a BSN prepared nurse, and some, completely new.
While the core of your job as a nurse educator is guaranteeing students receive quality healthcare education in the nursing discipline, in order to do so, your tasks will range from developing curricula to advising, evaluating and teaching students, either through lectures or via lab and clinical work.
Let’s dive into what some of the most important nurse educator responsibilities are:
Responsibilities of Nurse Educators Working In Academic Settings:
- Create educational programs for students
Not too different from teachers in other fields, they must develop, evaluate and revise educational programs and classes, hence, always staying at the top of the game and being informed regarding the latest developments, trends, methods, and technologies that are available in the nursing field is of particular importance.
- Teach and advise students
After having built and improved a curriculum, comes the real hands-on part of the job. As a nurse educator you must share the knowledge you’ve gained through your academic training and through your actual experience as an RN with your students. You will also be in charge of assessing their educational outcomes, sparking debates and conversations and tailoring teaching techniques so that your students get the best possible learning experience.
- Guide learners in their clinical practice.
Overseeing the learners’ clinical practice also falls under the responsibility of a nurse educator. In this position you should make sure to provide regular and constructive feedback and recommendations as to help your students improve their skills and become the most qualified nurses they can be.
- Engage in scholarly work
Aside from the classroom part of the job, nurse educators are also encouraged to engage in scholarly work, such as writing peer reviews and doing research which will be presented at nursing conferences
- Take leadership roles in the academic community
This is not mandatory, however, some educator nurses can choose to take on leadership roles as a natural progression in their careers. You have the potential of becoming Dean of Nursing at the institution you’re working at. Although this position comes with additional responsibilities, you will enjoy having more influence in assuring relevant and meaningful education for aspiring nurses.
- Become a mentor
More often than not nurse educators end up becoming their students’ mentors or advisors and, generally, a source of inspiration regarding good practice in the nursing career.
Responsibilities of Nurse Educators Working in Hospital Settings:
While the responsibilities of instructors in academic settings are rather straightforward, nurse educators can also be found in hospital settings, where their role is equally important, because they directly contribute the the strengthening of a skilled and capable workforce
- Continually educate other nurses
Nurse educators help hospital staff develop and maintain their abilities and constantly advance their professional nursing practice. Continuous nursing education is the baseline for nurses to provide quality healthcare, so, as a nurse instructor you will educate fellow nurses to adopt new practices and to gain the competencies that improve patient outcomes by conducting training sessions.
- Perform evaluations and provide guidance
Part of your job will be assessing the competencies of nurses working in an institution, and based on these evaluations, you will provide training and support meant to improve nurses’ abilities and advance patient care.
- Mentor. Motivate. Lead.
In your position as a nurse educator, other nurses will look up to you as mentors, as motivators, as leaders. You will be perceived as an example of good practice and as a role model so you might be involved in making ethical decisions. Overall, this career path sets you out to improve the quality of the staff, which is beneficial to the hospital in the long run.
It’s no secret that nursing educators, regardless of where they work, have a vast array of responsibilities. But in pursuing this career and in doing your job well you will have the greatest satisfaction of all – the knowledge that the nursing workforce is more prepared, more competent, and more confident and that is partly because of you.
So, Why Will You Become a Nurse Educator?
Whatever your “Why?” is for wanting a career in education (everybody has their own motivation), the lucky thing is teaching nursing is an extremely meaningful field to work in. However, making a leap of faith and investing time and money into becoming an MSN prepared nurse educator has some very pragmatic benefits:
- You will be part of fixing a national nursing shortage – both at the nurse and faculty level.
The demand for nursing educators is particularly high due to the serious nursing faculty shortage. The insufficient number of teachers and instructors is one of the reasons that allowed the nationwide nursing shortage to advance to such a degree. According to a report from the American Association of Critical Care nurses, more than 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs were turned away in 2018, due to faculty shortage and not enough clinical sites, classroom space, and budget.
- You will be the breath of fresh air the nursing education system desperately needs.
The education field is also bound to suffer due to the foreseen retirement of over 1 million nurses (according to the HRSA study in 2017). Hence, growing numbers of learners who wish to pursue nursing careers will be unable to do so because of the faculty shortage. According to an article on Retirements and Succession of Nursing Faculty in 2016-2025, one-third of the current nursing faculty workforce is expected to retire by 2025, leaving a huge gap in nursing education supply and demand.
- Nurse educators have more flexibility in their jobs and increased control over their working hours.
Being a nurse educator surely allows for more flexibility compared to other nursing specializations. Since the 12-hour shifts and the stressful life that come with an RN career can take their toll, a career shift would be the solution for the professionals who still want the fulfillment of the nursing career without the stressfulness of working in a bed-side, clinical environment. Nurse educators work in universities, technical schools, or hospital-based nursing programs. Becoming a nurse educator is also one of the top choices for nurses who want a career change.
- You will be pursuing a career that is unquestionably meaningful and fulfilling.
This profession grants you the satisfaction of directly impacting the healthcare system by training future specialists and leading them on a pass of empathy and expertise. You will make your mark by teaching aspiring nurses the technical skills, the refined skills, as well as the depth of knowledge needed to succeed in a nursing career.
Nurse Educator Salaries
Of course, part of wanting to change and upgrade your career nursing path has to do with your compensation and being able to provide more for you and your family. Besides less stress from working with patients, an MSN degree will also put you in a position of earning more.
Because they hold an advanced degree, nurse educators are compensated fairly well. Of course, depending on the chosen specialization, on the location, the employer, the prior experience and a variety of other factors, the salaries may differ.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for nursing instructors and teachers is $81,350. Some of the highest paying states that you could live in and practice this profession in are the District of Columbia, with salaries up to $153,830, Connecticut – $101,760 and California, where the average wage for a nurse educator is $101,320.
On the other side of the spectrum are Arkansas, with a yearly salary of $54,920 and Wisconsin and West Virginia, where nurse educators take home $58,530, less than the national average.
Certainly, nursing education is more of a career rather than a job. If you possess the leadership skills, the charisma, the drive for continuous learning and if you have a passion for teaching and want to share your expertise with other aspiring nurses, this may be the perfect career track for you.