Everything You Need to Know About Working as a Nurse Educator

If you are currently working as a registered nurse, you’re probably experiencing the nursing shortage in the US first-hand. The aging population, more nurses retiring out of the profession, and the high demand for nurses to go into advanced positions such as nurse practitioner to fill the gap left by the shortage of primary care physicians that is also happening at the same time are just some of the main reasons behind this worrying shortage.

However, one of the biggest reasons driving the shortage of registered nurses in healthcare today is that there are simply not enough nurse educators available to educate the amount of nursing students needed to close the gap and reduce the shortage. While nursing is still a career path that people want to do and there are tens of thousands of applicants for nursing programs every semester, a lack of nursing education professionals means that lots of these are being turned down from various colleges and nursing schools throughout the country. Statistics show that there are currently around one thousand open positions for nurse educators throughout the US.

If you are looking for a change in your career, there’s no better time than the present to consider getting into a role as a nurse educator. More and more nurses right now are considering how they can change their role while still being able to help others after the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses are burned out, exhausted and traumatized after the events of the past eighteen months and many are considering their next steps to take in order to make sure that the shortage is dealt with and that the events of 2020 are not repeated. If this resonates with you right now, training as a nurse educator and helping to get more people into nursing at a faster rate than they are currently might be one of the best ways that you can help.

Good nurse educators are always needed, since healthcare is such as complex field that demands nurses and other professionals to always use the best practices and ensure that their knowledge is consistently up to date. Right now, nurse educators are enjoying more demand than ever before and you should have no problem finding meaningful work that you can get started with right away once you are qualified.

How to Qualify as a Nurse Educator

How do you get to the role of a nurse educator? Ideally, you will already be a registered nurse with some years of experience that you can share with others. If you are new to nursing, you will usually need to continue in this career for some time to build up your experience before you can train to educate others. While it’s certainly desirable for registered nurses today, not all nurses are qualified with a BSN. If you have an associate degree in nursing or another qualification that permits you to work as a registered nurse, you will typically need to get a BSN before you can train to become a nurse educator. Today you can do this online, with accelerated BSN programs and bridge programs designed to help current nurses earn this degree qualification faster.

What You Need to Be a Nurse Educator

Once you have gained a BSN, nurse educator positions will usually require you to go on to obtain an advanced nursing degree. A master’s of science in nursing is usually the minimum; this is because you will typically be teaching nursing students who are studying for their associate degree in nursing or a BSN. You can further your nursing education even more and work in role teaching advanced nurses including MSN students by going on to take MSN to DNP programs available at Marymount University, which will qualify you with a doctor of nursing practice degree and position you to take on a wide range of highly advanced nursing roles including nurse executive and other leadership roles.

To train and get into a role as a nurse educator, you will usually need to be a registered nurse with an active nursing license, a BSN, and several years of experience working in the nursing profession. You may also find it helpful to seek out further opportunities to gain more teaching, mentoring and education opportunities in your work. For example, you may be able to put yourself forward to volunteer as a mentor to clinical placement nursing students in your workplace.

Obtaining a License to Work as a Nurse Educator

Once you have gained the qualifications that you need to work in this role, you will need to get additional licensing or certificates that are designed to permit you to work as a nurse educator in your chosen state. This may vary depending on your chosen future employer and the field of nursing education that you are hoping to get into. For the most part, nurse educators are required by the majority of nursing schools and other healthcare organizations to hold a Certified Nurse Educator or Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator certificate, which you can get from the National League for Nursing.

Skills You’ll Need as a Nurse Educator

The good news is that many of the skills that have enabled you to work in a successful nursing career and the skills that you have developed so far in your role as a registered nurse are going to be the same ones needed to succeed as a nurse educator. In a new role where you are tasked with teaching nursing students, whether you’re working with individuals who are brand new to the role of nursing or advanced nursing students looking to improve their careers, you’re going to need and use the following skills:

·         Communication:

The communication skills that you have developed as a registered nurse will certainly come in handy for you as a nurse educator. Nurse educators are tasked with teaching a variety of subjects that will often involve complex scientific and medical terms and definitions. Throughout lessons and lectures, you will need to be able to communicate this often-complex information in a way that is clear and easy for your students to understand, especially if you are teaching students who are new to nursing and do not have any prior education or experience in the field. Nurse educators also need to have great active listening skills in order to respond clearly to follow-up questions and general communication from their students. They should also be able to clearly and effectively set performance goals when managing a team and provide clear, easy-to-understand descriptions of daily tasks and goals.

·         Interpersonal Skills:

Working as a nurse educator is not always about standing at the front of a class and teaching a lesson. Nursing education is often very hands-on and will require you to interact with a variety of different groups every day, including but not limited to students, physicians, other healthcare professionals, academic staff, patients and families. As a nurse educator, you will need to have strong interpersonal skills in order to communicate and work effectively with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. You will need to be sensitive to people’s different needs and able to quickly read situations to understand when they are going well or when there is a risk of complications arising.

·         Leadership:

Whether you are working with entry-level nursing students or experienced nurses taking advanced qualifications, strong leadership skills will be essential for your success as a nurse educator. Whether you are teaching in the classroom or during clinical practice, a good nurse educator is somebody who is able to lead by example and inspire students to do their best while offering guidance, support and advice when needed. Nurse educators often take on different leadership roles throughout their career; for example, you may be also working as a hospital executive or department manager, where you will be expected to successfully take on leadership tasks such as making solid administrative decisions or directing teams.

·         Professionalism:

The very nature of healthcare and nursing means that working in this role often involves unexpected developments and challenges. Because of this, nurse educators must be individuals who can set a high standard of professionalism at all times. In this role, you will need to be able to work in both relaxed and high-pressure environments just as well, whether you’re working in the clinic or hospital or in the classroom. No matter the situation, it’s important for nurse educators to set a shining example of professionalism, ethics, and respect to their students at all times.

·         Expertise and Knowledge:

Nurse educators are responsible for teaching and preparing the next generation of nurses, so it’s expected that they have a high standard of knowledge and expertise. To get into this role, students are required to complete a variety of education and training programs including a BSN, passing the NCLEX, and earning an MSN at the very least.

Why Work as a Nurse Educator?

If you enjoy teaching and mentoring others, want to make a difference to your career field and have an impact on healthcare in general, there are many reasons to consider working as a nurse educator. Some of the main reasons why an increasing number of nurses are considering getting into this role right now include:

·         High Demand:

The shortage of nurses in the US means that healthcare professionals need to work harder than ever to fill the gap and make sure that there are enough new nurses entering the industry to solve the issues that are currently being faced. The fact that a nurse educator shortage is one of the main reasons behind the shortage of registered nurses means that the demand for these professionals is shooting up. There has never been a better time than the present to get into a career as a nurse educator with more educational opportunities, career roles, incentives and competitive salaries available than ever before along with higher job security and advancement opportunities.

·         Take Things Slower:

While nurse educators certainly don’t have the most relaxed job and there will be a lot of work in patient-facing settings to complete, many nurse educators do decide to get into this role as they are feeling the pressure of keeping up with the physical and mental demands of working as a registered nurse and want a role where they can focus on something different. There are many reasons why you might be interested in a nursing role that has less pressure and often allows you to take things at a slower pace, whether you are struggling with the physical demands of working on the front line of healthcare or want a role where you will be able to take on more sociable hours and spend more time with your family.

·         Make a Difference:

As a nurse educator, you will be a part of the driving force behind getting more new nurses prepared for this profession. Whether you have found yourself frustrated as a registered nurse at the lack of education that some new nurses actually have when they join the profession, or want to be in a position where you can improve things in the education system for nurses, working as a nurse educator is a role where you can make a direct impact and a big difference to the nursing students that you will teach, helping to improve the next generation of nurses.

·         Improve Patient Care and Reduce the Shortage:

Everybody in the healthcare industry is feeling the effects of the nursing shortage, from the nurses themselves to other healthcare professionals and the patients that are in need of care. As a nurse educator, you can do your part to provide more educational opportunities to the next generation of nurses and work towards reducing this shortage, ultimately improving working conditions for healthcare professionals across the board and making a positive difference to the standards of patient care that can be delivered as a result.

If you’re currently a registered nurse and are looking for a change in your career path, a role as a nurse educator involves high demand, interesting work, and the chance to make a big difference.

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