Nurse educators play a crucial role in shaping the healthcare industry by preparing students to become the nurses of the future. It’s a challenging yet rewarding position that can have a direct impact on how providers deliver quality care. It’s also a role that demands cultivated knowledge and extensive experience, both of which come from a combination of an advanced nursing degree program and clinical practice.
For those interested in how to become a nurse educator, it’s important to understand the education, licensing, and experience requirements to pursue this profession.
The Role of a Nurse Educator
Nurse educators use their healthcare acumen to prepare nursing students for the profession. They’re teachers in the healthcare field, but they’re also registered nurses who can continue to administer care.
Several key duties directly relate to a nurse educator’s teaching responsibilities. Nurse educators instruct nursing students in a classroom setting, giving lectures and facilitating group discussions. They also build lesson plans and curricula and evaluate student performance.
Nurse educators can serve as faculty members at a nursing school or in a teaching hospital. They provide students with hands-on training and experience in a controlled clinical setting via real-world clinical scenarios. In these scenarios, they oversee students’ clinical practice, evaluate students’ performance, and provide guidance on resolving issues.
Because the world of healthcare is in constant flux, it’s important for nurse educators to stay up to date on the profession’s evolving laws, technologies, and methodologies. Therefore, it’s common for nurse educators to regularly attend conferences and read journals and papers to remain informed. Some nurse educators may also conduct research and analysis to enhance their understanding of specific concepts and methodologies. They may also write grant proposals to obtain funding for additional nurse training. Because nurse educators are also nurses, they may continue to practice in a nursing role.
Steps to Become a Nurse Educator
Becoming a successful nurse educator requires a unique combination of teaching and nursing skills. For instance, nurse educators need a deep understanding of the various educational theories and principles that support an effective curriculum. They must also know how to design a curriculum that nurtures a nursing student’s growth. Additionally, their leadership must encourage and motivate students to achieve certain goals. At the same time, they must be aware of innovations and policy changes that affect the healthcare system.
Each of the following steps prepares individuals to lead others within educational settings:
The first step toward becoming a nurse educator is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate students develop the foundational skill set needed in the nursing profession. For example, registered nurses can enroll in the online RN to BSN program from Maryville University to attain this degree.
Aspiring nurse educators often then pursue postgraduate nursing degrees. Obtaining a master’s degree in nursing is common, as it meets most minimum education requirements for the position. Professionals who wish to work at a university may want to pursue a doctorate, as most universities require their educators to hold a terminal degree.
License, Certification, and Registration Requirements
Because nurse educators are often still practicing nurses, they must be licensed by the states where they work. License requirements vary from state to state, but there are two consistent ones: Nurses must have a degree from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing provides state-specific details.
Certification isn’t required to become a nurse educator, but some employers hire only certified candidates. Certification provides prospective employers with further proof of one’s nursing knowledge and skills. Nursing professionals can attain general certification through an organization such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or they can attain certification in a specialized area of healthcare. For instance, nursing professionals can earn a pediatrics certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and those interested in ambulatory care can become certified through the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing.
Gaining professional experience is a critical aspect of becoming a nurse educator. The proficiency nurses gain in the field can often extrapolate into the examples and lessons that educators use in either an academic or a clinical setting. Typically, nurse educators must cultivate several years of clinical experience before they’re considered for a position.
Skills Needed to Become a Nurse Educator
Becoming a successful nurse educator requires a unique skill set. Strong leadership skills are crucial to inspire and encourage students to learn. Oral and written communication skills are also essential. Clearly explaining healthcare concepts and establishing concrete expectations in classroom and clinical settings are key to providing effective instruction. Clear channels of communication also help nurse educators mentor their students.
Nurse educators must possess other soft skills that support their instructional effectiveness, such as strong time management, teamwork, and interpersonal skills. Because they’re nurses, they should also have certain characteristics that are valuable in the nurse-patient dynamic, such as empathy.
Nurse Educator Salary and Job Outlook
Pursuing a role as a nurse educator means striving toward a career that can help students prepare to explore various career paths for nurses. It also means working toward a well-paying job in a field primed for robust growth.
Nurse Educator Salaries
The median salary for nurse educators was about $79,000 as of June 2022, according to PayScale. A few factors can contribute to an educator’s pay, including level of experience and location. For example, seasoned nurse educators working in a city with a high cost of living may earn more than a new nurse educator working in a small town.
Employment Outlook for Nurse Educators
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 12% increase in the employment of postsecondary teachers, a category that includes nurse educators, between 2020 and 2030. In contrast, the BLS forecasts only an 8% average increase among all positions.
Exploring Nursing Career Options
Nurse educators combine the worlds of healthcare and academics to ensure high-quality care continues for future generations. The position’s unique goal of cultivating healthcare’s future nurses makes it one of the most exciting positions in the medical industry.
The online RN to BSN program from Maryville University can help you establish the building blocks that lead to a rewarding healthcare career. The curriculum is designed to help you cultivate the foundation for a career in healthcare education. Learn how Maryville can help guide your professional journey.
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The Top 8 Nonclinical Skills Needed to Be an Excellent Nurse
American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing, Certification
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, Certification Benefits Patients, Employers and Nurses
American Nurses Credentialing Center, General Nursing Practice Certification
Indeed, What Does a Nurse Educator Do? (Plus Skills and FAQs)
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX & Other Exams
Payscale, Average Nurse Educator Salary
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, Certifications