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Everything You Wanted to Know About Becoming a Nurse Educator

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If you’re currently working as a registered nurse, then chances are that the nursing shortage in the US is something that you are experiencing first-hand. Older patients as a result of an aging population, more nurses retiring, and a higher demand for advanced practice registered nurses such as family nurse practitioners that has come about as the result of another shortage of primary care physicians means that the nursing shortage we are experiencing right now is one of the most worrying so far. However, one of the biggest reasons why it’s getting harder to fill the gaps that have been left and get more nurses into this profession is that there’s simply not enough nurse educators available. At colleges and nursing schools up and down the country, prospective students must be turned away every year simply because the current number of nursing education professionals would not be able to handle them all. According to the statistics, there are around one thousand open positions in the US for nurse educators.

If you want to move away from the bedside and are looking for change and growth in your nursing career, it has never been a better time to think about getting into a nurse educator role. The demand is high, and an increasing number of nurses are looking for ways to change their role to something with a slower pace after the demanding and often traumatic COVID-19 pandemic. If, like many nurses, the events of the last two years have left you feeling exhausted and burned out, but you don’t want to stop helping others and working in the nursing profession, becoming a nurse educator might be the change that you need. From this role, you can make a huge difference to the next generation of nurses and play a hugely instrumental part in reducing the nursing shortage in the US.

Good nurse educators are always going to be in demand, as despite the shortage, nursing is still a popular choice for students. In addition, it is a very complex field that demands current nurses and other health professionals to stay up to date with best practices and the latest information, so nurse educators aren’t just needed to teach new students, but also current health professionals. If this role is appealing to you, then keep reading to find out more about what it involves and how to get into it.

Qualifying as a Nurse Educator

To become a nurse educator, you will first need to be qualified and experienced as a registered nurse. If you are not yet a registered nurse, then you will need to gain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and work in the field for a certain number of years before you will be accepted by the majority of training programs. It is important for nurse educators to have lived the experience of working in a nursing role in order for them to best support their students, since as you may well know, this is a very hands-on career and there are lots of things as a nurse that you’ll only learn once you start working directly with patients. If you are already a registered nurse but have an ADN rather than a BSN degree, you will usually be required to get your BSN before you can move into further education options like the MSN, which is typically the minimum required to get the appropriate license and start working as a nurse educator.

Which Degree Do You Need?

Once you have a BSN and some experience of working as a registered nurse, you will need to get an advanced nursing degree such as an MSN to become a nurse educator. This will usually take around two years to complete full-time. Getting a degree full-time while working as a registered nurse is not always easy, but the good news is that online degree programs are more widely available than ever before, with plenty of options that require you to be a registered nurse to enroll and are designed with your busy schedule in mind. With an MSN, you will be qualified to teach nursing students who are getting an associate degree or MSN. If you want to go further and teach advanced nursing students getting an MSN or nurse practitioner training degree program, you may be required to take your own qualifications to the next level, which usually involves getting a DNP or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. However, an MSN is the best way to get into this role. Choose an MSN program designed for working registered nurses that you can take online and fit around your career.

Nurse Educator Licensing

Once you’ve graduated with an MSN and have the required qualification to start working as a nurse educator, you will then need to get additional certificates or licensing to permit you to work in this role in your state. The type of license that you will need might vary depending on the state where you are planning to work and the college, university, or hospital that you want to work at. In most cases, you will either need to get a Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator certificate or a Certified Nurse Educator certificate to work at the majority of nursing schools and other healthcare organizations as a nurse educator. Both of these licenses are available through the National League for Nursing.

What Skills Are Essential?

Just like any other nursing role, there’s a skill-set that you will need to help you be a successful nurse educator and make an impact on your students and their future patients. The good news is that most of the skills you need may be ones that you have already developed throughout your nursing role so far. Nurse education is often very different to working as a registered nurse, and you will need to be prepared to adjust your skills from working directly with patients to teaching the healthcare professionals of the future. Some of the most essential skills that you are going to need for a successful role as a nurse educator are:

Interpersonal Skills

While you’ll need to give lectures and lead classes, working as a nurse educator isn’t always about standing at the front of a class and talking at students. As you will already know as a registered nurse, nursing school is a very hands-on process, and being a nurse educator requires you to interact closely with different people on a daily basis. Not only will you be working closely with a variety of students from different backgrounds, but you’ll also need to interact with academic staff, healthcare professionals, and even patients and their families in this role. Good interpersonal skills are essential in this role to allow you to communicate and work together effectively with lots of different people. The best nurse educators are adaptable, sensitive to the needs of others, and have a strong ability to read different situations.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are necessary no matter what type of nursing role you decide to work in, and nurse education is no different. The communication skills that you have been able to develop and build on so far as a registered nurse are definitely going to be useful for you when you get into an educator role. Nurse educators teach a range of different relevant subjects to students, and this often involves explaining complex medical and scientific definitions and terms to people who are new to the role. Lessons, lectures, seminars, and one-to-one meetings with students are a chance for you to communicate often very complex information and put it into terms that are easy for students to take in and understand. Along with being able to simplify information and teach it with their communication skills, it’s also important for nurse educators to be excellent listeners. Good listening skills allow you to stay in tune with your students and get a better understanding of what they need from you.

Leadership Skills

Whether you go on to be an educator who teaches new nursing students getting their ADN or BSN and going into nursing for the first time or decide that you want to teach advanced-level nurses who have experience and want to improve their career, you are going to need strong leadership skills. Being a good leader is essential for success in the role of a nurse educator. In this role, you will need to be able to lead by example and inspire your students to improve their performance and get the best results while offering support, advice, and guidance when necessary.

Knowledge and Expertise

Nurse educators take on a hugely important role of preparing and teaching the next nursing generation. Because of this, it’s a nursing role where a high standard of expertise and knowledge is not only important, but also expected. Nurse educators are often the professionals that are going to be turned to for advice by not only nursing students but registered nurses and other healthcare professionals, as they are trusted to be professionals with a high standard and level of knowledge. Because of this, it’s important to be skilled at learning new things and keeping up with the profession so that you can pass your knowledge on.

Professionalism

The nature of the nursing and healthcare role means that working as a nurse may involve unexpected changes and developments to deal with. Nurse educators need to be able to set this standard for their students when it comes to professionalism and prepare them to get into the real life role they are studying for. Nurse educators work with their students in different environments to prepare them for their future career including hospitals, clinics, and classrooms, where they should always set the best professional example.

Reasons to Get into a Nursing Education Role

If you enjoy mentoring and teaching others, want to make a positive difference to others and those in your career field, and like the idea of a role where you can have an even bigger impact on the future of healthcare compared to working as a registered nurse, becoming a nurse educator might be the ideal role for you. Some of the main reasons to consider working in this role include:

High Demand

Right now, the shortage of nurse educators is contributing directly to the shortage of nurses, which has caused the demand for these professionals to grow. Healthcare professionals and educators need to make sure that there are enough new nurses entering the profession to solve the issues that are currently arising due to the shortage. With more educational opportunities, incentives, career roles and great, competitive salaries, now is a great time to get into a nurse educator role.

Make a Difference

When working as a nurse educator, you will be a force for good behind the ongoing need to get more nurses prepared for working in this career. Whether you have been frustrated as a registered nurse that the lack of educators has led to you not getting the help and support that you need on the job or you are concerned about the level of education that new nurses have when they enter this profession, working as a nurse educator gives you a better chance to make a difference to the things that matter to you the most.

Slower Pace

While working as a nurse educator isn’t always sitting in an office, as there is still quite a lot of work to be done in patient-facing settings, many nurse educators decide on this role as it allows them to continue being nurses without as much stress. If you are under a lot of pressure when it comes to keeping up with all the demands of working as a registered nurse and want to get away from the bedside and into something different, working as a nurse educator does allow you to take things a little bit slower, work more sociable hours and have fewer patient demands.

If you are currently working as a registered nurse and want a change of pace at work while still remaining in nursing, there has never been a better time to take advantage of the growing need for good nurse educators.