Career Outlook: How to Become a Nurse Educator

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DNP bedside with patient

Becoming a nurse educator is more important now than ever due to an extreme decline in the number of experienced nurses actively working in the field, combined with an increase in the number of people using health care services. When looking into how to become a nurse educator, it is important to understand that prestigious nurse educator jobs favor applicants who have extensive experience and a postgraduate education.

What Is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators mentor student nurses in a professional or academic context. They use their formal knowledge and practical experience to devise teaching strategies to improve the competency of their students. These professionals are typically veterans of the field who have several years of clinical or research experience as well as a number of advanced professional credentials. The best nurse educators understand how to introduce their students to practical theories that will help them better understand the profession, while taking every available opportunity to develop their clinical proficiency.

Core Competencies for Successful Nurse Educators

Although the most relied-upon skills for working nurse educators may fluctuate based on their specific positions, the World Health Organization (WHO) offers a list of some valuable competencies for nurse educators. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree programs offer master’s-educated nurses the opportunity to hone these core competencies:

1.      Theories and Principles of Adult Learning

Teaching adults is different than teaching children. The way people process and retain information varies based on an array of different factors, such as age, intelligence, or interest. Nurse education-focused DNP curriculum explains how to address the needs of adult students in various academic contexts.

2.      Curriculum and Implementation

Nurse educators also benefit from understanding how to design, implement, monitor, and manage curricula using contemporary educational models. Through MSN to DNP programs, nursing professionals learn how to be innovative in their application of teaching methods. Over time, they become capable of integrating evidence-based teaching and learning processes in the classroom, while constantly adapting their methods to suit the different learning styles and unique learning needs of each student.

3.      Nursing Practice

Having up-to-date knowledge of current nursing theories and practices is vital to nurse educators’ jobs. They must maintain competence in nursing practice to ensure that they are sharing the best information possible. Staying current with industry advancements also keeps nurses’ clinical skill sets sharp, allowing them to transition into clinical positions if they choose.

4.      Research and Evidence

Nurse educators must understand how to conduct research themselves to solve educational problems and produce scholarly writing. Using their research skills, they can write evidence-based articles that contribute to nurse education practices and the profession as a whole.

5.      Communication, Collaboration, and Partnership

By drawing on their communication skills, nurse educators promote collaboration among their students, resulting in a better exchange of knowledge and information. A firm understanding of interpersonal communication can also make it easier to share ideas with peers or other stakeholders, making it easier to develop best practices in nursing education.

6.      Ethical/Legal Principles and Professionalism

Nurse educators are partly responsible for promoting social justice and the protection of human rights. They must promote ethical and legal principles in their students to encourage them to abide by industry regulations and their employers’ internal policies and procedures. This competency helps teachers incentivize students to pick up important personal traits like integrity, honesty, and respect.

7.      Monitoring and Evaluation

The best practices for nursing are constantly evolving, so the educational strategies nurse educators use must constantly be assessed and improved. This constant improvement means nurse educators learn how to monitor and assess feedback from students and reflect on their own performance as well. Using these performance insights, nurse educators can facilitate the optimal learning experience for their students.

8.      Management, Leadership, and Advocacy

Earning a DNP will also provide clinically experienced nurses with exposure to a range of non-clinical skills, such as management, leadership, and advocacy. Using management skills, like budgeting or human resource management, nurse educators coordinate the daily operations of nursing programs. Leadership skills allow them to set specific goals for their students and overall nursing programs. Advocacy helps them promote new strategies for improving nursing education and practice.


How to Become a Nurse Educator: Qualifications

There are typically several steps to becoming a well-qualified nurse educator. First, a bachelor’s in nursing will be required, in addition to a registered nursing license. At this point, two years’ professional nursing experience may qualify someone for very basic nurse educator positions, but they won’t be very lucrative. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing is the next step, introducing nurses to the leadership and mentorship skills they need to excel in educational positions. To reach the greatest level of expertise, prospective nurse educators should earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice. This coursework exposes them to all of the essential core competencies featured in the previous section, and starts them down the path of excellence in nurse education.

For anyone wondering how to become a nurse educator, it is important to understand that nurses need more than clinical experience to become competent educators. They will also need a firm grasp of the core professional competencies that are central to developing, implementing, managing, evaluating, and improving nurse education programs. Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice prepares students with the skills they need to channel their expertise into cultivating the next generation of nurses, allowing them to contribute to improving the quality of health services over time.

Learn More

Those who seek both MSN and DNP degrees are on a career path that may lead away from clinical nursing practice and towards supportive positions, such as nurse administration or education. Succeeding in these non-clinical occupations requires a unique perspective of nursing that can only be gained through time and experience. If you’re interested in attending school to open a new path in your nursing career, consider enrolling in the online MSN to DNP program offered by Regis College.

Recommended Reading

An Online MSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner Curriculum at a Glance

Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Curriculum

What Do Nurse Practitioners Gain from a Doctorate-Level Education?


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