Nursing professionals have plenty of ways to excel within their profession and make an impact on the lives of patients beyond engaging in traditional bedside nursing care every day. One of the best ways is as a nurse educator. In this role, qualified nurses apply their knowledge, skills, and experience to teach others, developing a new generation of nurses who have the skills and understanding required to provide high-quality patient care.
For any nurse who wants to look beyond traditional nursing responsibilities, it may be worth exploring how to become a nurse educator. One of the most critical steps is formal training, specifically through an advanced online nursing degree program.
What Is a Nurse Educator?
A nurse educator is someone with experience as a registered nurse (RN) who uses their skills and experience to provide training and professional development for others within the profession, including nursing students.
While the nurse educator’s job is primarily to deliver clinical instruction, many nurse educators devote some of their time to seeing patients, allowing them to keep their clinical skills sharp and to stay abreast of new procedures and technologies.
Nurse Educator Roles
Most nurse educators serve either as faculty members at nursing schools or as clinical nursing instructors for hospitals. Some of the most common nurse educator roles include:
- Professor of nursing. A professor of nursing typically teaches nursing classes at the collegiate or university level.
- Clinical nurse educator. Clinical nurse educators provide hands-on training in hospitals or other care facilities.
- Nursing education consultant. Consultants often work to develop educational methods or objectives for a nurse training program. Their work may include curriculum design.
Steps for How to Become a Nurse Educator
In order to become a nurse educator, an individual needs to have both the right academic credentials and the appropriate clinical experience.
The path to becoming a nurse educator typically begins with earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, though an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) may suffice in some cases for lower-paying positions. Earning either degree makes an individual eligible to sit for a licensure exam, and to earn RN status.
While qualifying for a nurse educator role with just this basic level of training is possible, the most prestigious (and high-salaried) positions are typically reserved for nurses who earn a more advanced degree, usually either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
The DNP degree curriculum, in particular, thoroughly prepares nurses 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 care delivery over time.
To succeed as a nurse educator, a nurse must have some clinical nursing experience. It’s vital for educators to have hands-on experience to hone their technical skills, understand real-world nursing situations and patient concerns, and impart knowledge to their students effectively. A minimum of two years’ experience is generally needed, though many nurse educator roles will require additional experience.
Qualities of a Good Nurse Educator
For those researching how to become a nurse educator, it’s clear that the process revolves around developing the required skills and knowledge through both clinical experience and formal training, particularly in a postgraduate degree program such as an MSN or a DNP program. Some of the most essential qualities of a great nurse educator include:
- Familiarity with modern theories of adult education. Teaching adults is different from teaching children. The way people process and retain information varies based on an array of factors, such as their age, intelligence, and interest.
- Curriculum implementation. Nurse educators benefit from understanding how to design, implement, monitor, and manage curricula using contemporary educational models.
- Clinical experience. Having up-to-date knowledge of current nursing theories and practices is essential to nurse educators’ jobs. They must maintain competence in nursing practice to ensure that they are imparting the most accurate information to their students.
- Communication and collaboration. By drawing on their communication skills, nurse educators promote collaboration among their students, resulting in a better exchange of knowledge. A firm understanding of interpersonal communication also facilitates the sharing of ideas with peers or other stakeholders, making it easier to develop best practices in nursing education.
- Ethical principles. In addition to conveying the nursing profession’s core values about protecting and improving lives, nurse educators are partly responsible for promoting social justice and the protection of human rights to their students. They also need to help their students understand the ethical and legal principles behind industry regulations and their employers’ internal policies and procedures.
Discover How to Become a Nurse Educator
Those who seek either an MSN or a DNP degree are on a career path that may lead away from clinical nursing practice and toward a support position, such as a role in nursing education. Succeeding in these non-clinical occupations requires a unique perspective on nursing that can only be gained through time and experience. If you’re interested in opening a new path in your nursing career, consider enrolling in the MSN to DNP online program offered by Regis College.