How the Nurse Educator Shortage Is Impacting the Field

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A nurse educator lectures at a whiteboard in front of a group of nurses.Top-notch nursing education supports high-quality care delivery and improved patient outcomes. However, in October 2022, U.S. nursing schools reported 2,166 full-time faculty vacancies, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). This nurse educator shortage has real and far-reaching implications for the nursing profession and patient care.

Nurses who are inspired to fill the nation’s in-demand educator roles can get the preparation they need by earning an advanced degree, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Responsibilities of a Nurse Educator

Nurse educators promote nurses’ success in today’s ever-evolving health care environment, delivering instruction and guidance. As experts in the nursing profession, nurse educators develop and deliver quality curricula as well as mentor nursing students in educational and clinical settings.

In the classroom, nurse educators teach students everything from ethics and legal principles to how to detect and treat diseases. Additionally, nurse educators teach students how to practically apply what they’ve learned and critically evaluate evidence.

Nurse educators also impart clinical skills and provide hands-on training. For example, nurse educators may lead simulations in which students can apply their new skills in safe environments that simulate realistic nursing scenarios. This could involve a nursing student placing an intravenous catheter into the vessel of a mannequin arm or practicing suturing on a leather cushion.

Throughout the teaching process, nurse educators observe and assess their students’ knowledge and skills. For example, nurse educators may evaluate the quality of students:

  • Health assessment methods
  • Interactions with patients
  • Applications of patient-centered care
  • Clinical decision-making
  • Documentation of patient data (patient history, diagnosis, care summary, etc.)

Nurse educators give students meaningful feedback as well. This helps students grow and deepens their clinical reasoning skills, which are fundamental to delivering quality patient care.

Other responsibilities of a nurse educator include:

  • Creating lesson plans
  • Demonstrating techniques and best practices
  • Grading assignments and exams
  • Overseeing clinical components of nursing education and training
  • Maintaining relationships with clinical partners where students gain practical experience

Nursing instruction often takes place online. Nurses engaged in remote teaching can find a host of nurse educator resources on the internet, including online materials for instruction, simulations, and testing.

Nurse Educator Education and Requirements

Nurse educators need to understand how adults learn. This allows them to create learning environments that bring out the best in students. Nurse educators also must carry out valid research that answers questions relevant to the field. In this way, they foster a culture of inquiry in the profession.

To pave the way for future nurse leaders, nurse educators need expertise in both clinical practice and pedagogy, and typically hold postgraduate degrees. Additional career requirements for nurse educators include staying up to date on new clinical practices. In its regulatory guidelines for nursing programs, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing recommends that nurse educators should have engaged in direct patient care within the last five years. This helps ensure they’re knowledgeable about current nursing practice.

Effects of the Nurse Educator Shortage

Clearly, nurse educators are crucial to preparing the next generation of nurses. The current shortage of nurse educators has affected both nurses and patients, driving demand for this important role.

The Nursing Shortage and Nurse Educators

The nursing profession is experiencing an overall shortfall. As the nation’s population ages, the demand for health care services is increasing. And with 1 million out of approximately 3 million registered nurses being older than 50, about a third of the current workforce is expected to retire within 15 years.

The profession is dedicated to recruiting new talent. However, the influx of prospective nursing students is currently outpacing the number of nurse educators needed to teach them. The AACN reports that U.S. nursing schools limited their enrollments in the 2021-2022 school year, turning away nearly 92,000 qualified applicants, in order to maintain favorable student-to-teacher ratios.

Training new nurse educators to guide, instruct, and inspire the next generation of nurses is vital to society’s health and well-being.

Education Quality and Patient Care

The shortage of nurse educators directly impacts the delivery of quality nursing care. A 2021 Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (OJIN) article noted that high-quality nursing education is critical to keeping up with the rapidly changing health care landscape.

What is high-quality nursing education? Research has shown that nurse educators who inspire their students through positive relationships and engagement help develop motivated, high-achieving graduates. Recent research published in Learning and Instruction suggests these positive relationships may also result in better teaching.

In addition, keeping up with cutting-edge learning technology in nursing education is crucial. According to OJIN, nurse educators can leverage new tech, including active learning platforms and brain-based learning, to enhance their instruction.

“These rich, immersive technologies will continue to evolve as powerful and essential tools in clinical education,” OJIN notes. “This shift requires a holistic view of education and pedagogies that empower both students and faculty as lifelong learners.”

Addressing the nurse educator shortage and improving the quality of nursing instruction can boost nursing students’ learning outcomes and ultimately improve patient care.

Nurse Educator Salary

Nurse educators had a median annual salary of $77,440 in May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Top earners made more than $125,930 a year.

While these figures provide a baseline, a nurse educator’s salary is influenced by several factors, including their level of experience and location. For example, BLS data indicates that nurse educators can find some of the highest-paying positions in California, including in Visalia-Porterville (southeast of Fresno), Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Other top-paying metropolitan areas include Charlottesville (Virginia), Boston, and Salt Lake City.

While colleges, universities, and specialty schools hire the majority of nurse educators, they can often command high salaries in local government and specialty hospitals, according to the BLS.

Prepare the Next Generation of Nursing Professionals

The future of nursing depends on dedicated and skilled nurse educators. The nation’s current shortage of nurse educators poses challenges to the nursing profession and the delivery of quality patient care. Addressing this shortage benefits both aspiring nurses and the patients in their care.

Are you ready to respond to the clarion call to become a steward of nursing education? Learn more by exploring Regis College’s MSN to DNP online program and discover how it can help you achieve your professional goals.

Recommended Readings

The Best Nursing Podcasts

Self-Care for Nurses: 6 Tips and Strategies

Why Get a BSN to DNP Online?


Acta Informatica Medica, “Simulation in Clinical Nursing Education”

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Faculty Shortage

Cleveland Clinic, “The Importance of Nursing Education”

Excel Medical, “The Impact of the Nursing Shortage on Patient Care”

Indeed, “How to Become a Nurse Educator in 7 Steps (with FAQs)”

Indeed, Nurse Educator Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Indeed, “What Does a Nurse Educator Do? (Plus Skills and FAQs)”

Learning and Instruction, “Positive Teacher-Student Relationships May Lead to Better Teaching”

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, “NCSBN Regulatory Guidelines and Evidence-Based Quality Indicators for Nursing Education Programs”

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “Crisis in Competency: A Defining Moment in Nursing Education”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Registered Nurses