Teaching Strategies for Nurse Educators

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Nursing students in a classroom sitting at a long desk and working together on a project.From 2020 to 2021, the number of registered nurses (RNs) dropped by 100,000. According to Health Affairs, this is the most significant reduction in the nursing workforce in over four decades. This data points to a growing nurse shortage that remains persistent, which has been compounded by a simultaneous shortage of nurse educators.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nursing programs turned away nearly 92,000 qualified baccalaureate and graduate applicants from nursing programs in 2021. The lack of faculty was a primary reason. Organizations such as AACN are pushing for more investment in nursing education, including growing the number of nursing faculty.

As the nursing field works to address these challenges, a transformative change is happening in how nursing education is delivered. Teaching strategies for nurses are evolving to embrace diverse approaches and accommodate different learning styles that can enhance student engagement.

These teaching strategies include competency-based learning, simulation-based training, and virtual learning spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology integration in education is also essential for creating dynamic learning environments that foster critical thinking, clinical skills, and compassionate care.

What Do Nurse Educators Do?

Nurse educators greatly impact the future of nursing and health care through hands-on instruction in clinical settings. They stay up to date on the latest nursing practice standards with resources from organizations like the American Nurses Association (ANA).

An understanding of nursing practice standards prepares nurses to deliver high-quality care. Nurse educators are responsible for teaching nursing standards. They also advise nurses on their organizations’ unique care standards. This can help ensure that nurses deliver care according to their organizations’ goals.

Knowing how to use the latest technology is crucial for nurses. Nurse educators can help nurses develop their technical proficiency in using these tools through orientation and training, enhancing their ability to provide optimal care.

Outside of clinical settings, nurse educators can become nursing school faculty members who create engaging and supportive learning environments to foster critical thinking, sometimes contributing to the development of curricula. Besides helping students hone their clinical skills, nursing faculty members evaluate student performance, including reviewing coursework and lab and clinical work. They help students grow and develop skills by offering constructive feedback and guidance.

Trends That Are Shaping Nursing Teaching Strategies

The field of nursing is undergoing a transformative change to meet the evolving demands of health care delivery. Various drivers are igniting the change. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) cites a rising interest in health equity, enhancing population health, and meeting the needs of a diverse and aging population.

Nurse educators are integral to helping ensure that nurses are well prepared for the future of nursing. One key step is to embrace shifts in nursing education. These include adopting virtual education, taking advantage of the latest learning technology, and implementing competency-based learning.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in nursing education were already underway. The pandemic accelerated the transformation. For example, programs suddenly had to explore nursing teaching strategies centered on virtual learning. More than three years later, virtual learning continues to enhance nurse education.

Another trend influencing nurse educators’ teaching strategies is the growing adoption of innovative technologies. For example, nurse faculty frequently employ online simulations to provide learning opportunities that promote critical thinking and decision-making. These tools help improve nursing students’ understanding of health care processes while building their technological skills.

The shift toward competency-based education in nursing is another notable trend. Competency-based learning focuses on developing and assessing specific skills required for nursing practice, with an emphasis on hands-on experience, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Competency-based education helps nursing students transition from classroom and virtual settings to real-world clinical practice.

Examples of Teaching Strategies for Nurses

Nurse educators can apply various teaching strategies to deliver quality nursing education. Below are some examples of teaching strategies for nurses.

Blended Learning

Blended learning combines online learning with traditional lectures. According to a Nursing Education in Practice study, blended learning improved student performance on national exams. The study highlights how students in a blended learning setting achieved better results than in traditional face-to-face teaching.


Simulation enhances critical thinking and quick reactions through virtual hands-on practice. Various pedagogical styles using simulation immerse students in scenarios that improve clinical judgment, decision-making, and reasoning. A recent Wolters Kluwer study on nursing education notes that simulation enhanced pediatric assessment skills, and explained that the technology allowed students to experience working under pressure and improve their communication.


Role-play uses actors to portray patients and allows nurses to assume various roles. Some nurses remain in the role of a nurse. Others may play the role of a patient, family member, or technician. Role-play emphasizes effective communication in therapeutic and clinical settings. It helps strengthen connections among health care professionals, patients, and families. It can also offer a fun learning experience.

Compare-and-Contrast Scenarios

Compare-and-contrast scenarios ignite discussions and a dynamic exchange of ideas. For example, nurse faculty can create multiple scenarios with patients exhibiting similar symptoms and conditions. Students dive into intense debates and explore diverse treatment approaches. Compare-and-contrast scenarios enable students to use critical thinking skills and better understand medical decision-making.

What-If Scenarios

What-if scenarios are a versatile teaching strategy in nursing education. This approach poses thought-provoking questions related to clinical situations. For example, when observing a patient, students may be asked, “What if a patient shows signs of deterioration? What if it indicates tachycardia, a serious illness?” These types of scenarios help nurses recognize patients’ conditions and make care modifications as needed.

Concept Maps

Concept maps are visual tools that include boxes, lines, and arrows. These tools illustrate interrelated concepts to help students connect theory with practice. Concept maps can be useful in clarifying complex concepts. Maps can also help enhance students’ critical thinking during a debriefing:  a conversation between teams in health care settings to discuss, analyze, and interpret clinical events.

Game-Based Teaching

Game-based teaching is a fun and engaging approach to nursing education that also promotes autonomy and experiential learning. Game-based learning techniques use games, competitions, and activities with progressive difficulty to motivate and engage students.

Educators set rules and goals and provide opportunities for social interaction and collaboration with other students. A systematic review published in Nurse Education in Practice confirms that games and simulations in higher education can enhance cognitive and behavioral outcomes.

Educating the Next Generation of Nurses

Nurses play a vital role in patient care and advocacy, which is why preparing the next generation of nurses is imperative.

Effective nursing education is essential to growing the nursing ranks and ensuring high-quality patient care. As the nursing profession undergoes transformative change, so does nursing education, which is why Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice program offers a nurse education specialization that prepares students with knowledge of the latest teaching strategies for nurses.

The program’s curriculum integrates cutting-edge technology and learning opportunities to meet the demands of a dynamic field. Learn how the program can help you build a solid foundation for success as a nurse educator and leader.

Recommended Readings

NP to DNP: In Less Than 10 Years, All Nurse Practitioners May Need to Hold a DNP

MSN vs. DNP: What’s the Difference?

4 Trends in Nursing Technology


Academic Medicine, “Innovative Teaching Strategies Using Simulation for Pediatric Nursing Clinical Education During the Pandemic: A Case Study”

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education”

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Faculty Shortage Fact Sheet

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet

American Nurse Journal, “Addressing the Nurse Faculty Shortage”

ANA Enterprise, Nurse Educator

Health Affairs, “A Worrisome Drop in the Number of Young Nurses”

International Council of Nurses, “Nursing Education and the Emerging Nursing Workforce in COVID-19 Pandemic”

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medical Sciences, “The Conceptual Mapping and Its Importance in Nursing Education and Practice”

Jones and Bartlett Learning, “Top Trends for Nursing Educators in 2023: Leadership, Mental Health and the Next Generation NCLEX Exam

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity”

Nurse Education in Practice, “A Blended Learning Teaching Strategy Strengthens the Nursing Students’ Performance and Self-Reported Learning Outcome Achievement in an Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry Course – A Quasi-Experimental Study”

Nurse Education in Practice, “Game-Based Learning in Undergraduate Nursing Education: A Systematic Review of Mixed-Method Studies”

Nursing Reports, “Concept Mapping in Simulation Within Nursing Education: A Scoping Review Protocol”

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “Disrupting Nursing Education in Light of COVID-19”

Patient Safety Network, “Debriefing for Clinical Learning”

SAGE Open Nursing, “Nursing Education Practice Update 2022: Competency-Based Education in Nursing”

Wolters Kluwer, “11 Active Learning Strategies to Engage Active Learning”

Wolters Kluwer, “Evolving Nursing Trends: Technology in 2021 and the Effects on Nursing Students”