Nurse educators are critical professionals in our contemporary health care system—they help the new generation of nurses develop and hone their skills to allow them to provide the best patient services possible! Nurse educators set the example for nursing students, demonstrating and teaching patient care in academic settings.
Careers in nurse education are for professionals who are interested in working not only with healthcare and patient services, but that are also interested in sharing their knowledge with developing nurses and the nursing community. Nurse educators prepare students with the skills they need to enter the professional medical field as well as conduct research to continue the expansion of nursing knowledge. For those who are passionate about nursing and want to share that passion, this is the perfect career to build relationships with nursing students and instill the value and knowledge of the nursing profession.
THE CAREER PATH
Most of the time, nurse educators must gain and refine their skills through years of practical experience before moving into a classroom setting. Instructing the next generation of professionals is a big responsibility, so it is crucial for nurse educators to be fully qualified for their position. In addition, nurse educators should constantly be learning in order to stay knowledgeable about the latest professional developments.
Depending on the level of nursing education being taught, aspiring nurses must typically follow these steps in order to become nurse educators:
- After getting their high school diploma or the equivalent, and either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing (NCLEX-RN)
- Most nurse educators practice nursing for an extended period of time to establish their skills
- Over half of nurse educators follow their basic education and thorough experience with a master's degree related to nursing or nurse education
- Some nurse educators, usually at the collegiate level, will obtain their doctorate of philosophy in nursing before becoming instructors
- Finally, nursing educators must pass an exam to get their Certification in Nurse Education (CNE) from an accredited organization such as the National League for Nursing (NLN)
Throughout this process, nurse educators are laying the foundation of the nursing skills that they will use for the entire duration of their career. Nurse educators will then apply those skills in a classroom setting where they will be responsible for:
- Instructing and supervising nursing students’ labs and clinicals
- Planning, evaluating, and revising course content, materials, and instruction methods
- Performing or supervising clinical research
- Assisting nursing students with identifying their strengths and weaknesses to exceed their classroom expectations
- Advising students on academic and vocational curricula as well as career issues
Jobs in the health industry aren’t going away anytime soon, and that includes health education. In fact, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) reports that positions for nurse educators are anticipated to increase much faster than the national average by the year 2024. In addition to job security, and the moral reward of educating the next generation, the pay for nurse educators is pretty rewarding as well. According to the DOL, nurse educators make around $67,000 on average each year.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Nurse educators will need a combination of the core professional nursing skills as well as educational competency. Nurse educators must be more than just good at the medical aspect, but also must be skilled at sharing that knowledge with the next generation of professionals.
It goes without saying that all educators must be skilled at identifying the educational needs of their students and developing academic programs to accommodate and empower them. Nursing educators must also be skilled at establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships by practicing active listening as well as being sensitive to problems and how to solve them.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Many associate and bachelor level programs related to nursing will lay the necessary foundation for a future career in nurse education. Once that foundation has been built, students can begin to customize their academic experience to fit their professional goals.
Many professionals pursue master’s degrees that specialize or concentrate on nurse education. These serve to prepare students for implementing and managing nursing programs and teach the core competencies of nursing. Programs designed for nurse educators will often include classes such as:
- Foundations of Nursing Education
- Health Assessment for Patients and Populations
- Contemporary Pharmacotherapeutics
- Information Management and the Application of Technology
- Organizational Leadership and Interprofessional Team Development
The most valuable courses will adequately prepare students for the licensing and certification examinations that may be required for the positions they seek after school. Some schools will mention directly in the program description any specific examination preparation that they offer in cohesion with the coursework.
For all schools that you might consider, it is highly recommended to investigate the passing rates of their graduates on exams such as the NCLEX and CNE. There are plenty of programs to choose from, and it is important to pick the most compatible program for your situation. Some programs will hold special accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA).
The cost to become a nurse educator can vary greatly depending on the level of education you need (master's or doctorate) and which certifications are required, which is why it is best to do a little research and guarantee that your program is giving you the most for your money. An online master's in nursing can cost as little as $22,000 or as much as $75,000. And, remember, higher cost does not always equal a higher quality education.