Healthcare has gone through many transitions in the last 50 years. From science-based discoveries to the enactment of crucial healthcare policies like HIPAA, the evolutions just keep coming. There have been plenty of challenges, too, highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through it all, nurse educators have been primary players in ensuring future and current nurses are fully prepared to meet today’s healthcare needs.
What Roles Do Nurse Educators Play?
Nurse educators serve in several capacities. Nurse educators not only train others in the healthcare field, but they also advocate for the nursing profession, offer guidance, and stay abreast of current trends and news in the healthcare field. Foundationally, they all possess certain core competencies, which the National League for Nursing outlines as:
- Facilitating learning
- Facilitating the development and socialization of learners
- Using strategies for assessment and evaluation
- Designing curricula and evaluating program outcomes
- Acting as a change agent and leader
- Holding a continuous-improvement mindset
- Engaging in scholarship
- Functioning within the educational sphere
These competencies should be central to a nurse educator’s training through a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Nurse Educator program. Upon graduation, nurse educators are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and leadership qualities to effect change — not just within the nursing field, but also in healthcare as a whole.
The following represent three key ways nurse educators can impact the future of healthcare:
- Level-Up Nursing Skills in the Academic Setting
Nurse educators working for community colleges and universities juggle many responsibilities. They often act as administrators, clinical coaches, and lab instructors, course developers, and researchers. To do so effectively, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) recommends that a nurse educator’s duties fall into three main roles:
- A collaborator coordinates students and faculty across disciplines, prepares nurses to work as a team (which leads to better patient outcomes)
- A director of student learning develops curriculum and programming, fosters support staff
- A role model serves as a mentor for both students and newer faculty
With this type of holistic approach, nurse educators cover all the bases in preparing nurses for the field.
In addition, the academic setting offers nurse educators opportunities to advise students, conduct research and engage in peer review. Being active in professional associations and having a voice at industry conferences are additional ways for nurse educators to have wider impact.
- Improve Care in the Clinical Setting
While nurse educators in the clinical setting must practice a multifaceted approach to instruction, their role is slightly different from that of educators in academic institutions. Instead of teaching students at the outset of their nurse education, in-hospital or in-clinic nurse educators support already-working registered nurses through “experiential” learning.
For example, they observe how successfully a nurse can perform a comprehensive health assessment or document a patient’s health history. Nurse educators in the clinical environment also assess how independently nurses can implement and follow up on various medical interventions. Faculty nurses prepare nurses to be effective as team players, but nurse educators help them apply those skills in hospital settings. All these measures ensure improved care and optimal patient outcomes.
- Preserve the Nursing Profession
Global Health reports that nearly one out of every five new nurses quits their job within the first year. This extreme turnover rate can cost an organization as much as $88,000 per nurse from an employer’s perspective. Plus, losing nurses in that first year adds to the already uphill battle of addressing the national nursing shortage.
On-the-job support is a highly valuable asset that nurse educators can provide in both academic and clinical environments. A positive work culture, collaborative approach among nurse teams, and an environment where nurses feel heard, understood, and supported ensures much-needed retention.
However, as Donna M. Nickitas, Ph.D., RN, points out in her think piece, “How Nurse Educators Are Impacting the Future of Nursing,” the goal of nurse education is not all about the numbers, but rather the capacity to influence:
“The reality is that nurse educators’ reach and touch is deep, wide, and personal … Each practicing nurse has felt the presence and influence of their nurse educators. Each student has experienced the power of nursing knowledge, theory, and practice. Learning to apply that nursing knowledge is powerful. It transforms education, practice, and research and advances policy and advocacy to improve the health and well-being of society.”
The potential for that impact is well within reach. Start by exploring a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) nurse educator degree, such as that offered by Worcester State University. Not only does the role of nurse educator have a promising career outlook, but professionals in this job can have a meaningful and fulfilling impact on future generations.