Clinical Nurse Educator
Healthcare is a growing industry and one where qualified workers are constantly in demand. Registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are both expected to see positive employment growth from 2016-2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nurse educators play an important role in helping to create qualified RNs and LPNs by providing them with the very best education and training.
Medical professionals who have completed the highest level of nursing training often become nurse educators. Nurse educators are exactly what the name implies. They are highly trained healthcare professionals who teach and train nursing students how to become highly valued medical professionals and teach currently licensed nurses how to provide the very best nursing care to patients and support to their family members.
They have many important responsibilities because they’re the individuals who train and teach students training to become nurses and those who have recently graduated from nursing schools. The nurse educator’s training and experience include earning a degree, completing a nurse educator training program and obtaining hands-on training in nursing. Working as a nurse educator can be rewarding and challenging and a way to play an important role in the healthcare industry.
What is a Nurse Educator?
A nurse educator is a healthcare professional who not only has completed the highest level of nursing training but also puts the training and experience to good use by teaching others who aspire to become nurses. Nurse educators generally have a degree in nursing and several years of experience working as registered nurses. Although some nurse educators work in hospitals, many choose to work as faculty in universities, colleges, technical schools and hospital-based nursing schools. They may also work in health care facilities as staff development educators.
Nurse educators also help LPNs interested in advancing their nursing degrees, RNs interested in advancing their studies and students fresh out of high school who want to become nurses. Nurse educators work in the classroom teaching students as well as in clinical settings providing healthcare to patients. As professionals working in the healthcare industry, nurse educators play critical roles in not just teaching but also serving as role models and setting examples through their leadership and clinical knowledge.
Education Needed for this Career
A bachelor’s degree and extensive work experience is the very minimum requirement to work as a health educator. Before a candidate can even work as a nurse, the candidate must have the degree and a license to work as a registered nurse. To do this, the individual must complete the nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Once the individual begins working as an RN, he or she must obtain several years of practical experience as an RN in a clinic or hospital.
The aspiring nurse educator should also obtain training certifications. Two examples of certifications are the Certification for Nurse Educators and Certified Academic Clinical Educator. Continuing education is required to maintain the nursing license and the nurse educator certifications. In many cases, the nurse educator is required to travel to other institutions to obtain the continuing education and collaborate with other professionals on the best training and policy practices.
Although a bachelor’s degree is the minimum degree for nurse educators who wish to work in a medical setting, most careers in academia require a master’s degree or even a doctoral degree. A nurse educator interested in teaching at the university level must have a graduate degree. Some colleges offer post-graduate certificate programs in nursing educator. These are often offered both on campus and online. Some schools also offer baccalaureate-to-Ph.D. programs for RNs who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing but wish to advance to nurse educator. These types of programs are often accelerated programs but require intensive clinical training.
Although most nurse educators choose a general nursing curriculum, some choose to become specialized in specific areas of nursing, such as geriatric, oncology or pediatric nursing. Specializing in various areas of nursing is not required but can be beneficial and can enhance the nurse educator’s teaching credentials. For each area of specialization chosen, the individual must earn the corresponding certification. Nurse educator curriculum includes didactic coursework (classroom and lab studies) as well as clinical experiences where the student can obtain hands-on experience in both clinical work and leadership experiences.
Day in the Life of a Clinical Nurse Educator
We typically think of nurse educators as teachers who help aspiring nurses become licensed nurses or licensed nurses become better trained and prepared for advanced nursing work. This is only part of the nurse educator’s job. They also collaborate with other medical professionals and take a role in refining nursing programs or making necessary curriculum changes based on need and health regulations.
The clinical nurse educator is teaching the students everything he or she knows, which means the educator must know and understand what is being taught. The educator must also update his or her knowledge and keep up with medical changes and the constantly-changing healthcare laws and regulations.
To best assess how the students are learning and comprehending the lessons, the clinical nurse educator spends time, reading student papers, creating and grading tests, and evaluating student reports and presentations. Clinical nurse educators represent nursing at university committees and often become members or chair on many of the nursing committees as a way to remain active in their nursing programs.
Some of their other duties include:
- Developing the coursework for nurse educator programs
- Facilitating evaluations, training programs and any required employee remediation
- Analyzing a wide variety of health care needs so they can provide the best academic resources for the nursing staff at a clinic or hospital
- Developing procedures, training guides, manuals and necessary systems
- Delivering presentations in person and through teleconference
- Reading professional nursing journals and attending nursing conferences to keep up with the latest nursing developments
Nurse educators work with senior medical staff and administration to acknowledge willing and qualified nurses so they may incorporate them into the training programs as potential trainers. They work with these individuals to train them and ensure they provide a consistency of high-quality health education. Because of their extensive training, education and value to the healthcare industry, nurse educators typically find work in various settings, including both medical and academia. They also may choose to work full or part-time.
Traits and Qualities of Nurse Educators
Clinical nurse educators are the backbone of the nursing industry and have various qualities that make them perfect educators and teachers. They have a desire to teach others as well as a commitment to lifelong learning and leadership. They must also have the willingness and ability to not just understand policies but also to implement them as well.
A nurse educator has many responsibilities and duties throughout his or her career. Some may even go so far as to say the level of training a nurse receives and the quality of care a nurse provides is the result of the type of training he or she received from the nurse educator. Therefore, a nurse educator must also possess the following skills or traits.
- Problem-solving skills – Nurse educators not only teach the health education programs but also help develop them. They’re constantly looking for ways to improve health care and improve the curriculum. When problems arise, whether they be curriculum, training or budget-related, the nurse educator must be able to solve them effectively.
- Instructional skills – Nurse educators teach classes, lead health programs and engage in discussions with clients and their families, so they must be comfortable giving instructions and speaking with the public.
- Writing skills – A great deal of the health-related information provided to nursing students, medical professionals and the public is in the form of written material, so nurse educators must have excellent writing skills.
- Analytical skills – To best determine the needs of the community they serve and to evaluate if the programs fit the bill, nurse educate must spend a lot of time and be good at collecting and analyzing data.
- Interpersonal skills – Nurse educators work alongside community health workers and interact with clients from various backgrounds. They must have not only good listening and communication skills but also be sensitive to those of all cultures.
Career and Salary Outlook
There is a growing shortage of qualified nurse educators, which makes them highly in demand. The need to reduce healthcare costs, improve health outcomes and provide high-quality health care to everyone increases the demand for nurse and health educators.
The nursing and nurse educator careers overall have very good career potential. The BLS reports that RNs and LPNs should see an employment growth of 15% and 12% during the decade of 2016-2026. Health educators should see a growth of 14% while postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers should see a growth of 24% during that same decade. The bureau predicts about 16,300 new postsecondary nursing instructor and teacher jobs will be created by 2026.
The salary for a nurse educator can vary depending on various factors, such as training, experience, certifications, employer and location. Salary.com reports that a nurse educator’s salary ranges from $52,956 to $97,372 with the average annual wage of $72,020 as of September 2018. The average hourly rate was $35.66.