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Mastering the Core Competencies of Nurse Educator Practice

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Nurse Educator

A core competency in a nursing field refers to the fundamental knowledge or expertise necessary to carry out required tasks. “Nurse educators are so connected to academia, where there is constant evaluation, publishing, research,” says Mandy Defonce, head of the nursing department at a New York university. “So the idea of core competencies is included in the coursework from day one, which I think is really important for nurses who want to succeed.”

In nurse educator practice, there are eight core competencies, published by the National League for Nursing in 2005. The competencies offer an all-embracing framework for preparing new nurse educators, putting the nurse educator role into practice and assessing nurse educator practice.

1. Facilitate Learning

As a nurse educator, you will be responsible for creating a productive learning environment. “Nurse educators don’t just work in the classroom,” says Mandy. “I spent five years training research nurses in a laboratory, which is a totally different environment.” Nurse educators also teach or provide training in clinical settings. Try and get as much experience as possible in different learning environments.

2. Facilitate Learner Development and Socialization

Nurse educators accept accountability for helping their students to develop and improve. They also must provide a good example for students, integrating the nursing values they are teaching into their own behavior.

3. Use Assessment and Evaluation Strategies

“Some students with a background in other nursing fields have a hard time with this one because they’re not used to evaluating others,” explains Mandy. However, it’s important for nurse educators to get comfortable with a variety of strategies for assessing and evaluating how much their students have learned.

4. Participate in Curriculum Design and Evaluation of Program Outcomes

Nurse educators must keep up with contemporary health care trends so they can design curricula that reflect those trends, preparing graduates to work well in the current health care environment. Nurse educators also create and evaluate program outcomes.

5. Function as a Change Agent and Leader

Nurse educators are expected to function as “change agents and leaders to create a preferred future for nursing education and nursing practice,” according to the National League for Nursing, but how do you teach leadership? “Nursing students who want to teach should be provided with as many leadership opportunities as possible,” says Mandy, “but sometimes true leadership comes with years of experience. Confidence is a big part of it.”

6. Pursue Continuous Quality Improvement in the Nurse Educator Role

No nursing field is ever without change, and good nurse educators need to have a lifelong commitment to developing and maintaining their abilities. “Yes, it really is a multidimensional role,” says Mandy. “I didn’t know when I entered the education field that I would one day be required to train students in EMR-certification. For someone who didn’t know the first thing about computers, I’ve come a long way.”

7. Engage in Scholarship

What does scholarship mean? It includes teaching itself, as well as research, publishing, participating in seminars, giving lectures, and authoring educational tools. “Depending on where you work, scholarship may or may not be an integral part of your job,” says Mandy. “Obviously those at universities will be more outwardly involved in scholarship, but it’s definitely an important core competency for all nurse educators.”

8. Function within the Educational Environment

“Some nurses just don’t function well in an educational environment,” Mandy admits. “You have to be aware of the specific environment in which you’re practicing and not step on anyone’s toes. You have to be careful not to offend, while still making sure the needs of your own department are being heard, you have to understand the community—is it racially diverse, is it homogenous, is it low-income, is it religious, how does the community impact the style of education? This is a pretty big one.”

Understanding and mastering these eight core competencies will not only give you a strong foundation from which to advance in your chosen profession, but will also ensure that you measure up to professional evaluation, whether from your peers or your superiors. Skilled nurse educators enjoy competitive salaries and challenging career opportunities, so the more motivated you are to master the foundations, the more control you have over your future.


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