Opportunities for Nurse Educators

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With a record number of nearly 50,000 qualified applicants turned away by nursing programs in 2008, the need for nurse educators is dramatically illustrated. The most prominent reason given by nursing institutions for having to turn away qualified applicants is the lack of qualified nurse educators.

Although some LP/VN programs have begun to accept qualified BSN prepared nurses as educators, the preferred minimal education is an MSN. At the university level a PhD is commonly required.

Nurse educators combine their clinical and academic skills with an intense desire to teach. With today’s growing demands for nurse educators, there is a good demand for those who qualify for at least the next decade as they mentor and equip the next generation of nurses for the workforce.

Nurses are said to be the backbone of the healthcare system. Nurse educators help to mold student nurses into the strong, confident, skilled nurses who are likely to carry this healthcare system into the future.

They will likely work with high school graduates along side older individuals seeking a second career as nurses. They will likely help foreign trained nurses adapt to the American system of health care delivery. And they may help nurses advance their education and training to become the specialists, researchers, leaders and even nurse educators themselves.

Nursing is a lifelong learning experience. Nurses who choose to help others to begin or advance their careers are skilled, educated and passionate individuals who enjoy helping others achieve their goals to become excellent clinicians. Nurses are all educators as patient education is an important part of the clinician’s experience.

Nurse educators need to have a solid clinical background and possess excellent critical thinking skills. They need to be great communicators (including having strong listening skills). They must also be flexible and creative as well as committed to excel at teaching.

Clinical courses include such specialty areas as acute care, pediatrics, women’s health, oncology, psych/mental health, home health care, cardiology and family health. Nurse educators usually teach clinical courses within their own clinical specialty.

They must also be involved in the planning and development of curriculum, outcomes assessment, and advisement or guidance of their students. They need to be able to assess the learning needs of their students and develop innovate approaches to teaching and assisting students from many backgrounds and cultures to become qualified nurses.

Nurse educators need to have strong knowledge of nursing theories, teaching and learning theories and how to evaluate students. They need to possess the ability to bring the theories to life and teach students how to incorporate these ideas into their clinical skills.

Salaries for nurse educators vary depending on their education, experience, location, specialty, and qualifications. Some work full time and others work part time. They typically work nine months each year and have the option to teach in summer programs. The median salary in 2008 was $71,297, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the majority earning salaries ranging from $84,000 to $115,000.

The downside is that many institutions don’t hire nurse educators full time and the nurses feel they can might be able to make more working as clinicians. But the flexibility of schedules, the intellectual stimulation and fact that their work day is fairly constant is often times a big trade off.

The National League for Nursing offers a certificate program for nurse educators to help to establish and maintain a high standard of nursing education. MSN programs specific to preparing nurses to become nurse educators are available. Many BSN to PhD are now available across the U.S. for nurses looking for accelerated programs to become nurse educators. Scholarships and financial aid programs specifically geared for nurse educators are growing in numbers.

By Kathy Quan RN, BSN, PHN, contributing author for RNdegrees.net. Kathy is the author of The Everything, New Nurse Book and the owner/author of TheNursingSite.com.

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