Careers in Healthcare: Becoming a Nurse Educator – Part I

By: Betty Nelson, PhD, RN

Beyond Staff Development

Today, nursing education crosses the traditional boundaries of academia, staff development and continuing education conferences and has evolved into a life-long endeavor. Nurse Educators can be found in a multitude of settings, however, the basic elements of nurse education are the same: preparing nursing students for entry into practice or facilitating the updating and expansion of knowledge and skills for experienced nurses.


Effective teaching covers a span of activities, including:

  • Designing curricula, orientation and continuing education programs
  • Developing courses and study programs
  • Evaluating and documenting student learning
  • Assessing learning needs, strengths and limitations
  • Selecting and applying teaching/learning techniques and methods
  • Evaluating and documenting the effectiveness of learning programs and education resources

Education and Skills

The skills and education required to be an effective Nurse Educator are diverse and specialized. Expert clinical skills and knowledge are required, but not sufficient. Nurse Educators must address the varying education and experience levels of their learners. Mastering the art and science of teaching is therefore required.

A few of the attributes and skills required include:

  • creativity
  • innovation
  • flexibility
  • excellent critical thinking and communication skills
  • skills to convey knowledge in various ways
  • advisement and counseling skills
  • strong knowledge in theories of teaching, learning and evaluation.

The Nurse Educator should be able to anticipate changes in the healthcare system and the role of the nurse, then adapt curriculum and teaching methods in response to innovations in nursing science and ongoing changes in the practice environment. In addition, the ability to develop and manage budgets, and argue for resources and support in an environment where education is not the primary mission, could be required.

At a minimum, Nurse Educators who work in academic settings must hold a Master’s degree in nursing, although a Doctoral degree is required for promotion and tenure. The minimum education requirement in clinical and other settings is a baccalaureate degree in nursing, but more and more institutions are requiring a Master’s degree in nursing. Advanced training and experience in a clinical specialty as well as certification may be required for specific positions.

Many Master’s degree and post-graduate certificate programs prepare nurses specifically for the educator role. These programs, which are sometimes offered online, focus on the skills needed to prepare advanced practice nurses to teach, including instruction on the learning process, curriculum development, student counseling, program evaluation, and the principles of adult education.

There are Federal and private funding sources to assist students pursuing graduate nursing education. The recently passed Nurse Reinvestment Act includes a student loan repayment program for nurses who agree to serve in faculty roles after graduation.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors. Its bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). The Accrediting Commission of DETC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

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Careers in Healthcare – A Nurse is Not a Nurse is Not a Nurse
Careers in Healthcare: Becoming a Nurse Educator – Part II