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What is a Nurse Educator

A nurse educator is a registered nurse who is skilled in instructing and guiding students to become nurses. While nurse educators do not engage in direct patient care while teaching students, they have an important impact on the nursing profession as they are helping to educate new nurses. Nurse educators often have a love for teaching, a passion for nursing and an interest in nursing research. While some nurse educators work strictly in academia, many also choose to work in direct patient care positions on a per diem basis to maintain their skill set. Nursing is a field that changes frequently and nurse educators must stay current in order to be effective teachers. Nurses who become nurse educators may be well sought after as there is frequently a lack of good, qualified applicants at schools across the country.

Nurse Educator Job Description

Nurse educators most commonly work in academia. They work as professors, assistant professors or instructors at vocational schools, community colleges and universities. Their work often entails a combination of classroom lecture and clinical instruction. They are responsible for creating lesson plans, evaluating students and serving as a mentor. More nurse educators are utilizing the internet for instruction, substituting classroom lecture with online webinars and live chats. Working as a nurse educator may not be as flexible as bedside nursing because educators are expected to take vacations when school is out of session, as opposed to a bedside nurse who could vacation any time of the year. Conversely, nurse educators work nine-to-five hours, do not work weekends or holidays and do not have to take calls.

Nurse educators working at the university level are often involved in research projects, in addition to their teaching duties. These positions are often referred to as tenure positions, and require the nurse educator to do a certain amount of research and grant writing in order to maintain tenure. Nurse educators working with graduate students often function as a part of a student's graduate committee, providing one-on-one guidance and assistance on a graduate student's thesis project.

Nurse Educator Training

Nurse educators should become experienced registered nurses before beginning to teach. Students are better served with instruction from a nurse who has plenty of real life, direct patient care experience than one who has only studied books. The amount of education required to become a nurse educator varies by the level at which one wishes to teach. For instruction at the certificate or associate degree level, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required, but a master's degree is preferred. For instruction at the bachelor degree level, a minimum of a master's degree is required, but a doctorate degree is preferred. Most bachelor degree nursing programs do not prepare the nurse to be a nurse educator as the focus is to prepare the student for bedside nursing. Bachelors prepared nurses are, however, ideal to be preceptors, giving nursing students hand-on training. There are master's and doctorate degree programs that focus specifically on training nurses to be nurse educators. A master's degree usually requires two to three years of study for completion. A doctorate degree requires an additional two to three years of study after earning a master's degree.

Opportunities For Nursing Career Advancement

Nurse educators have plenty of opportunity for career advancement. Those working at a community college or vocational school can apply for positions at a university, where pay may be better. Nurse educators with master's degrees will find their horizons expanded by earning a doctorate degree. Nurse educators already holding a doctorate degree may apply for positions at a larger research university, publish research articles, or apply for a position as a program director.

Nurse Educator Salary

Nurse educator pay is generally less than that of a bedside nurse. There are several reasons for this discrepancy. Nurse educators often do not work on a year-round basis. They are off when the school is closed, as opposed to a bedside nurse that works year round. Also, colleges and universities are often strapped for money, especially in the recent years, which limits the amount of money they have to pay a nurse educator. The negative impact of this disparity is that many very good nurse educators may decide pursue a clinical job instead due to higher wages. This creates a brain-drain situation in nursing education, as many of the best and brightest nurses are caring for patients, instead of teaching the next generation of nurses. In 2012, the salary for a nurse educator ranged from $49,101 to $92,285. Salary varies based on level of education, geographic location of employment, and degree program being taught.

Nurse educators are helping to shape and influence the nursing profession. They have perhaps the strongest impact on future nurses than any other type of nurse. Because they are so influential, it is important that they meet, or even exceed, nursing standards and core competencies. Acting as role models and mentors to nursing students is one of the most important jobs of a nurse educator. Becoming a nurse educator can be an excellent choice for any nurse that loves to teach, would like to help nursing students excel and is interested in nursing research. With a national shortage, there is no better time to choose to be a nurse educator!

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