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!