Nurse Educator Role: Preparing the Next Generation of Nurses

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A nurse educator demonstrates a procedure to students on a mannequin

Nurse educators today have an essential and important job in the professional medical world. They are tasked with strengthening the nursing workforce, serving as role models, and providing the leadership needed to implement evidence-based practice. Working in classroom and practice settings, they prepare and mentor future generations of nurses.

An advanced degree or certificate program focusing on nursing education offers nurses the opportunity to advance in their careers and play a role in furthering healthcare education for future generations. Courses that prepare candidates for a nurse educator role focus on foundations in education theory for professional practice disciplines, innovative curriculum design and evaluation, emerging trends in the teaching of nursing, advanced critical nursing, a nursing faculty role practicum, and information on the legal environment in nursing education.

What Is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators use their nursing expertise to teach the next generation of nurses about the field. While many nurse educator careers involve working at colleges and universities, they also work in clinical environments.

A nurse educator might develop coursework for nurses just beginning their educational journeys or help recently licensed RNs improve their knowledge and skills. Nurse educators can also help nursing professionals seeking certification in a specialized field or graduate students looking to complete an advanced degree.

In the current educational environment, nurse educators should know how to teach students online as well as in person.

Duties of a Nurse Educator

Nurse educators are RNs whose education includes advanced clinical training in a healthcare specialty. They serve in numerous roles, from part-time clinical faculty to deans of nursing colleges. Responsibilities may include the following:

  • Developing course curricula
  • Developing courses/programs of study
  • Providing instruction through lectures
  • Evaluating student learning and progress
  • Overseeing clinical and lab work
  • Supervising student internships and research
  • Recording student outcomes

Additionally, nurse educators assist students and practicing nurses in identifying their individual learning

Nurse educators shape the future of healthcare in the classroom, and outside.

styles, strengths and weaknesses. Aside from teaching, nurse educators in the academic setting have responsibilities such as:

  • Advising students
  • Conducting clinical research
  • Engaging with professional associations
  • Lecturing or presenting at nursing conferences
  • Contributing to the academic community via leadership roles
  • Participating in peer reviews
  • Maintaining clinical effectiveness and efficiency
  • Writing grant proposals

The most successful nurse educators possess excellent communication skills. They must be able to clearly convey their teaching goals and expectations to their students. Time management is also essential. Nurse educators should be able to split their time and attention efficiently between the students they teach and the faculty and/or healthcare professionals they work with on a regular basis.

Nurse Educator Requirements

To work as teachers, nurse educators must pass the national NCLEX-RN and the Certified Nurse Educator exams. They are required to be able to design, implement and evaluate academic curricula and continuing education programs for nurses. Nurse educators work with students at different levels of learning — from associate degree to doctoral program. They also train professionals who are updating their knowledge with continuing education.

Nurse educators may also work as speakers and presenters at conferences, conduct research, and write grant proposals.

Nurse Educator Salary and Job Growth

The salary of nurse educators varies depending on the position and their seniority. The median annual salary for postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers was $77,440 as of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual salary for a nurse practitioner was $120,680.

New nursing professionals are in constant demand due to an ongoing nursing shortage partly fueled by the rate of experienced nurses leaving the workforce because of retirement or burnout. In fact, the BLS projects 52% growth in the number of positions for nurse practitioners between 2020 and 2030.

Several factors are contributing to the nursing shortage. At the same time that many nurses are retiring, demand for their services is increasing. The senior citizen population, which has higher medical needs than other groups, is on the rise, with 73 million Americans predicted to be older than 65 by 2030, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This demographic has unique healthcare needs, most of which will require the services of trained and skilled nurses.

The treatment of chronic conditions is another factor driving the nursing shortage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, as of 2022, 6 in 10 Americans suffered from at least one chronic condition, and 4 in 10 Americans suffered from multiple chronic issues. As the population ages, the number of people suffering from these chronic issues is poised to increase.

Another prominent reason for the recent shortage of nursing professionals is that more students want to study nursing than there are faculty members to teach them. Nursing schools in the U.S. turned away more than 80,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate and graduate programs in 2019 due in part to faculty shortages, according to a report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

While the growth in the nurse practitioner field is particularly strong, solid growth is also projected for RNs. The BLS predicts that RN employment will grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030. These new nurses will need instruction, which is where nurse educators can be instrumental to the future of the nursing profession. They are needed not only in college and university classrooms but also in hospitals to ensure nurses gain the continuing education they need.

Shape the Future of Healthcare

Nurse educators have a unique opportunity to steer the direction of modern healthcare. By teaching the next generation of nursing students through instruction and hands-on clinical training, educators can drive change to improve care and patient outcomes. This can make becoming a nurse educator a deeply rewarding career.

Duquesne University’s online post-master’s nursing certificate program can help you build the knowledge and skills to guide the next generation of nurses with confidence, giving them the tools they need to make a substantial difference in a critical field. Learn how we can help you achieve your professional nursing goals.

Recommended Reading

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Using Telehealth in Nursing Education


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chronic Diseases in America

Healthline, “Understanding the American Nursing Shortage”

Incredible Health, Overview of the Nurse Educator Position

NCSBN, NCLEX & Other Exams

National League for Nursing, Certification for Nurse Educators

The Guardian, “‘I Can’t Do This Any More’: US Faces Nurse Shortage From Burnout”

United States Census Bureau, “2020 Census Will Help Policymakers Prepare for the Incoming Wave of Aging Boomers”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses