Nurse Educators Creating Productive Learning Environments

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Nurses, doctors, and administrators in a meeting

Nurse educators hold an important position in healthcare. The website NP Schools explains that these professionals are registered nurses who combine their clinical experience and academic expertise to train students in nursing skills. They determine educational curriculum and standards, prepare students to successfully transition out of academia, empower new nurses to thrive in the nursing profession, and improve the systems that uphold nurse education.

In terms of their training and background, nurse educators are first and foremost nurses. When they take their new role, they sometimes have to learn teaching strategies for nurse educators. Effective teaching skills require a different skill set than nursing—one that many nurse educators have never learned. It is essential for nurse educators to acquire this skill set to create a positive, productive student nurse learning environment that inspires participants to succeed.

To be an effective nurse educator,  RNs learned through programs such as Duquesne University’s MSN in Nursing Education and Faculty Role. Duquesne’s online master’s in nursing provides RNs with advanced nursing competence and teaching strategies for nurse educators.

Strategies for All Teachers

When it comes to creating a productive learning environment, some strategies are common to all types of teaching. According to the website Education Corner, teachers should address six key aspects, regardless of their students’ age or educational situation:

  1. Make learning relevant. Find ways to adapt the lesson or lecture to the interests of students, if possible. Adjust your teaching methods and strategies to meet the needs of students on an individual basis. You’ll see students become more attentive and engaged.
  2. Develop a code of conduct. A clear and agreed-upon understanding of positive and negative behaviors sets the stage for appropriate classroom interactions. While this technique is most critical with younger students, learners of all ages benefit from clear behavioral expectations.
  3. Employ a positive action curriculum. This type of curriculum emphasizes positive behavior, both in and out of the classroom. Students should be taught that positive actions such as problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, kindness, respect, time management, and responsibility lead to good feelings and a positive self-image.
  4. Help students develop intrinsic motivation. Feeling good is an intrinsic motivator, and positive actions help students to feel good about themselves. Help students to change negative thoughts into positives, thereby producing positive actions, good feelings, and intrinsic motivation.
  5. Reinforce positive behaviors. Recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors is one of the most effective ways to produce positive actions in students, strengthen intrinsic motivation, and create a productive and positive learning environment.
  6. Always respond with positivity. Interacting with students in a positive manner, exhibiting positive behaviors, and maintaining a positive attitude is one of the most important steps for creating a positive learning environment and producing successful students.

Stressing Civility

Nurse educator Cynthia M. Clark adds some teaching strategies for nurse educators to this list. Clark feels strongly that in addition to being productive, nurse learning environments must also stress the quality of civility.

“Teaching nursing students about civility is a critical step toward fostering healthy work environments and ensuring safe client care,” she explains.

Clark identifies 10 steps that nursing educators can take to boost civility in the classroom:

  1. Be a positive role model. Be civil yourself to encourage this trait in your students.
  2. Be intentional in teaching civility. Incorporate civility, professionalism, and ethical practice as critical elements for nursing practice into new-student orientation at both the institutional and program levels.
  3. Host a formal ceremony. Welcome new students with an event that symbolizes a professional rite of passage into the nursing profession. This reinforces a commitment to humanistic, patient-centered care.
  4. Take a pledge. Have your students vow to support civility and associated classroom and clinical norms.
  5. Start on day one. Invest time and resources during the first day of class to lay a solid foundation for an engaging learning environment.
  6. Build it into the curriculum. Develop syllabi that include codes of conduct, academic integrity, learning objectives, assignments with rationales, and associated grading rubrics.
  7. Don’t simply lecture. Make an intentional shift from being the “expert” to becoming a facilitator of student learning.
  8. Set the example. Demonstrate civility, professionalism, and ethical conduct by setting a positive example for students.
  9. Get creative. Incorporate simulation, role-play, and other active-learning techniques to promote empathy, effective communication, and constructive conflict-negotiation skills.
  10. Sing students’ praises! Be sure to celebrate desired behaviors through certificates of achievement, badges, and formal recognition at faculty-student events.

Going Online

Much of this advice can apply to any classroom setting. Today, with the increase in online learning, most nurse educators understand that distance learning programs require some specific techniques. RNs understand the importance of teaching strategies for nurse educators

Inside Higher Ed offers these strategies that online educators can use to encourage student success in their courses:

  1. Involve the learner instructors are encouraged to incorporate authentic activities into the course content. Authentic activities, Inside Higher Ed, says, “can range from examining case studies to creating problem-based scenarios in which the students research the problem and create solutions or address gaps within the problem.”
  2. Make collaboration work. Instituting Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) can help students work together. PLCs are groups of students who communicate regularly through emails, discussion boards, video conferencing, group calls, or chats to work on course content or related issues. Inside Higher Ed notes that PLCS “are useful for collaboration with authentic activities and assisting with peer scaffolding to support students who are reluctant to participate.”
  3. Develop a clear, consistent structure. Course design plays what Inside Higher Ed called “a huge role in usability and student success.” Creating an inviting online learning environment means having a clear, consistent structure with intuitive navigation. Materials and assignments should always be in the same location and format and each module should look like the one before it.
  4. Reflect and revise. Both student feedback and an instructor’s journal can help online educators assess their efforts to improve the student learning environment.

About Duquesne University’s Online MSN in Nursing Education and Faculty Role

As a leader in online nursing education, Duquesne University has helped RNs learn skills, strategies, and evidence-based practices to become nurse educators and embark on a range of MSN careers. The coursework is presented entirely online, so students can maintain their careers and personal lives while pursuing their education goals. Graduates are prepared to successfully complete the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCP) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Family Nurse Practitioner certification examinations. Learn more about Duquesne’s Online Master of Science in Nursing Education and Faculty Role program.


Role of a nurse educator – NP Schools
Strategies for all teachers – Education Corner
Stressing civility – ATI Educator blog
Going online – Inside Higher Ed