The 10 Best Things About Being a Nurse Educator

There is a current shortage of nurse educators-at a time when the Institute of Medicine, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other industry voices are calling for a more educated workforce. This has broadened the career horizon for new nurse educators, offering a high level of job security and opportunities to advance quickly. More importantly, nurse educators play a pivotal role in the entire healthcare system, by strengthening the nursing workforce, serving as role models, and providing the leadership needed to implement evidence-based nursing practice.

For me, becoming a nurse educator was a natural career step. Even before I finished my associate’s degree in nursing and became licensed, I knew I wanted to teach other nurses. It was just immediately apparent to me that nurse educators play a crucial role in shaping the future of the nursing profession. So after just one year of hospital experience, I began imparting knowledge to student nurses and I’ve never looked back. Education is the perfect field for me, because I collect knowledge. Every time I learn something new, I learn how much more is out there that I don’t know about. The more I can learn, the better I can serve others. If this is a mindset you share, I want to invite you to consider a career in nursing education as well. Here is my list of the ten best things about my chosen profession.

1. You help tshape the nurses that will have an impact on many patients, families, and other nurses, long after your initial interaction. In my mind, it’s like a continuous feedback loop: I provide good experiences for student nurses, who then have a positive impact on patient care. In this way, nursing education helps to shape the entire future of healthcare. Nurses who are well-trained and engaged can advocate for patients and initiate interventions that improve outcomes.

2. You contribute to the body of nursing knowledge. In part this comes from sharing wisdom with students. But beyond that, when you inspire students to become life-long learners, you ensure that the next generation of nurses will keep up with a rapidly changing healthcare industry.

SEE ALSO: The Graying of Nurse Educators

3. Youstudents will inspire you every day. I once had a med/surg student come to class all excited because she’d been able to help a family member handle a medical crisis. She had taken information from her coursework and applied it to real life, and was able to see immediately the tremendous impact it had on her loved one’s diagnosis and care. The best feeling in the world is to witness what I think of as an “aha moment,” when a student connects the dots between theory and practice. Every time this happens, it renews my passion for teaching, and I know for certain that I’ve provided the light that is going to guide them through their profession.

4. You will form unique bonds with your students. When you help your students gain new knowledge, find their calling, or advance their careers, it’s natural to take pride in their success. You bond with them not just as a teacher, but as a coach and mentor.

5. You can change your career path without changing careers. In healthcare today, there are so many avenues we can take and still be a nurse. So if you’re wanting to do something outside the bedside role but don’t want to leave nursing, a career in nursing education is waiting for you.

6. Your students will remember you years after you taught them. They may be caring for a patient at the bedside, working on a higher degree, or even teaching-but I guarantee that at some point, your students will have a flashback moment and remember something they learned from you that has shaped their practice or their career. I’ve been in nursing education about ten years now, and I still hear from some of my first students, who want to reach out and share an experience with me.

7. You can wear something other than scrubs to work. Let’s face it, no one goes into nursing for the awesome fashions. But as a nurse educator, your professional wardrobe can include your street clothes if you prefer them to scrubs.

8. Your work emergencies will no longer “circle the drain.” If you’ve ever worked in a hospital, you know that feeling when the day is going along beautifully and your shift is almost over, and then all of a sudden you’re in a code situation. In education, even your most challenging days won’t require a life-saving intervention.

9. Your work hours will occur mainly during daylight. Are you burning out from juggling family obligations while working the night shift? In education, you’ll no longer have to work weekends, holidays, or overnights.

10. You will make the profession of nursing better. Everything in healthcare is evolving and changing rapidly, including nursing practice. When you become a nursing educator, you make it a priority not to teach as you were taught, but to teach appropriately. For example, look at how quickly new technologies arise. Maybe we can’t teach technologies that haven’t been invented yet, but we can ensure that our student nurses have the foundations they need to respond appropriately to new technologies as they apply to nursing practice, and to be sure that evolving technologies do not devalue the human element in healthcare. In this way, nurse educators enhance nursing practice as a whole, far into the future. 

Karen Whitham is assistant dean of undergraduate nursing programs at American Sentinel University. She is a certified nurse educator and a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the National League for Nursing, and the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. She is also a program evaluator for the Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation.

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