What is a Nursing Instructor?
A nursing instructor is a professional healthcare teacher who is both a registered nurse (RN) and a licensed educator.
Throughout the educations of RNs and licensed practical nurses (LPN), nursing instructors are the people who teach and train students how to care for patients using appropriate bedside manner and observing HIPAA laws, measure and administer medication, and accurately perform various nursing administrative duties such as records keeping of confidential patient information and charting.
What Does a Nursing Instructor Do?
The day-to-day duties of a nursing instructor are centered around one goal; i.e., ensuring that LPN and RN students are trained and prepared for a career of providing their future patients with thoughtful and skilled nursing care.
Teaching and Instructing
During the first year of a nursing student’s education, nursing instructors teach a variety of core subjects and nursing fundamentals classes where they give lectures for note-taking and conduct student discussions. For the remainder of a LPN or RN’s education, it is a nursing instructor’s duty to teach students through clinical instruction how to put the content of those classroom lectures into practice.
Preparing Class Curricula
To prepare class curricula, a nursing instructor’s duties may include lesson planning, writing lectures, selecting required textbooks for the course and other appropriate reading materials, designing instructional exercises and arranging laboratory time, organizing and assigning homework, and outlining the class syllabus.
To ensure that they prepare high quality class curricula, nursing instructors collaborate with their professional colleagues, attend education and healthcare seminars, and stay up-to-date on the latest in medical research and development.
Grading and Evaluating Work
In addition to administering examinations and homework, it is also a nursing instructor’s duty to evaluate student work, assign grades, and keep detailed records of each student’s clinical participation and progress. However, student work evaluations are not solely intended for calculating grades. Nursing instructors must also provide students with valuable feedback to help them further develop their skills and improve their clinical performances.
Mentoring and Guidance
Students of all studies need professionals whom they can look up to and whose career footsteps they can follow. It is a nursing instructor's duty to provide that guidance and mentorship for aspiring nurses and they can fulfill this responsibility in a variety of different ways. Many nursing instructors keep scheduled office hours so that students may seek career guidance, academic advice, and learn how they can raise their grades and improve upon their clinical weaknesses.
Supervising Clinical Rotations
When students reach the point in their nursing education to start gaining hands-on experience, nursing instructors coordinate and supervise those clinical lessons and rotations. Clinical requirements are generally fulfilled in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and students look to their nursing instructors for guidance while working with hospital staff, assisting RNs and LPNs as they care for patients, and abiding by the laws and institutional regulations that determine which tasks they are legally to allowed to perform.
What are the Working Conditions of a Nursing Instructor?
Because they are both healthcare professionals and educators, the working conditions of a nursing instructor are typically more distinct than those for most occupations. Nursing instructors are employed by universities, technical school nursing programs, and community colleges. These types of academic working conditions are typically Monday through Friday, 9-5 positions inside classrooms and clinical laboratories.
Many also work in hospitals and other medical facilities as staff-training leaders and team supervisors. In contrast to other nurses who work in patient-care settings, nursing instructors are not usually expected to work overnight or shifts longer than 8 hours.
Can Nursing Instructors Work from Home?
One of the advantages of being a nursing instructor is having the option to work from home. While many skills require hands-on experience and training in a clinical environment, a large portion of a nurse’s education may be taught online.
Through web-based programs, nursing instructors enjoy plenty of scheduling flexibility as they teach their courses, plan lessons, and grade student papers and other assignments from their very own computers right at home.
What Do You Learn in a Nursing Education Degree Program?
In a nursing education degree program, you will learn how to plan and teach lessons, deliver lectures, and prepare nursing students for future careers in healthcare. While the following is a great start to learning what a nursing education degree program will teach you, it should be noted that this is not a complete list and there may be numerous other concepts you will be expected to learn.
- Registered Nurse – In order to become a healthcare educator, nursing instructors must first become registered nurses themselves. RN students will learn about the diagnoses and treatment of disease, pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, and how to provide patients with highly skilled nursing care.
- Environment Management – Aspiring nursing instructors learn how to manage clinical environments to control the spread of disease and infection and ensure the safety of their students, facility staff, and patients.
- Ethics in Healthcare Education – Students learn about the various types of predicaments they may face during their clinical education careers and how to navigate those dilemmas according to their own morals and the standards ethical behavior outlined by modern healthcare.
- Clinical Teaching Theories and Techniques – Students learn about healthcare education theories and techniques for assessing student academic needs and teaching to a diverse range of different learning styles.
- Curricula Planning – Nursing instructors learn how to develop and evaluate curricula, write lesson plans, give engaging lectures, encourage discussions amongst students, and how to effectively make curriculum changes in light of new information and research developments in healthcare.
- Healthcare Law and Institutional Policy – Students learn about the state and federal laws that affect the policy decisions made by various healthcare institutions and clinical facilities.
- Clinical Research – Aspiring nursing instructors learn how to evaluate, design, and conduct clinical research within an academic setting. They learn how to collaborate with other healthcare educators and work under the policies implemented by a university administration.
- Psychosocial Dynamics in Education – Nursing instructor candidates learn about the psychological and social dynamics in an educational setting and how they affect students' confidence and learning potential.
- Public Health Concerns – Students learn about public health education and diversity, wellness promotion, and how to assess demographics at high risk for contracting and spreading disease.
What are the Requirements to Become a Nursing Instructor?
The first step to becoming a nursing instructor is to earn a four-year Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.). While graduate level education is not technically required for nursing instructors, it is extremely rare to find an employer who will consider hiring candidates who do not hold at least a master’s degree. If a nursing instructor is hired with just a BSN, they are only qualified to teach the lower level courses in two-year LPN programs or train aspiring certified nursing assistants (CNA).
Earning a Master's of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) with a concentration in nursing education typically takes an additional two years, but some programs offer B.S.N. to M.S.N. fast tracks that can be completed in four years. M.S.N. programs are the point in a nursing instructor's education where they learn about healthcare teaching theories and methods, and how to evaluate and develop curricula.
An M.S.N. will certainly open up more employment opportunities than a B.S.N., but employers requiring nursing instructors to hold doctorates is becoming more and more common each and every day. Aspiring nursing instructors who seek tenure should earn either a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which usually takes two to three years of additional education.
Aspiring nursing instructors must first obtain their RN licensure by passing the National Council Licensure Examination. Required by all 50 state boards of nursing, the NCLEX costs $200 per attempt and may be taken as many times as necessary with 91 days between each.
While there are technically no official certification requirements for CNA instructors with only a BSN degree, employers typically require those who aspire to teach RN and LPN students to obtain the Certified Nurse Educator or CNE. Accredited through the National League for Nursing (NLN), CNE eligibility is available strictly to applicants who hold an active RN license and a MSN degree with at least nine credit hours of nursing education courses, a post-grad certificate in nursing education, or a DNP with a concentration in nursing education.
What is an Online Nursing Education Degree?
Aspiring nursing instructors who have earned their BSN, hold an active RN license, and have at least two years of clinical experience working in health care may pursue their MSN or master’s in nursing education online.
An online nursing education degree is earned through a web-based program in which students can study in the comfort and convenience of their home. This type of degree is ideal for anyone with limited flexibility in their schedules, who have children and other familial obligations, and those who wish to continue working full-time jobs.
What Does It Take to Be a Nursing Instructor?
While many find a career in education to be inherently rewarding, the job of a nursing instructor can be challenging and difficult at times. Nursing instructors must possess a number of personal traits and professional skills to overcome the stress of their everyday duties, and more importantly, teach nursing students how to safely and skillfully care for patients in the future.
Clear Instructions and Explanations
Nursing instructors must be able to clearly explain complex concepts, describe the human anatomy in all its parts and functions, and instruct students how to perform complicated multi-step tasks that if not executed correctly, can have serious and even lethal consequences.
Patience and Adaptability
It is rare for two people to have the exact same style of learning, and it is even rarer that either of those people are able to identify which type of learner they are. Nursing instructors must be patient enough to get to know their students, discover their learning strengths and weaknesses, and then adapt their teaching techniques to meet those needs.
Reliability and Consistency
While flexibility is essential for adapting to different learning styles, nursing instructors must be consistent in their overall classroom expectations and the standards by which they measure individual student performances. Furthermore, they should be models of reliability by always attending their own classes, returning evaluated work when promised, and calculating grades on time.
Interpersonal and Communication Skills
To teach is to effectively communicate. In addition to communication skills for delivering complex instructions and explaining medical jargon, nursing instructors should also possess exceptional interpersonal skills so that they may evaluate patients, assess learning needs, manage student disputes, and collaborate with their colleagues and university administrators.
Energy and Positivity
Teaching and mentoring requires nursing instructors to possess high levels of energy as they explain difficult concepts and deliver tedious instructions. They should also be able to inspire students with their positivity throughout the challenges of pursuing an degree in nursing.
Self-Criticism and Self-Confidence
Nursing instructors need to maintain a healthy balance of self-criticism and self-confidence because not every lecture they deliver will be as effective as they would have liked. They must continuously be reevaluating their teaching methods and revising their lectures, and to exercise this level of constructive self-criticism requires plenty of confidence and professional integrity.
Passion for Education and Health Care
All teachers should be passionate about education, but nursing instructors should also be just as passionate about health care.
A Sense of Humor
At its worst, especially in cases of terminal diagnoses, a nurse’s job can be emotionally exhausting, heavy, and sad. At its best, a nurse's job can sometimes just be gross and awkward due to simple human anatomy. Nursing instructors should model an excellent sense of humor for their students to teach them how to cope with the everyday realities of a career in health care.
Continuous Intellectual Curiosity
Continuously revising their curricula to implement new developments and trends in health care, nursing instructors should be lifelong students with high levels of intellectual curiosity.
What are the Benefits of Being a Nursing Instructor?
The benefits of being a nursing instructor largely depend upon place of employment and the instructor’s own level of education (BSN, MSN, or DNP). However, compiled into a list for your convenience below are some of the most commonly cited benefits of being a nursing instructor.
The Job Security of Being in High Demand
The demand for nursing instructors has never been higher, which also means a nursing instructor’s job has never been more secure. Once the required degrees, licensure, and certifications have been fulfilled, nursing instructors are more or less guaranteed employment for the rest of their careers.
Less Patient-Related Responsibility and Stress
While the responsibilities of a healthcare educator are certainly stressful, nursing instructors are not held legally responsible for the mortality of their students’ patients nor the mortality of their own patients while teaching.
Vacations, Time-Off, and Sabbaticals
Standard in academia, nursing instructors receive the same vacation time as their students. This includes two months of summer vacation, time off during the holidays, long weekend breaks during fall and winter semesters, and a spring break that is usually one-to-two weeks long. Additionally, nursing instructors may also take sabbaticals to study, attend conferences, and conduct research.
Leaders and Shapers of the Nursing Field
Those who aspire to become nurses care deeply about others and strive to make a positive impact in their lives. While nursing instructors do not provide patients with day-to-day clinical care, they understand that they can make a far more profound impact as leaders and shapers of the entire nursing field.
Opportunities and Resources for Additional Income
Due to all the vacation time that comes with being an educator, nursing instructors have plenty of time to pursue additional sources of income by either working RN shifts in a healthcare facility, conducting workshops, and delivering lectures and presentations at professional conferences.
Career-Long Intellectual Stimulation and Learning
In order to be an effective teacher to others, educators must be dedicated lifelong students themselves. With continuous access to the latest research and innovation in healthcare, nursing instructors enjoy career-long intellectual stimulation and learning opportunities.
Daytime Scheduling Flexibility
Most healthcare facilities require nurses to work long 12-hour days and participate in staffing rotations to cover overnight shifts. However, nursing instructors enjoy the benefit of working a simple 9-5, Monday-through-Friday schedule. Additionally, they also have the option to work from home by teaching nursing courses online through web-based degree programs.
What is the Job Outlook for Nursing Instructors?
Each year, nursing programs across the United States are forced to turn away upwards of 70,000 eligible student applicants due to the fact there are not nearly enough nursing instructors to go around. A devastating impact, this scarcity in clinical educators means that there is also an increasingly concerning shortage of nurses within the entire field of healthcare.
In the last 14 years, the demand for nursing instructors has increased over 19-percent, and that growth is estimated to continue growing each year by over 9-percent. By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts nursing educators should expect to see their salaries raised by at least 2-percent with a 19-percent growth in job outlook by 2020.
What Professions Are Similar to Nursing Education?
Nurse midwives are generally known for delivering babies during natural at-home births and assisting physicians during hospital deliveries and C-sections. However, nurse midwives fulfill numerous other women's healthcare roles such as performing Pap smears and other gynecological examinations, fertility and family planning consultations, and providing prenatal care to women throughout their pregnancies.
A nurse administrator serves as healthcare facility's manager of nursing staff. In addition to supervising nurses throughout their shifts, nurse administrators are also responsible for organizing staff-training, developing workplace policies, scheduling shifts and rotations, evaluating nurses' performances, arranging pay raises, and providing senior healthcare administrators with valuable feedback.
Clinical Nursing Specialists
Often researchers, educators, staff supervisors, clinical liaisons and consultants, clinical nursing specialists fulfill a variety of simultaneous roles and functions. They are responsible for examining and revising the nursing overall model, advocating on behalf of nurses' rights by improving their working environments and conditions, and making changes to various policies such as nursing bedside manner expectations and procedures.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are the highest level one can reach within the field of nursing without becoming an actual licensed physician. Nurse practitioners are authorized to fulfill many of the same roles and responsibilities as physicians such as diagnosing and treating disease, prescribing medications, setting casts for broken bones, and even performing some minimally-invasive surgical procedures.