If you’re currently working as a registered nurse then you will probably be more than aware of the nursing shortage that is impacting the US right now. An aging population, more nurses reaching retirement age, and not enough nurse educators available to train enough new nurses to meet the growing demand are just some of the main reasons behind this acute shortage that is having an impact almost everywhere that nurses are required. According to statistics, there are around one thousand open nurse educator positions right now waiting to be filled. And the worst part is that the nurse shortage is not due to a lack of people looking to attend nursing schools – in fact, many are being turned away or asked to wait until the next academic year due to the simple fact that there aren’t enough teaching staff to handle them all.
If you are concerned for the future of your career, perhaps after experiencing or witnessing the burnout, exhaustion, and mental health concerns that are plaguing today’s nurses as a result of being overwhelmed and overworked, training as a nurse educator could be one of the best ways that you can help. Nurse educators are highly trained professionals who are tasked with teaching and training nursing students in both academic and clinical settings.
Healthcare is a complex field that demands nurses and other healthcare workers to use the best practices along with ensuring that their knowledge of the latest research and how it’s applied is always up to date. Because of this, professionals who can provide nursing and healthcare education are always in high demand, especially right now with a bigger need for new nurses to start entering the profession than ever before. Here are some of the main reasons why you might want to consider a career as a nurse educator, and how to get there.
Shape the Future of Nursing
In today’s medical landscape that is subject to constant changes and advancements, nurse educators play an important role in shaping the future of nursing. Nurse educators teach and inform not only the next generation of nurses, but also the next generation of specialized nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, nurse leaders, nurse managers, nurse executives and future nurse educators. In this role, you are tasked with making sure that the next generation of nursing professionals have the knowledge and skills required through the delivery of education and the practice of new, dynamic theories and techniques that are designed to save lives and improve patient outcomes.
Various Workplace Settings
Nurse educators can teach in nursing schools, in clinical settings, or in a combination of both. This makes it an ideal career choice for nurses who are looking for a change from the clinical setting, or prefer to have more options when it comes to where they work. In addition, working from home has also become more and more available to nurse educators as an increasing number of nursing students decide to attend online nursing school due to the increasing popularity of distance learning programs now available.
Continue Improving Patient Care
Leaving direct patient care as a nurse and moving into a nurse educator role does not mean that you have to give up improving patient care. In this role, you can continue to make sure that patients get the best standards of care by equipping your students to provide it to them. In addition, nurse educators are able to work in both settings with the opportunity to continue practicing nursing while teaching it at the same time.
Enjoy High Demand
As you can imagine, the fact that a nurse educator shortage is one of the main reasons behind the shortage of nurses in the US and all the problems that it is causing means that this career field is experiencing exceptionally high demand at the moment. If you have often considered becoming a nurse educator, now is one of the best times to take the leap into this career since there are more positions open than ever before and you will have the pick of nursing schools, colleges, and healthcare organizations to work at in this role. While working as a nurse educator, not only will your skills be in high demand but you will also be actively playing a part in solving a national healthcare crisis.
Enjoy Slower-Paced Work
Many nurse educators decide to get into this role as they get older and less able to keep up with the physical demands of the role of a registered nurse. However, anybody who is looking for slower-paced work can benefit from a role in nursing education. Maybe you are planning to or have recently started a family and want a career choice that allows you to spend more time with your loved ones. Or perhaps you have noticed that your role as a nurse is taking too much of a toll on your physical and mental health and want something that allows you to continue helping others and making a difference but is a little more laid-back. Either way, working as a nurse educator means that you can certainly keep on making a huge impact in healthcare, but with no more long hours working on your feet.
Enjoy Dynamic and Interesting Work
Working as a nurse educator can often be a very dynamic role in which you will get to wear multiple hats. Depending on your level of experience and education, you might be able to work as a nurse educator in a variety of different settings. This could include educating brand-new student nurses on associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree programs or working with current nurses who are looking to expand their careers by learning more about a certain specialty area or want to move up the career ladder with a master’s degree, postgraduate certificate or other advanced education. You will also have a variety of options when it comes to the type of teaching work that you do whether you prefer the idea of mentoring students in clinical settings or delivering lectures and classes on campus or online.
How Much Do Nurse Educators Earn?
According to the BLS, the average salary for nurse educators is just over $80k per year. However, this can vary a lot by state. In the District of Columbia, for example, nurse educators earn more here compared to any other area in the US, with an average salary of over $150k, while nurse educators in Connecticut and California earn more than $100k yearly.
How to Become a Nurse Educator
If the idea of working as a nurse educator is appealing to you, the next question is how do you get there? If you are a working registered nurse and have already earned a bachelor of science in nursing, you are already past the first hurdle on your way to working in this role. After getting these basics covered, the first step towards becoming a nurse educator is to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN). You can take MSN programs both online and on-campus, with online degree programs often the better choice for those who wish to continue working as a registered nurse while fitting studying around this commitment. Depending on the nursing subjects and students that you want to teach, you may also want to consider getting a more advanced degree such as a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), which will qualify you to teach more advanced nursing students such as nurses studying for their MSN.
In general, an RN who wants to pursue a career as a nurse educator will need to have an active nursing license, an advanced nursing degree and at least a few years of nursing experience behind them. To help with getting into this role, you may also want to seek out opportunities to get more teaching and education experience within your role as an RN, such as volunteering to mentor and work with nursing students who are getting clinical experience at your place of work.
Once you have gained the relevant qualifications and experience to become a nurse educator, you will also need to obtain additional certifications or licenses that will permit you to work in this role. However, bear in mind that the requirements for these will vary depending on the employer and the type of nurse education that you want to work in. Most healthcare organizations and nursing schools will require nurse educators to hold either a Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNEcl) or Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) certification. Both of these can be obtained through the National League for Nursing. Some masters and doctoral degree programs in nursing offer the option for graduates to take the exams upon graduation in order to earn these certifications as soon as possible. If you are interested in teaching a certain nursing specialty, you may also be required to gain additional certifications in this field.
With a higher demand than ever before for good nurse educators, there are several great reasons for registered nurses to consider taking this as the next step in their career.