A 2010 National League for Nursing Educator Shortage Fact Sheet highlighted the challenges that institutions are facing regarding the decade-long nurse educator shortage. According to the NLN Nursing Data Review (2007-2008), the primary obstacle to expanding admissions to nursing programs was a shortage of faculty. Almost two-thirds of all doctoral programs and one half of RN-BSN and master’s programs found insufficient faculty as a “major constraint to expansion.”
The need for nurse educators has never been greater, and the aging baby boomer population will greatly tax the current nursing workforce unless an effort is made to secure and retain nurse educators with the goal of producing more qualified nursing professionals.
An exceptional nursing educational experience is critical for developing a qualified and competent nursing workforce. As such, nurse educators play a central role in the ever-changing healthcare environment. Strengthening the nursing workforce through education and mentoring is the primary goal of nurse educators, who must provide the leadership and guidance necessary to produce a sound educational experience for future nurses.
Nurse educators are committed to innovative teaching techniques and the highest ideals. They possess strong leadership qualities, have a strong grasp of the constantly changing practice environment, and they are skilled in counseling and mentoring. Nurse educators are dedicated to the pursuit of lifelong learning and are passionate about offering guidance to future nurses.
The Role of Nurse Educators
The National League for Nursing’s (NLN) publication, The Scope of Practice for Academic Nurse Educators, describes nurse education as a specialty area and an advanced nursing practice role. The NLN also defines the core competencies of nurse educators:
- Facilitate learning
- Use assessment and evaluation strategies
- Participate in curriculum design
- Evaluate program outcomes
- Serve as a change agent and leader
- Seek continuous improvement in the nurse educator role
- Engage in scholarship
Nurse educators are found in both academic and clinical settings, and may teach at either private teaching hospitals when offering advanced practice preparation, or community colleges when providing preparatory associate-level nursing education. They may also serve as an integral part of university research groups or online distance learning programs. From small technical colleges to major hospital systems, the current need for qualified nurse educators is far-reaching.
Nurse educators may hold a number of professional titles, including: clinical nurse educator, staff development officer, continuing education specialist, or instructional nurse faculty, among others. In addition to serving as teachers in academic or clinical settings, nurse educators are often involved in:
- Designing new curricula/Developing new programs or courses
- Evaluating and revising academic or continuing education programs
- Research and other scholarly work
- Participating in professional associations
- Speaking engagements at nursing conferences
- Writing grant proposals
- Advising students
- Writing or reviewing textbooks and other educational material
Nurse Educator Educational Requirements
In addition to possessing strong communication and critical thinking skills, nurse educators must be educated at the master’s level or higher and must have a strong clinical background. Must associate professors and professors must achieve a doctoral degree to be considered for promotion within the upper academic ranks.
Nurse educators often pursue master’s degree and/or post-graduate certificate programs that are designed specifically for the nurse educator, as with the MS in Nursing Education or the MS in Nursing with a Concentration in Nursing Education, which are the standard for nurse educators, as they meet eligibility requirements for the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam.
At the doctorate level, the PhD in Higher Education Administration is commonly held by nursing program directors, while a general PhD in Nursing is the standard for research professors.
In addition, many colleges and universities now have baccalaureate –to-PhD programs for bachelor’s educated nurses who want to focus on doctoral preparation.
It is common for nurse educators to have extensive clinical experience, and many nurse educators continue to work in the clinical environment long after becoming educators. Maintaining a strong clinical connection allows nurse educators to stay abreast of the newest medical technologies and nursing practices.
In addition to education courses, nurse educator programs provide a strong foundation in health care policy, ethics, and advanced health assessment and health promotion. Some of the courses students can expect to take through a graduate, post-graduate certificate, or doctoral program include:
- Advanced Concepts in Pathophysiology
- Pharmacologic Applications
- Health Promotion
- Advanced Health Assessment
- Advanced Health Assessment Practicum
- Evolution of Nursing Theory
- Advanced Concepts in Nursing Research
- Nursing and Public Policy
- Education Strategies in Nursing
- Nursing Curriculum Development and Evaluation
- Education and Assessment in Nursing
- Instructional Design
- Principles of Adult Learning
- Principles of Teaching and Learning
- Instructional Technology
Nurse Educator Certification
The National League for Nursing’s Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) program was granted accreditation in 2009. The CNE certification was developed to distinguish nursing education as a specialty area of practice and an advance practice role.
To become eligible for CNE certification, applicants must meet the requirements of either Option A or Option B:
- Hold a current and active RN license in the United States or one of its territories.
- Hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, with:
- A major emphasis in nursing education
- Nine or more credits of graduate-level courses (which may include: curriculum development and evaluation, instructional design, principles of adult learning, assessment/measurement and evaluation; principles of teaching and learning, and instructional technology)
- At least two years of full-time employment in an academic faculty role within the five years prior to applying.
- Hold a current and active RN license in the United States or one of its territories.
- Hold a master’s degree or doctoral degree in nursing (with a major emphasis in a role other than nursing education)
- At least four years of full-time employment in an academic faculty role within the five years prior to applying.
The CNE Examination includes the following major content areas:
- Facilitation of learning
- Facilitation of student development and socialization
- Strategies for assessment and evaluation
- Participation in the design of curriculum and program outcome evaluation
- Continuous pursuit of quality improvement in the educator role
- Engagement in service, leadership, and scholarship
- Operation as a leader and agent for change
- Engagement in scholarship related to teaching
- Effectiveness within the institutional environment and the academic community
CNE certification is renewed every five years. The five-year renewal cycle begins the year after the certification exam was taken, and ends on December 31st of the fifth year. Renewal is based on an applicant’s ability to maintain practice and professional development requirements.
Nurse Educator Resources
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing is the national voice for America’s baccalaureate and higher-degree nurse educators. The AACN sets standards; provides resources; and develops leadership capacity to advance nursing education, research and practice.
The National League for Nursing is a membership organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education. Members of the NLN include nurse educators, education agencies, healthcare agencies, and members of the public.
Nursing Education Perspectives, which is published through the National League for Nursing, is a peer-reviewed journal that acts as a forum for the exchange of information regarding teaching and learning, curricula, technology, and other issues that are important to nursing education.
The National Nursing Staff Development Organization focuses on the advancement of staff development to enhance healthcare outcomes. The NNSO provides research and resources that integrate the best practices for staff development.
The Journal of Nursing Education features peer-reviewed articles and ideas for nurse educators in a variety of nursing programs.
Salary Expectations for Nurse Educators
CNN Money’s annual survey of the “Best Jobs in America” included nurse educators, whose median salary in 2009 was $66,400. The survey also noted that the top earners in the field earned an average of $89,600 in 2009, and that 10-year job growth (2006-2016) is expected to increase by 23 percent.
According to the National Salary Report of 2011, published by the peer reviewed journal, Advance for NPs and PAs, nurse practitioners in academia earned an average of $87,643 a year.
According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the average salary of master’s prepared faculty was $72,028 in 2011.
A May/June 2007 issue of NLN’s Nursing Education Perspectives showed the results of an NLN-Carnegie compensation study. The study found that the earnings landscape for nurse educators varied significantly depending on rank, program type, and institutional setting. In particular, nurse educators who worked in pre-licensure programs earned five percent below the overall mean salary for full-time nurse educators, while nurse educators who taught in a combination of graduate and pre-licensure settings saw an increase of $10,000 per year over their pre-licensure counterparts. Nurse educators who taught exclusively at the graduate level saw compensation rates as much as 27 percent higher than averages for educators teaching associate and baccalaureate-level programs.