An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but the need for nurses keeps on growing—apples or no apples. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that there will be roughly 3.4 million registered nurses by 2028. That's a 12 percent increase over the decade, making it one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States.
Experts fear it won't be enough, noting a nursing shortage that should only worsen as Baby Boomers approach retirement. Among the contributing factors: nursing schools are unable to keep up with the demand for new nurses. They turned away over 75,000 qualified applicants (from baccalaureate and graduate programs) in 2018, largely due to budget cuts and insufficient faculty. For that reason—and many more—nurse educators have a unique opportunity to improve healthcare directly. And, as nursing schools look to add faculty, there should be plenty of opportunities for them in the job market.
In this article on how to become a nurse educator we'll cover:
Nursing is a difficult job that requires medical knowledge, interpersonal skills, and a surprising amount of endurance and physical strength. Someone has to prepare nurses for all these challenges awaiting them. That's the job of nurse educators. Think of them as nursing's drill sergeants.
Most nurse educators work in degree-conferring nursing education programs, with opportunities at:
Nurse educators juggle ongoing clinical training with classroom responsibilities such as:
While many nurse educators work in academia, some—called clinical nurse educators—may also choose to work as supervisors or staff development professionals in healthcare settings. Some nurse educators spend their summers—when the schools that employ them are out of session—performing such work in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and private practices.
But even those whose primary venue is the classroom divide their time between campus and the hospital. They need to help students through their clinicals while also grading papers, planning lectures, and taking continuing education courses of their own.
Nurse educators enjoy competitive pay, a growing job market and the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of students and their patients. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that nurse educators have to deal with the demands of academic life, such as:
Still, it's impossible to deny that nursing education offers a wide variety of compelling benefits, including:
At minimum, nurse educators must complete a master's degree program in nursing. Some universities may require a doctorate in order to teach.
Before you can become a nurse educator, however, you must become a licensed and experienced registered nurse (RN). In order to do that, you must:
While you need only an ADN to become an RN, you typically need a BSN to earn an MSN (although there are a few RN to MSN programs that bypass the BSN). The MSN is the minimum prerequisite degree to become an NE. That's a lot of acronyms!
Many of our articles about nursing recommend state programs for the BSN and MSN, and for good reason. They are generally excellent and are significantly less expensive than private institutions. If you aspire to become a nurse educator, however, you may want to consider attending a top school. Academia respects its own hierarchy, and you will have a much better chance of landing a plum faculty position with a degree from a school with a national reputation. That's not to say you can't enjoy a successful career as a nurse educator with degrees from a state university. Rather, it's just that a big-name degree should improve your prospects considerably.
We've listed some of the top BSN programs in the country below:
Teaching nursing requires a solid foundation in clinical experience. Many nurse educators spend several years working in clinical settings before pursuing postgraduate education. Clinical experience will test many of the skills you'll need to be an effective nurse educator, including:
Once nurses have completed their bachelor's degree in nursing and clinical experience, they are eligible to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing. This degree is the minimum academic qualification required to become a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE).
Some nursing programs offer tracks that train RNs to teach other nurses. Topics include:
After earning a master's degree, many nurse educators choose to earn a doctoral degree in nurse education. Some institutions require their faculty to hold a doctorate.
After two or more years of employment in a nursing program, it is possible to obtain a Certification for Nurse Educators (CNE). This certification, which is designated by the National League for Nursing, allows nurses to become faculty.
CNE certification is one more way to make yourself stand out as a nursing education professional. Although CNE certification is not always required for nurse educators, it improves the quality and scope of work opportunities by indicating excellent work in the field.
Not everyone eats an apple a day. (Also, eating apples has only a nominal salubrious effect.) That's why the world will continue to need nurses, and as long as it does, it will also need nurse educators. If the junction of healthcare and education is your sweet spot, this could be the perfect career for you.
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