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Nurse educator jobs: Essential qualities of a nursing teacher


This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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Raelene Brooks, Dean, College of Nursing

This article was reviewed by Raelene Brooks, Dean, College of Nursing.

This article was updated on March 18, 2024.

Nurse educators fulfill an essential role in healthcare. To help maintain compliance and promote efficiency, nurse educators instruct fellow nurses in a variety of best practices, teaching them how to better fulfill their responsibilities and further mentoring them in their role.

Nurse professors also play an important role in research by considering new processes and theories that could better address patient needs. They have an advanced set of skills and training, have the capabilities to design and implement curriculum and revise educational programs for nurses.

As a nurse educator, you need a passion for both nursing and teaching. Here, we cover what a nurse educator is, what their responsibilities are and what qualities help them excel in this role.

What is a nurse educator?

A nurse educator is a registered nurse (RN) who transitions from nursing practice to a teaching role. Nurse educators use the expertise they’ve acquired to help prepare other nurses and prospective nursing students for their professional and technical roles.

Some nurse educators teach nurses who are preparing for their initial entry into their career. These educators prepare students to be accountable and responsible within their respective scope of practice.

Nurse educators also provide ongoing education to nurses already working in the field. These educators spend time familiarizing nurses with changes to medical and information technology, diagnostic processes, compliance standards, electronic health record documentation and other relevant industry updates.

Nurse educators often have different titles and responsibilities depending on their setting and employer. For example, clinical nurse educators teach nurses in healthcare institutions. By contrast, academic educators provide instruction in the classroom, often before nurses begin a full-time position.

What does a nurse educator do?

While there are different types of nurse educator jobs, what they have in common is a focus on the competency and knowledge of new or practicing nurses. A job as a nurse educator is usually preceded by some time spent in clinical practice, and most nurse educators possess a bachelor’s degree. It is a way for those with experience in the nursing field to translate that experience to others.

Nurse educator responsibilities

Nurse educators handle a variety of responsibilities. In addition to providing direct instruction, nurse educators are commonly responsible for:

  • Developing curricula for nursing instruction
  • Evaluating nurse performance in a healthcare setting
  • Overseeing instruction of students in nursing programs and newly licensed nurses
  • Researching new technologies, processes and best practices for possible implementation
  • Auditing current nurse duties and processes to identify opportunities for improvement
  • Implementing ongoing training for experienced nurses
  • Advocating for resources that can improve efficiency and patient outcomes

Nurse educators also play an important role in quality control. They make sure new nurses are qualified before they begin work, and they implement training and refresher courses to ensure nurses remain qualified for their duties.

Job skills and requirements for a nurse educator

To become a nurse educator in the practice setting, you must be a registered nurse with clinical work experience and a master’s degree. The advanced degree must be a Master of Science in Nursing in certain states. Strong teaching skills are ideal but not necessarily required. Instructors with other strengths, such as observation, listening and patience, may find themselves particularly well suited to this role.

Educators also need to understand and uphold standards in nursing informatics, which is the collection, analysis and protection of patient data. This means staying abreast of advancements in the field of nursing informatics, including any new informatics-related responsibilities nurses might have.

To continually provide high-quality instruction, many nurse educators join the National League for Nursing (NLN). Certification through the NLN gives them access to leadership training, webinars, events and other skill-building programs that can inform their curricula, lessons and instruction methods.

Essential qualities of a nurse educator

Here are some common qualities of effective nurse educators:

  • Passion for teaching and mentoring — You should have a strong desire to instruct new generations of qualified, effective nurses.
  • Assessment/diagnostic test capabilities — As an RN you should understand how to correctly perform assessments, run diagnostic and lab tests and build treatment plans for patients.
  • Effective communicator — You’ll regularly communicate with nurses when teaching effective practices. You might also interact with patients to refresh your skills or demonstrate effective patient care for nursing students. This role also requires empathy, which affects how your communication is perceived.
  • Proactive researcher — Nursing is a rapidly evolving field. You should regularly find time to research new procedures, compliance parameters and technologies that can further help your healthcare organization meet its goals.
  • Encouraging students — You should encourage new and experienced students to create an environment where nurses are encouraged to implement modern strategies and procedures.
  • Patience — Students won’t always master nursing concepts the first time. Effective nurse educators show patience when fielding student questions and correcting actions.

Effective nurse educators also regularly apply adult learning theories in the workplace. These main principles in educating adults help improve nurse education and encourage confidence in both students and teachers.

What are the types of nurse educator jobs?

Clinical nurse educator

The most hands-on of the nurse educator jobs, clinical nurse educators perform their work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and clinics. They work with nurse managers and other administrative staff to institute curriculum and develop policies and procedures.

Clinical nurse educators are responsible for making sure that registered nurses know the most current evidence-based practices when it comes to patient care. They work with RNs in both one-on-one and group settings to evaluate nursing practice competencies, train nurses on the use of new technology and provide professional development opportunities.

Faculty nurse educator or professor

Nurse educators can also be found in classrooms and lecture halls in colleges and universities where they create innovative methods to teach and engage students and evaluate learning. Faculty nurse educators perform much of the work of a traditional university professor, in addition to using their personal nursing experience to supplement the material. They are responsible for developing curriculum, exercises and experiments, grading papers and exams, and guiding individual students.

At the graduate level, faculty nurse educators often oversee their students’ research, as well as conducting their own research in the field of nursing. By publishing their research, faculty nurse educators are able to have a big impact on how nursing is performed across the world.

Nursing education consultant

Registered nurses can pursue becoming a nursing education consultant after they have gained the level of experience as a nurse educator required by their state, sector or employer. To help define their needs and strategies, nurse educators sometimes turn to nurse education consultants to weigh in.  

Consultants can be involved in both school and clinical settings, as well as in private companies or serve at accreditation organizations and state boards of nursing.

Nursing education consultants are responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of nurse education programs, measuring outcomes and making recommendations. Their input can improve nurse education programs and introduce approaches that otherwise may not have been considered.

How to become a nurse educator

If you’re eager to grow your knowledge and skills within the nursing field, University of Phoenix offers the following degree options:

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