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Nurse educators: 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.

At a glance

  • A nurse educator is a registered nurse (RN) who teaches other nurses the essential and expected responsibilities of a skilled nurse.
  • To be a nurse educator, it’s customary to be an RN and have clinical work experience. An advanced nursing degree is also typically required.
  • Having a passion for teaching and mentoring and being an effective communicator and proactive researcher are great qualities of a nurse educator.
  • If you’re looking to grow your knowledge in the field of nursing, University of Phoenix offers online nursing degree programs.

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.

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.

Nurse educator salary and career outlook

Nurse educator careers, like other postsecondary teaching careers, are projected to grow 12% through 2031. This growth rate translates to the addition of an estimated 139,600 postsecondary education jobs per year.

Much of this career growth is driven by the healthcare needs of the aging U.S. population. Nurse educators will be needed in greater numbers to help educate nurses who provide these services.

Several factors impact nurse educator salaries, depending on employer, location, certifications and years of experience.

To grow familiar with nursing informatics — and improve skills in nursing administration and education — many registered nurses obtain a master’s degree in nursing after they complete their undergraduate degree. This secondary degree can be a bonus to employers who may prefer candidates with additional knowledge and further developed skills for the role.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is not geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

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.

Earn a degree in nursing at University of Phoenix

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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