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  • 25 July 2023
  • 14 min read

How To Become A Nurse Educator

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    • Richard Gill
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  • 1751
“You get lots of positive feedback through what you do. You really feel that you're making a difference. Most of what you do is positive work, you are teaching, you're supporting others.”

Applying for a Nurse Educator role can get competitive, due to the rewarding nature of the job. Luckily, Carol- who has experience in a variety of nurse education settings- is here to share her top tips for becoming a Nurse Educator.

Hi everybody, my name is Carol and I'm a Recruitment & Retention Nurse Lead in Oxford.

So today have asked me to give you some key tips on how to become a Nurse Educator, which I'm very happy to do. I loved my education roles and I hope you enjoyed this video.

My Experience In Nurse Education Roles

I've been a Registered Nurse since the 1980s. I've worked in several different Nurse Educator roles over the years. Some of these roles have included more clinical-based nurse education roles, such as a Practice Development Nurse in a neurology unit, whereas other roles have been more university based, such as lecturing for nursing modules, undergraduate adult nursing modules and postgraduate master's modules in neurosciences.

I was also a Lecturer Practitioner in neurosciences, and that was more of a joint appointment between a hospital trust and a university. Sometimes you've got these education roles that are split between employers, and you've got your feet in both camps. I love that role. Working half in clinical practice and half in the university.

So firstly, I thought I'd briefly talk about what it's like as a Nurse Educator and why you might want to become a Nurse Educator. You might be looking at lots of different career pathways at the moment, and a Nurse Educator role might be just one of those options for you that you're looking at.

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Nurse Educators Make A Difference

Reflecting on my own experiences across all those education roles that I've had, I can truly say nurse education is an amazing career and an amazing role. I've always remembered Nurse Teachers that supported me and Educators that made such a difference to my professional development.

I was the only person in my nursing cohort as a Student Nurse, for example, who failed their nursing finals. And I really lacked confidence when I registered. And it was only through really good clinical Nurse Educators who guided me, developed my skills, and boosted my confidence in practice, that then I was able to grow and professionally develop as a nurse.

So, one of the key reasons to become a Nurse Educator I think is that you get lots of positive feedback from others through what you do. You really feel that you're making a difference. Most of what you do is positive work, you are teaching, you're supporting others.

And it's amazing to see people move from a place where they might be really struggling in practice or with academic work or with a course or to gain a skill, to now being able to do that skill and to deal with the challenge in practice and have that confidence to pass an assignment or module all through the support that you gave that person.

So, you know that you've made that difference to that individual and it's enabled them to stay in the role. Without a Nurse Educator's input, people might not be retained in a role. You have this massive impact as a Nurse Educator.

You get lots of positive feedback through what you do. You really feel that you're making a difference. Most of what you do is positive work, you are teaching, you're supporting others.

What Are The Hours Like For Nurse Educators?

One of the key reasons I went into nurse education as well, was that I'd become a team leader and then a nursing sister. And I was really struggling with the unsocial hours, and I was finding the leadership responsibility as a neurology ward manager was starting to become more and more stressful. I was taking work home with me and I just couldn't switch off. And I always really enjoyed teaching; I just didn't see myself going into further leadership role.

The next step for me probably would've been a matron or a divisional post or a sidewards move into, say, a clinical governance type leadership role. But throughout my career, because I enjoyed supporting and teaching others, I made this intentional move (on my part) to move into nurse education for better hours and for quality of life, and the type of work that I would be doing.

And I would say to any of you out there, whatever level you are, you can move into education: I was a team leader for seven years and then a sister. There's nothing wrong with you moving sidewards and trying alternative roles.

Obviously, I mentioned about unsocial hours and most Nurse Educators work less than social hours. So, if you're a Practice Development Nurse for example, or clinical Nurse Educator, managers usually want you around in the week to run teaching programs or to deliver training or to do staff inductions and orientations. You might be pulled into staffing numbers and work odd shifts if the service is very short. But in most clinical Nurse Educator roles, I would say that's probably rarer.

And similarly in university nursing lecturer role, your teaching is in the working week and in term times usually, although you'll be marking at weekends and back holidays.

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You’ll Get To Work Within A Supportive Team

Third reason to become a Nurse Educator is that Nurse Educators by nature are usually very supportive. So, you get to work with some great nursing teams, which I have over the years. Not to say other teams aren't, but it's just the nature of education is supportive, I think.

So, you need to think about some of your reasons for moving into nurse education in the first place. Are you also happy to reduce those unsocial hours, for example?

Nurse Educator Roles Cover A Range Of Specialisms & Workplaces

When looking at becoming a Nurse Educator, one of my big tips is to look at what opportunities there are out there, and you need to be aware that there's a range of different types of Nurse Educator roles and opportunities out there.

Some types of clinical nurse education roles are based in a local area, a field or a specialism in the community, and others are more corporate led where you deliver teaching across large services.

I was a clinical Nurse Educator in neurosciences, which was my specialist field, but, as well as locally based clinical educators, there are these more corporate roles. I never worked as a corporate Nurse Educator, but you might lead education across a whole institution.

You might deliver teaching to Healthcare Assistants, or a preceptorship program for Newly Registered Nurses in a community or a hospital trust or be a basic life support trainer. So, you won't be based in one area. You're delivering lots of training to lots of staff across different areas, depending on the role.

In contrast, university Nurse Educator roles are linked to modules and usually you've got specific groups of learners or cohorts or year groups if you teach on a degree program.

And again, there might be different types of teaching and skills required across universities because sometimes you're teaching Nursing Associates, sometimes you might be delivering a skill-based program, or you could be a nurse that teaches in a skills lab, for example, versus a lecturing role maybe where you are supporting seminar groups and doing more lecturing. You might have a mix of teaching across different programs.

It's important to start strengthening your CV and your personal statements as early as you can; you need a strong personal statement where you show an active interest in education.

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Experience The Role Through Shadowing & Informal Visits

If you wish to become a Nurse Educator, my second real key tip- once you've looked into the roles- would be to actually go and see what people do in their day-to-day role.

Look at the different types of roles available. I've just explained the corporate ones, the clinical Nurse Educator ones, and then more university-based ones. And if you don't have any local Nurse Educators in your current role, for example, you might be working in a small private employer that doesn't have any Nurse Educator roles, then a key tip is to try linking to your nearest NHS hospital or community trust or a university that runs nursing programs.

And if you network with Nurse Educators, they're usually very happy to offer shadowing experiences and informal visits where you can talk through what they do on their day-to-day role. Sometimes the reality of the role is quite different to what you think. For example, you might observe some Nurse Educators doing audits and clinical governance, whereas you'd rather be teaching smaller groups in clinical practice.

So, it's very helpful to book those informal visits, work with an education team or an educator, or visit a university and go and see what a variety of roles are out there. You can observe seminars, teaching sessions, and in both situations, you just contact the current clinical educator lead or a university program lead to ask for shadowing.

You can also do what's called associate lecturing where you can just do a bit of teaching for a university while you work in your role and be paid hours for that teaching. Usually, education leads are very accommodating of shadowing informal visits.

Look At Job Descriptions For Nurse Educators

Another simple but important thing you can do is to increase your insights of the role is looking at job descriptions. So, you review job descriptions in the role that you're aspiring to, and that is the same with any role that you apply for.

This is important for Nurse Educator roles, particularly because they can differ across employers. They can also differ across local areas or within an institutional or a community-based setting. So, reviewing job descriptions is also very helpful as you can start planning your professional and your academic development as you work towards the role that you are aspiring to.

You can see what specific professional experiences and academic courses this role particularly links to. And that's going to enable you to become a Nurse Educator. Otherwise, you might find that you can't apply for a role that you really want because you don't have the correct experience, or the teaching courses required.

Strengthen Your CV & Personal Statement

It's important to start strengthening your CV and your personal statements as early as you can. Some roles will require one- or two-years post registration experience or specific specialist courses; you need a strong personal statement where you show an active interest in education. Employers often receive many applications for nurse education roles, and there's going to be a high standard, so your personal statement needs to be of the same standard.

If the role as a clinical Nurse Educator is to deliver specialist education program, for example, for early career nurses, the advert may state that you have to be actively contributing to clinical staff education in your current role. You might have needed to complete a post registration specialist course or to have a specific teaching course. I had to complete a specialist neuroscience course, for example, before I would be considered for a Practice Development Nurse role in a neuroscience unit.

If you are leading the planning of post registration university modules, as some clinical Nurse Educators do, you don't have to necessarily be a university lecturer, but you might be leading a course or contributing to a course. You usually need a teaching certificate or a postgraduate diploma in education depending on the program and the employer.

Align your professional and academic development to the role that you're aspiring to, be proactive, network with Nurse Educators and create those opportunities.

Align Professional Development With Relevant Courses

A big tip to help you become a Nurse Educator is early on try to align your professional experience and your development with academic teaching courses. It's going to really help you reach that goal. You can start aligning your current role early, supporting students, doing some teaching if you can, offering to support new starters, etc, if that's the career pathway that you want to pursue.

Other things you can do includes creating learning materials for patients or learners. You might want to create a review, a current orientation, or do an induction pack, or you could create a poster or some virtual online teaching resources, for example, teaching people about a topic in the area or doing a poster in the area. Or you could facilitate a learning group.

These are all things that will go on your CV; they're contributing and demonstrating that you are actively pursuing an educational pathway. And it's about being proactive. It's about creating those opportunities through those networks that you make, and clinical educators will advise you, offer to support to you.

It's about the teaching courses that help you develop the skills to plan teaching sessions and develop your presentation skills. You can learn how to facilitate a positive clinical learning environment. When you do teaching courses, you look at different learning styles. You look at teaching theory that underpins nurse education.

So, completing academic courses helps you answer questions at your interview. It helps develop those educational skills because nurse education roles are usually quite competitive.

Also review the evidence underpinning nurse education, because you often have to do a presentation as part of your interview as well. I would highly recommend you trying to complete a teaching certificate or a professional qualification in education when you are pursuing this career pathway.

Remember To Network

When aligning your experience and your professional development to nurse education, it helps to network with local educators. And as I said earlier, it's important to gain those insights into the role.

Do those informal visits and shadow staff in the work role. You can offer to observe them at first and then maybe collaborate or support them with some education projects that they're on. Supporting Student Nurses, training, Nursing Associates, support workers, or any other type of learners in your current role is the way forward to progress into that role.

Create Opportunities

So, I hope this video was helpful in some way to viewers out there. Key message from the video really is to align your professional and your academic development to the role that you're aspiring to, be proactive, network with other Nurse Educators and create those opportunities.

I wish you every success in your future nursing career, and if you do apply for any nurse education jobs, I wish you every success at interview.

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About the author

I am a Divisional Recruitment & Retention Lead at a NHS Foundation Trust, leading recruitment/retention initiatives, providing structured career advice and clinical supervision. I worked as a Registered Nurse for 35 years and as a Lecturer Practitioner for 22 years, leading 3rd year adult nursing modules and a post-graduate masters in neurosciences course. I published 2 nursing books for nurses’ career development and create vlogs to advise nurses. I’m a 4th year PhD in Nursing student.

    • Richard Gill
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