We Need More Nurse Educators to Solve the Nursing Shortage - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

We Need More Nurse Educators to Solve the Nursing Shortage

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Nurses are a critical part of the healthcare service; without nurses, it simply would not be possible to give patients all the care that they need. According to the World Health Statistics Report, there are approximately 29 million nurses and midwives globally, with 3.9 million individuals in the United States. Estimates of upwards of one million additional nurses will be needed by 2020.

It was recently reported in the Nursing times that employment opportunities are set to grow for Registered Nurses by seven percent between 2019 and 2029, which is a great deal faster than all of the other professions that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) surveyed. To avoid further shortages, the BLS predicts that an additional eleven million nurses will be needed.

What Is A Nurse Educator?

A nurse educator is an RN who is qualified to teach. They have embarked on further nursing education, usually a masters, to work as an educator at the university level, so they can train the next generation of their profession. They bridge the gap between didactic learning and clinical practice because they have an excellent grounding in the practical and the theoretical sides of nursing, offering their experience and knowledge, with the passion to pass both on.

They generally work in academia, and their role involves developing the coursework curriculum, teaching courses, evaluating educational programs, and overseeing clinical rotations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, for an academic role, a large proportion of their time is spent engaging in scholarly work. This might include research and peer-reviewing the research of other academics. In addition, they may have other duties such as:

  • Developing lesson plans
  • Serving as a mentor
  • Writing grant proposals
  • Promoting discussions among students
  • Attending faculty meetings
  • Documenting outcomes of educational processes
  • Serving on University-based committees
  • Contributing to the academic community
  • Speaking at nursing conferences
  • Maintaining clinical competence

What Is Causing the Nursing Shortage?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that there are a few reasons for the shortage of nurses. There is now a growing emphasis on preventative care, which involves a lot of nursing education about good health practices and helping people break bad habits. Nurses do a lot of this work. For example, a nurse might run a weight loss or a stopping smoking clinic.

There is also an increasing number of chronic conditions among the population, such as diabetes, which means that more people will require healthcare. The so-called ‘baby-boom’ generation is also aging without as many people in the next generation, which is likely to cause a disproportionate number of older patients needing care compared to the number of younger caregivers who are available to provide it.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that several other factors are exacerbating the nursing shortage:

  • Nursing school enrollment is not increasing fast enough. The AACN reported that enrollment in nursing programs was up by 5.1% in 2019; however, this increase is not enough to meet nurses’ projected demand.
  • There is a shortage of nursing education faculty. In the academic year, 2019-2020 nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified applicants from undergraduate nursing programs because they had insufficient faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical preceptors, as well as budget constraints. Around two-thirds of the surveyed schools gave not having enough faculty as their reason for turning students away.
  • A significant proportion of the nursing workforce is nearing retirement. The Health Resources and Services administration conducted a national survey in 2018, which found that the average of Registered Nurses (RN’s) was fifty. This indicates that we may see a large number of nurses retiring over the next fifteen years. It is anticipated that more than one million nurses will leave the workforce by 2030.
  • Insufficient staffing is increasing pressure on nurses, which is prompting them to leave the workforce. A 2017 study found that a greater proportion of professional nurses at the bedside led to better patient outcomes. This, in turn, leads to greater job satisfaction for nurses and lower stress levels. When the skill level is reduced by having fewer nurses and more assistive personnel, this potentially erodes the quality of care and causes preventable deaths. This, in turn, puts pressure on nurses and causes them to want to leave the profession. A 2005 study found that more than 75% of RN’s believe that the nursing shortage represents a major problem in their work-life quality.
  • Insufficient staffing blocks access to healthcare. If there are fewer nurses, then fewer patients can be seen. This ultimately means that people are not being treated until their illness is very serious, which is additional pressure on nurses than if they could treat more patients at an earlier stage.

Why Is Education So Key in Resolving the Nursing Shortage?

Increasing the number of nurse educators is not going to magically resolve all of the issues that are causing the nursing shortage; however, it will go a long way towards addressing some of them.

Increasing the number of staff working in nursing education means that the students currently having to be turned away from nursing programs can be accepted, which adds many newly qualified registered nurses in a few years.

This, in turn, means that the nurses who are currently getting close to retirement age may have some chance of being replaced when they retire, which means that the number of nurses won’t drop so sharply over the next fifteen years.

If the number of nurses doesn’t drop off, then the pressure on nurses who are still in the profession is lessened, and the quality of care that can be given won’t be impacted, which should mean that more nurses want to continue nursing.

Nurses staying in the profession and newly graduated nurses joining should make nursing a much more attractive career prospect. It is a well-paid and rewarding role, making people who had not been considering nursing as a viable career path consider it more seriously. As the schools will have the staff to support new pupils, this should translate to an increase in the number of nurses working in the healthcare service.

Combining this with some of the measures that are already underway, such as state funding for nursing students, nursing schools seeking strategic partnerships – for example, promoting the nursing career by multinational corporations like Johnson and Johnson which will go a long way towards addressing the nursing shortage.

How Do You Become A Nurse Educator?

To become a Nurse Educator, you must first be a Registered Nurse with a current, unencumbered license. You will then need to complete an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) in Nursing Education.

The entry requirements for masters programs may differ by institution, but taking the masters in nursing education, you will need:

  • A BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), so if you have entered nursing through another pathway, you may need to look into a bridge program to allow you to access the masters. If this is the case for you, it is a good idea to contact the school to which you are applying to see your options.
  • To have completed an undergraduate or postgraduate level statistics course.
  • Official transcripts from all of the academic institutions that you have attended.

This degree allows you to complete 100% of your coursework online, which is great news for busy nurses who do not have the time to be going to a brick and mortar campus when they do not have to! You will also be provided a clinical placement, and throughout the placement process, you will be supported by a dedicated placement coordinator.

When you graduate from your masters, you will be ready to design and implement a curriculum, and you will be armed with novel teaching strategies to help you to get through to your students. You will have expanded your understanding of procedures, skills, and clinical reasoning so that you are armed to improve nursing practice.

Unlike other specialties, you will not need to take an exam to become licensed as a Nurse Educator. Once you have your masters, you are ready to start applying for positions.

A Day in The Life of a Nurse Educator

Depending on where you work, your day in nursing education might look quite different. A nurse educator can be found working in hospitals, community health centers, public schools, community colleges, universities, corporations, private consulting companies, and governing health agencies. As you might imagine, the day to day in each of these places is not going to be the same!

However, all nursing education professionals generally share the goal of enhancing the nursing profession by acting as a role model, delivering great training that has been derived using evidence-based practice, and expanding on their own academic achievements through research and publication.

The Nurses Speak published an account of a day in the life of a nurse educator at a University that went like this:

8-10 am: Responding to emails and reviewing lesson plans. The emails are regarding the Nursing Assistant, Patient Care Technician, Geriatric Nursing Assistant, Certified Medicine Aide, and Nurse Refresher courses that the Nurse Educator helps to manage and teach. Some of this time is also used to review work that students have submitted.

10 am-4 pm: Teaching a certified patient technician class. This involves both delivering a lecture and a skills workshop where students are shown the correct way to draw blood, using mannequin arms to practice on. While the students are practicing, the nurse educator is simultaneously checking on their progress and ensuring that everything is ready for a class that evening.

4-5.30pm: Responding to emails, addressing queries from students, and ensuring that everything is ready for classes the next day.

5.30 pm-9.45 pm: Evening lecture and skill workshop. The educator must lecture on the subject in a way that keeps the students engaged and responds to any queries they may have following the homework the night before. At the end of the lecture, they set more homework, which will be due by the following class.

As this shows, the daily life of a nurse educator is certainly a busy one! However, if you are someone who gets enjoyment out of teaching others and you like the idea of shaping the future of the profession you love, then nursing education could be a good career choice.

What Are the Career Prospects for A Nurse Educator?

As you might expect, based on the nursing shortage, the BLS is predicting that there will be an increase in the number of people needed to work in nursing education over the next few years. They forecast that there is likely to be a twenty percent increase in demand for nurse educators, which is a significantly higher demand than other educator positions. It also means that deciding to take up a nursing education career is a good one because you can be assured of job security.

In May 2017, the median salary for nurse educators was $77,360 for educators in post-secondary universities. The majority of nursing education professionals work in colleges or universities; however, if you can get a hospital position, you can expect a slightly higher salary.

Wages for Nurse Educators also vary depending on location. The highest paying locations for Nurse Educators are The District of Columbia, New York, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey.

According to nurse.org, one-third of the current faculty in BSN programs are expected to retire by 2025, which may further exacerbate the nursing shortage, so new nurses need to start training now to counter that. They also noted that the age of faculties is beginning to climb, which narrows the number of productive years where faculty are actually teaching.

‘There is a critical need for nurse educators in academia. Young, experienced, and talented educators are essential to continue educating the new and upcoming nursing students. Without filling these vacancies, the nursing profession will continue to suffer from a shortage of experienced nurses.’


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