Alarmingly, one-third of nursing faculty members in the US are projected to retire by 2025. This ongoing nursing faculty shortage contributes to the shortage of clinical nurses as nursing programs turn away qualified applicants due to an insufficient number of nursing faculty. In addition, 1 million RNs are projected to retire by 2030, increasing the need to expand enrollment in nursing programs.
Many nurses have a desire to teach but lack the know-how to get started. From working in a clinical practice environment to becoming a full-time nursing faculty member, nurses often don't know where to begin to prepare for and assume this role. Does this sound like you? The concepts covered in this article include ideas on how to get your foot in the door. You'll learn how to form a foundation to thrive as an academic nurse educator so you can help the nursing profession prepare for the needs of the future.
Consider these tips for aspiring nursing faculty.
Tip 1: Precept students or orient nurses to your current workplace
Precepting students or orienting nurses to your current workplace can be the perfect first step to becoming a nursing faculty member. Honing your teaching skills while you're still in your familiar clinical practice environment can be helpful. It's important to practice how to share what you know and how you know it, learn to assess the knowledge of the student or newcomer, and provide appropriate learning opportunities based on the individual's progress.
In addition to teaching skills, becoming an effective preceptor will help you grow as a leader, facilitator, evaluator, and role model. Mastering these areas will be an asset as a nursing faculty member. Preceptors, and to an even greater extent nursing faculty, must understand both the science and art of teaching, so pursuing continuing education is important.
Tip 2: Seek additional education
Actively pursuing formal or informal learning experiences targeted toward education is needed to learn teaching skills. A lack of previous knowledge and education on how to teach has been associated with a poor transition into the nursing faculty role, despite extensive experience in the clinical setting. Taking the initiative will help set you apart and likely lead to a better overall experience.
Depending on your desired role and where you live, a master's degree may be required to become a nursing faculty member. You can earn a master's degree with courses specific to nursing education. Courses often cover topics such as best practice in curriculum design and program evaluation, assessment and measurement of performance, and simulation and clinical teaching strategies. To begin, explore the websites of nursing schools that offer master's programs. You may want to ask questions to make sure the program is right for you.
Questions may include:
- What are the admission criteria? What prerequisites are required?
- Is the program offered face-to-face, online, or a combination of the two?
- What does the program cost? Is there an opportunity to apply for scholarships?
- What does the degree plan look like? How long does the program take to complete?
Other formal training experiences may be available in your area or even online. To begin, you may want to complete an online search for upcoming educational activities. Outside of formal education, you can also seek informal experiences. One informal experience may include engaging with faculty at a local nursing school.
Tip 3: Connect with faculty at a local nursing school
You may think being an academic nurse educator is the perfect fit for you; however, you may not fully understand the role. Taking the initiative to talk with faculty members at a local nursing school can help you become familiar with the ins and outs of the job. You may even have the opportunity to shadow them in classroom, simulation, or clinical settings. It can also be helpful to use your specific strengths to assist their teaching efforts. Taking the opportunity to educate students in this type of learning environment can allow you to reflect on your confidence and passion for this role.
The faculty role can vary greatly based on specific workload, the type of program taught, and the educational setting. For instance, one faculty member may teach primarily online, whereas another may teach face-to-face. Some programs may have a large simulation or clinical component and faculty members may spend a great deal of time in this setting. For this reason, try to chat with several different nursing faculty.
Questions you may want to ask include:
- What type of program do you teach in?
- Where do you spend most of your time?
- Outside of teaching, what other responsibilities do you have?
- What do you believe is the greatest part of being a nursing faculty member? What do you find is the most challenging part?
- If you were me, what would you do now to prepare for this type of position?
Developing an early, informal relationship with faculty can help you make sure the role is right for you and can even open doors in the future.
Tip 4: Consider a part-time clinical teaching position
By establishing relationships with local nursing schools, you may find yourself at the top of their list for paid clinical teaching opportunities. Educating nursing students in the clinical setting may be a comfortable way to begin employment with a school of nursing. Clinical positions are often part-time, allowing you to continue full-time in your bedside nursing role. This type of position can help you hone your teaching skills and may even lead to a full-time position with the school.
One more thing
There's a wealth of resources available as you consider and prepare for a career in nursing education. One resource is the National League for Nursing's list of competencies for the academic nurse educator. Not only will this help you better understand the role, but also identify weak or unfamiliar areas to target. You may use these competencies to gauge how you're doing in the preceptor or clinical teaching role, decide which educational opportunities you'll benefit from the most, and ask questions when you meet with local nursing faculty.
So, are you ready?
These tips can help you make the leap and become a nursing faculty member. We're ready for you!
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 2019-2020 enrollment and graduations in baccalaureate and graduate programs in nursing. www.aacnnursing.org/News-Information/Research-Data-Center/Standard-Data-Reports
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Master's education. www.aacnnursing.org/Nursing-Education-Programs/Masters-Education
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