A nurse educator and a nursing student look over a patient’s chart.

What Is Nursing Education: Role and Career Opportunities

Nursing: Healthcare Systems Leadership

The U.S. is facing a nursing shortage. The American Nurses Association predicts that between 2018 and 2022, the job market for registered nurses (RNs) will be larger than that of any other profession. According to 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the health care system needs 1.1 million more nurses to prevent a further shortage.

The shortage is attributable to many factors, including the following:

  • An aging nursing workforce that is realizing more retirements
  • An aging population that is putting an increased strain on the health care system
  • A lack of potential nurse educators

Nurse educators must prepare the next generation of nurses to enter the workforce. In addition to educating new nurses, this position provides a platform to enhance the quality of health care and improve patient outcomes.

Individuals who are wondering, What is nurse education, and how can I become a nurse educator? should consider how a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can prepare students to enter this field.

What Is Nursing Education?

Nursing education includes postsecondary education programs such as bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as specialized training programs for practicing nurses. However, a precise nursing education definition is not limited to just learning technical competencies and obtaining health care knowledge. Nursing education also focuses on the values and perspectives that health care professionals should possess to improve patient and facility outcomes.

Guiding the next generation of nurses is a significant responsibility. For this reason, nurse educators must understand the latest trends and regulations that are affecting health care delivery. Aspiring nurse educators should possess clinical experience, knowledge of patient care, and a thorough understanding of the inner workings of the health care system.

An advanced education, such as an MSN, is common among future nurse educators who must have advanced knowledge and leadership skills to teach in nursing schools and teaching hospitals. Once nursing educators secure a teaching position, they often seek certificates and continuing education opportunities to remain current on practices in their fields.

Norwich University Prepares Students for Roles in Nurse Education

Ambitious nurses who are passionate about nursing education and enriching the educational experience of nursing students may want to consider the online Master of Science in Nursing offered at Norwich University. Its curriculum delivers the knowledge and skills considered fundamental for most nursing education positions.

This program offers a Nursing Education concentration with coursework that is designed to enhance job-ready competencies. Here, students build their knowledge of clinical concepts and develop specific leadership skills that are vital for successful nurse educators. The Nursing Education concentration consists of eight courses:

  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Curriculum Design in Nursing
  • Advanced Physical Assessment
  • Innovations in Teaching and Learning
  • Assessment and Evaluation Strategies
  • Advanced Nursing Practicum
  • Implementing the Nurse Educator Role

Advanced Pathophysiology

Diseases and syndromes cause disruptions in an individual’s physiology. Pathophysiology studies these disruptions across the human life span, and this information can be vital in developing effective health promotion and disease prevention strategies. Advanced Pathophysiology enables nurses to grow their understanding of how common health problems stemming from various environmental, genetic, and stress-related factors affect individuals.

Advanced Pharmacology           

Pharmacology is the study of drugs and their effect on the body. A strong understanding of pharmacology is critical to ensure that patients receive the proper medication at the right time and in the correct dosage, without complications or conflicts with other administered medications. Advanced Pharmacology helps nurses deepen their knowledge of pharmacology and pharmacotherapeutics while providing an advanced understanding of safe and ethical medication practices.

Curriculum Design in Nursing      

Creating an effective nursing curriculum requires a synergy between an educator and an institution, the establishment of goals, the vision to achieve these benchmarks, and the flexibility to revise elements to recalibrate focus. Curriculum Design in Nursing deepens nurses’ understanding of the theoretical and concrete elements behind building a curriculum through the examination of various systematic program evaluations or other outcome standards.

Advanced Physical Assessment       

Conducting an advanced health assessment requires evaluating a patient’s medical history; administering a physical examination; and cross-referencing other relevant information, such as the patient’s nutritional profile. Advanced Physical Assessment enables nurses to develop critical analysis skills and diagnostic reasoning that are essential to conducting an accurate health assessment. The course also focuses on how this assessment can also help develop proactive strategies to promote health and prevent disease.

Innovations in Teaching and Learning    

Nurse educators need to understand how adults learn and build an environment that aligns with this understanding in a manner that allows for the further cultivation of the skills required to meet the complex demands of the modern nursing environment. Innovations in Teaching and Learning covers what nursing education is, the fundamental principles of teaching and learning, and how the critical thinking skills cultivated from an educational dynamic can be applied in various care delivery environments.

Assessment and Evaluation Strategies

Successful nurse education curricula contain enough flexibility to evaluate effectiveness and make adjustments to meet needs as they evolve. Assessment and Evaluation Strategies teaches students strategies to measure and evaluate performance outcomes in various scenarios and how to integrate educational program improvements that align with expected professional and accreditation agency standards.

Advanced Nursing Practicum

Being able to apply the theories and concepts learned in a classroom setting in a controlled real-world environment is a vital part of the nurse education process, as it turns knowledge into practice expertise in a specific nursing practice. The Advanced Nursing Practicum provides nurses with 60 hours of mentored clinical work, giving them the opportunity to integrate learned concepts to applied nursing processes.

Implementing the Nurse Educator Role

It is vital for prospective nurse educators to learn about the different ways to effectively share nursing theories and concepts with students in a manner that makes an impactful impression. Implementing the Nurse Educator Role is a mentored 60-hour practicum that provides guidance for students to apply previous learning concepts to teaching strategies in both a classroom and a clinical environment.

What Is the Role of Nurse Educators?

After completing the MSN with a Nursing Education concentration, nursing students can pursue a variety of career options. Nurse educators are responsible for teaching current and prospective nurses about patient care, but a variety of career opportunities require a background in nursing education. Those who are wondering, What is nursing education, and what can I do as a nurse educator? can consider the following career paths.

Assistant Professor of Nursing        

Nursing professors work at universities, community colleges, or technical schools and provide classroom instruction for undergraduate or graduate nursing students. They give lectures, create curricula, assign and grade homework, and monitor projects. They also oversee the clinical work of nursing students and serve as their primary advisers.

Developing relationships with nursing students and providing them with helpful resources regarding their future careers is another essential aspect of a nursing professor’s role. Nursing professors act as mentors, helping students develop the competencies to become successful nurses.

Clinical Educator    

Clinical educators work primarily in hospitals or clinics. They deliver programs for current RNs or RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students and teach in classroom environments as well as laboratories. In a manner similar to nursing professors, clinical educators offer lectures, contribute to writing new curricula, administer and grade tests, and serve as consultants for students.

Clinical educators often offer regular classes on CPR, computer training, and patient care for staff members, physicians, and different groups of patients. Writing new policies for different units in a clinic may also fall under a clinical educator’s job description.

Nurse Consultant

Nurse consultants help ensure that health care facilities provide the highest levels of patient care. Nurse consultants typically work in specific departments, such as pediatrics, women’s health, oncology, or geriatrics. They assess the treatment plans of patients, make recommendations for improving certain plans, train nurses about certain subjects, or make other changes in a department. Nurse consultants often directly observe or interview patients and nurses to make the most effective suggestions for improvement.

Essential Skills of the Nurse Educator

The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that business-related skills, such as strong leadership and management abilities, are key to nurse educator positions. Students must view nurse educators as professional, confident leaders. Strong communication skills also help nurse educators build collaborative relationships in the classroom.

Nurse educators must also have strong clinical and technical skills based on the most current evidence and best practices, according to the WHO. As the health care field evolves with new techniques and concepts, nurse educators must remain current in the field to educate students by using the most current data.

Learn How to Advance in Nursing Education

Norwich University offers relevant and applicable programs that prepare students to make a positive impact in their work and communities.

Explore the online Master of Science in Nursing at Norwich University—and learn how this program provides the leadership skills and clinical knowledge to take on the important challenge of educating the next generation of nurses.

Recommended Readings

How to Become a Nurse Educator: Leading the Next Generation of Nurses
5 Nursing Theories for Nurse Educators
6 Common Nurse Leadership Jobs for Master of Science in Nursing Graduates


The Nursing Workforce, American Nurses Association 
Nursing Shortage, NCBI
Master of Science in Nursing, Norwich University
Nursing Instructor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Nurse Consultant, National Nurses in Business Association
Nurse Educator Core Competencies, World Health Organization
AACN’s Vision for Academic Nursing, American Association of Colleges of Nursing

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