Calling All Nurse Educators!

January 31, 2015

The U.S. needs more nurses in all disciplines, but there is a critical need for nurse educators. Baby boomers are reaching retirement age. The life expectancy is getting longer, and an aging population has more health problems. Nurse educators are needed to teach them about chronic diseases and proper care and treatment.

nurse educator

Nurse educators may teach diabetics how to test their blood sugar and give themselves the proper dosage of insulin. They may teach parents how to help their disabled children achieve their greatest potential. They also speak to groups of people on healthcare topics of general interest.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than a half a million more nurses will be needed by 2022. This number represents faster growth than the average for other career options. In order to fill those job vacancies, more nurses are needed. Meanwhile, nursing school enrollment is down due to a shortage of nurse educators. 

Need for Nurse Educators in Nursing Schools

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) conducted a survey of nursing schools questioning why the enrollment rate was down. The final report noted that for the academic year of 2013-2014, the most recent year for which there are statistics available, nearly 80,000 nursing school applicants were turned away due to insufficient numbers of qualified instructors.

Two-thirds of nursing schools that responded to the survey reported that the schools were unable to accept qualified applicants due to a shortage of nurse educators to be faculty members. A total of 1,358 approved faculty positions were unfilled. A few reasons the shortage is expected to continue include:

  • Many faculty nurse educators will retire in the next 10 years.

  • Nurses who have been faculty members are often lured away due to higher paying salaries offered in the private sector or for clinical work.

  • There are not enough nurse educators to teach in the master’s and doctoral programs which create nurse educators. It is a cycle that is difficult to interrupt. In 2013, according to the survey,14,458 qualified applicants to master’s degree programs had to be turned away due to the lack of enough faculty members to provide the advanced training.

For nurses who have clinical experience and a master’s degree, the job outlook for obtaining a faculty position at a nursing school is great. Nurses with doctoral degrees are eagerly recruited to fill faculty job vacancies at virtually all nursing schools.

Need for Clinical and Other Nurse Educators

Nurse educators are needed to work in clinical settings as well as in nursing schools. They will find rewarding jobs in staff development and creating continuing education programs in hospitals. Some find their niche working in their communities as public health nurses.

Public health nurses are primarily health educators. They make presentations to the community and school groups and at senior centers. They make home visits and teach individuals and their family members about their specific health problems.

In my previous role as public health nurse educator, I organized weekly meetings with groups of parents of disabled children. I kept the parents informed about the newest developments concerning their specific situations. I taught parents how to work with their children in ways that could improve the children's cognitive skills and physical dexterity.

According to Jean E. Bartels, former president of the AACN, a nurse educator career is "a rich and rewarding" one. Now is the time for nurse educators to find their way to one of the 680 nursing schools, all of which are striving to fill their numerous nurse educator faculty positions.

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