Why Nurse Educators Need To Keep Learning Throughout Their Careers


For many people, especially those in the teaching field, it is very easy for them to fall back on what they know. This includes what worked for them, what worked for those around them, and the skills they used to get through their time in a certain career. The same applies to nurse educators, as they teach the tips, tricks, and textbooks that helped to make them who they were to the new generation of nurses.

However, they shouldn’t become stagnant in their learning. It would be easy to always teach the same thing, but these lessons often become irrelevant over time and due to various inventions, or to new discoveries. It could be as simple as a more popular method of wound-dressing, or ways to talk to patients about certain issues.

Nurse educators would never want their students to stop the pursuit of relevant knowledge. Because of this, they must pursue this new knowledge themselves. No one should be afraid to continue their education – especially those who are in the educational field. They can then focus on becoming the best teacher around. There are quite a lot of benefits to look forward to!

What is a nurse educator?

Before covering the reasons for why a nurse educator needs to be a lifelong learner, what is a nurse educator? The simplest explanation is someone who educates nurses. These Registered Nurses (RNs) are nurses who have gone through the training needed to teach the required nursing curriculum. Then they teach and train the next generation of nurses.

They can still work in clinical settings as well as being a teacher, and many of them even design their own curriculum and act as advisors for students. If you are going to become any type of nurse, chances are your nurse educator is going to be someone you spend a lot of time with.

How to become a nurse educator

First, individuals must become an RN in any field. Once they have become an RN, they can focus on getting the degrees needed to become an educator. These degrees will include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

There are plenty of MSN Nurse Educator jobs that graduates can get after they leave their place of learning. The University of Indianapolis, for example, teaches students all the skills and tools needed to become effective educators. The curriculum covers topics such as clinical learning and evaluation, health assessments for the nurse educator, and practicum in nursing education.

With an MSN, nurses can choose to focus on healthcare, research and academia or they can do a combination of all of the above. Some nurses may also try to get a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) too. It isn’t required, but if you decide to focus on the research side of being a nurse educator, it can be helpful. But why do nurse educators need to continue to learn just like the students they teach?

The world of nursing doesn’t stand still

Whether the nurse educator is still working in a clinical setting, or they are finished with being a nurse, they should still know that the world of nursing is ever changing. This is especially true with the rise of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is causing massive upheavals in the medical field.

Additionally, there are new illnesses and injuries, new ways to treat problems, and medical crises coming up when they are least expected. If nurse educators aren’t constantly learning and teaching students to do the same, they will get left behind. One of the biggest problems that many people have is that they let the nursing world change around them without trying to learn, and then must play catch-up. So, continued education is incredibly important and rewarding.

Advancements take time to learn

The newest advancements in the field of nursing often take the most time to learn because they are brand new. Nurses and doctors might see some new research or a new piece of technology and have to take the time to learn what it is and how to put it into practice. The faster healthcare professionals can pounce on the changes happening the better, because they can get their foot in the door and get familiar with them much faster.

The roles and demands made of nurses change

Many people think of nurses as assistants to doctors and people who perform simple tasks or work on supporting a patient by their bedside. While some fit that role and find great contentment there, other nurses take on diverse roles. They may publish research, serve on boards, lead other nurses, and make decisions with the help of doctors. The roles and demands of a nurse are constantly changing.

Those who want to grow their career and increase their responsibilities as a nurse must continue learning and growing. The skills that enabled them to become an RN can be supplemented with continuous learning through ongoing education to elevate the nurse to a leadership position.

Constant learning keeps nurses relevant

Finally, no one wants to be irrelevant. Whether you are being replaced with a machine that can do your job for you, or you are being replaced by someone who has the skills you don’t have, it hurts. The best way for nurse educators to stay relevant is to continue to learn. Continuing to learn and improve is a great thing to do, especially in the professional field.

Those who want to get a promotion or a new job must ensure they are showing employers they are growing. Showing off newly earned skills and education demonstrates to new employers that they are taking the initiative to learn and are also focusing on becoming the best. Plus, if the applicant already knows some of the things they are being asked to do, they won’t need to be trained. That could be highly attractive to recruiters.

Learning new skills to support patients

One of the biggest reasons to continue learning is to enhance the level of care provided for patients. No matter what a patient is dealing with, they need the help and support of a nurse in dealing with their physical, mental, and emotional problems. Additionally, many patients want to take control of their care and be a part of it. They don’t want to be treated as a number or as a list of symptoms and then be given mass standard of care.

They want to tell their personal story, which will then inform their standard of care. Many patients who seek medical help, even if they are suffering from the same illness or injury as someone else, have small differences that could radically change how a nurse treats them.

If a nurse doesn’t know how to listen to patients and adapt the standard of care to those differences, they could wind up making the problem much worse. Additionally, they could put the safety of the patient at risk. Learning skills such as how to tackle multifaceted problems, active listening, and effective communication will help nurses and patients reach health and wellness faster.

Advocacy for patients

When dealing with a patient who has some special needs, whether due to their culture, income level, or other health problems, having the skills to communicate is integral. Learning how to see every single patient as different and communicate effectively are skills that take time to learn. But once nurses learn and master them, they can provide advocacy for patients and ensure they are treated better.

Lifelong learning is crucial in this area because more and more diverse people require medical care in the US. As the world becomes more diverse and people are more open to communicating about their personal needs, a good nurse will know how to communicate with all.

A culture of lifelong learning promotes excellence

Every single educator, regardless of the field, wants their students to be the very best. They want to make sure that this generation of students can change the world, and they want to do it right. Nurse educators should try to build a culture of lifelong learning to promote that excellence.

Lifelong learning isn’t just about learning the material for a test, it is also about retaining the material and showing mastery of the work. Nurses must master and apply whatever they have learned, not just in specific scenarios but also in ones that require adaptation.

Pushing nurses to continue to learn about everything related to their field will ensure they strive for mastery. Whenever they stop learning, they eventually stop improving. If they continue learning and growing their skills, there will always be another hill to climb, and nurses will continue to improve.

Teach and lead by example

Finally, as a nurse educator, there is some merit to simply having seen what your students are going to see. You will be able to give a firsthand account of what they are going to do, and that information is going to be worth more than any textbook or lecture. But if you are still doing clinical work while you are teaching other nurses, you can talk about the benefits of your lifelong learning.

This allows you to both teach and lead by example, and it will help your students want to continue to learn and be excellent! Because if you can tell your students stories about how lifelong learning helped you out, then they will want to follow the same path you did.

How to foster a love of learning in students

Nurse educators have likely got a story or two about the topics they are teaching, and they shouldn’t be afraid to share their mistakes. Talking about where their extra learning was beneficial in practice can be very inspiring for students.

Educators can also focus on allowing students to take the initiative when it comes to their learning. Students want to get into medical care for a reason, so educators can talk with them and find out what they are passionate about. Next, they can give them the tools and opportunities required to learn about those topics.

Allow lifelong learning to be fun!

Finally, continuing to learn doesn’t mean endlessly listening to lectures and reading textbooks that may contain swathes of seemingly endless information. Nurses and nurse educators alike can learn from experience, from activities, and in a million different ways to stay engaged. As we all know, there are many ways to learn, and everyone is different in how they prefer to do so. Educators who make nursing education fun and relevant will find that learning new skills is never boring – and they are the ones who will encourage more and more generations of future nurses, and nurse educators.

Amy Virgilio
Amy Virgilio is passionate about bringing new ideas and creativity through writing.

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