Meet a Nurse Educator
Nurse educators help improve the nursing shortage because they educate and mentor nurses. We talked to a nurse educator who teaches students and mentors faculty about her role in educating nurses, why she chose this career, and how factors like the pandemic affects her role.
Q&A With a Nurse Educator
Lindsay Draper, DNP, MSN/MBA, RN-BC, is an associate department chair and assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her primary responsibilities include teaching nursing leadership and healthcare informatics in the MSN and DNP programs; coordinating the faculty orientation/mentoring program; recruiting and retaining nursing faculty; contributing to the evaluation of nursing faculty, and collaborating on the assignment of faculty teaching. Before joining the faculty at UNC Greensboro, she worked for a local healthcare organization in various roles. She worked within the medical-surgical and occupational health arenas, as well as within a variety of progressive leadership positions.
Draper’s educational background includes a bachelor of science in nursing degree from East Carolina University, a master of science in nursing/master of business administration degree in health management from UNC Greensboro, and a doctor of nursing practice degree in executive leadership from UNC Greensboro.
Passionate about nursing informatics, nursing leadership, manageable nursing workloads, and nursing retention, Draper focuses her scholarly work in these domains with hopes of creating change that will positively impact nurses across the profession.
1. What made you decide to shift from medical-surgical nursing to becoming a leader among nurse educators?
It all started with a great leader. My very first nurse manager was a fantastic role model of exemplary leadership. She recognized my potential, encouraged me to be a nurse leader, mentored me along the way, and inspired me to explore potential leadership opportunities.
After several years of hospital-based leadership experiences, I was drawn to academia by one of my graduate professors who helped me to realize the impact I could have in helping to shape nursing practice and nurse leaders by sharing my knowledge and experiences with students. After several years of being in academia, it was again, a great leader, [who] helped me to identify an opportunity to use my leadership skills within the school of nursing and mentored me in how to lead effectively within an academic setting.
The positive impact these leaders had on my personal and professional growth inspired me to dedicate myself to the growth and development of other nurses, nurse leaders, and nurse faculty in return.
2. Can you tell me more about the teaching experience you had between leaving the medical-surgical unit and becoming an associate department chair?
Prior to entering academia full time, I taught a medical-surgical clinical course as a part-time faculty member. This was a really great way to test the waters of academia before making a full-time commitment to being an educator. My first semester as a full-time educator, I taught a medical-surgical clinical course and a leadership course in the RN-to-BSN program. These courses allowed me to apply my clinical expertise and leadership experiences, making for an easier transition from practice to academia.
3. Much of your background revolves around nursing leadership. You have a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) in executive leadership, coordinate the faculty onboarding and mentorship program, and teach nursing leadership. Why did you choose to focus on nursing leadership for most of your career?
I chose nursing leadership as my career path because I wanted to make a widespread impact on the profession of nursing. While nurse leaders may or may not be directly involved in direct patient care, their indirect impact on patient care is significant.
Nurse leaders are positioned to influence decisions and practice changes related to nurse staffing, safety and quality, strategic planning of the organization, delivery of care, and much more. Not only are they able to help transform the delivery of healthcare, the nurse leader is also positioned to develop the knowledge and skills of other nurses, which in turn may be used to further improve quality, safety, and the overall delivery of care.
4. How has COVID-19 impacted your role as a nurse educator and the faculty you supervise?
COVID-19 has certainly impacted many facets of nursing education. As COVID-19 numbers trended upwards in March 2020, our face-to-face classes were moved online. This rapid transition to remote learning was just the beginning.
Subsequently, other components of the nurse educator role were impacted, such as needing to alter the teaching strategies used, the types of assignments offered, how we proctored exams, how we provided tutoring, how we supported student success, and so on. Not to mention, some of our clinical sites closed to students, while others reduced the number of students we could have on the unit. This led to faculty needing to find alternative clinical sites, utilize nontraditional clinical schedules, and expand our simulation [nursing] offerings to ensure students were receiving quality clinical instruction during this time.
Given we were navigating uncharted waters and many faculty had never taught online before this point, it has certainly been a stressful time for nurse educators, as the learning curve for faculty was high and students depend on us to deliver seamless, high-quality education to effectively prepare them for graduation.
Although academia has experienced a multitude of challenges as a result of COVID-19, we have also experienced some benefits as well. For example, it has enhanced flexibility, led to creative and innovative solutions, enhanced use of technology, encouraged us to consider what we do and how we do it, and expanded our simulated learning experiences. Not to mention, faculty are now equipped with the tools to teach online, and academia is taking a more proactive approach in preparing should a situation like this occur again in the future.
5. What do you find most rewarding about your role?
I find the most rewarding part of being a nurse educator is being able to positively impact the current and future practice of nursing through the education I provide to my students. Being able to share the knowledge I've gained throughout my education and practice with my students provides me joy … recognizing the widespread impact of their education as they go on to disseminate their learnings into practice, provides me with the gratification that I am making a difference in nursing.
As for being a leader within an academic setting, helping faculty to succeed and creating positive change are the most rewarding parts of my role. I am able to positively influence aspects of the school of nursing's curriculum, operations, policies and procedures, and culture so we may create an environment where innovation is welcomed, student success is the focus, faculty are supported, and excitement and kindness thrive.
6. What advice would you give nurses looking to start educator or leadership roles?
My advice for those looking to enter a nursing education or nursing leadership role is to first spend some time exploring what the role encompasses. Do your research, talk to those working within the discipline, and ask about possibilities to job shadow [a nurse leader].
I think it is important to know what the role encompasses so you can make an informed decision before setting down a certain career path. Once you have landed on a desired career path, I recommend finding a mentor in your desired area of nursing to help guide and support you along the way and enrolling in a [nursing] graduate education program that will provide you with the necessary knowledge and tools to be successful in your future role.
What Does a Nurse Educator Do?
Nurse educators prepare nursing students to practice nursing with up-to-date knowledge of the nursing profession and ethical teaching practices. The daily responsibilities of nurse educators vary depending on where they work and whether they serve in leadership.
Many nurse educators teach classes specific to the nursing specialty they practiced or may continue to practice. Nurse educators who pursue leadership roles may hire, train, and evaluate other nurse educators.
Nurse educators may provide continuing education for practicing nurses, teach clinicals, and lecture classes at a college or university. Nurse educators who work for colleges and universities can teach nursing classes at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level depending on what level of education they hold.
"Not only are they able to help transform the delivery of healthcare, the nurse leader is also positioned to develop the knowledge and skills of other nurses, which in turn may be used to further improve quality, safety, and the overall delivery of care."
— Lindsay Draper, DNP, MSN/MBA, RN-BC
Some of the responsibilities and skills for nurse educators include:
- Have a passion for nursing and healthcare
- Shape and evaluate nursing curriculum
- Research topics related to nursing and healthcare
- Mentor nursing students and other nurse educators
- Supervise clinical experience
- Design and conduct simulation labs
- Teach nursing skills and patient care
- Communicate with students and other faculty
How to Become a Nurse Educator
If you want to become a nurse educator, you'll need to earn at least a master of science in nursing (MSN), hold a registered nurse (RN) license, and have two years of experience as an RN. You should consider optional certifications such as certified professional in healthcare quality, certified nurse educator, and other certifications relevant to your specialty area.
Nurse educators must hold at least an MSN degree, but if you want to teach advanced nursing classes, you will need a DNP degree.
You must have at least two years of clinical experience as a RN before you can apply to graduate nursing school. Some nurse educators practice full time and teach part time. Employers may pay more for nurse educators with more teaching experience.
Nurse educators must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) and get their RN license.
Employers do not currently require any certifications, but many prefer candidates with them. Nurse educators should consider earning and maintaining the following certifications:
- Certified Nurse Educator from the National League for Nurses, which shows your expertise as a nurse educator
- Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality from the National Association for Healthcare Quality, which shows your knowledge of healthcare practices
- Any specialty specific certifications, which shows your knowledge of your specialty area
How Much Do Nurse Educators Make?
According to Payscale data from September 2022, nurse educators make an average of $79,120 annually. Nurse educator salaries can range from $59,000-$108,000 depending on their experience, skills, and area of specialization.
Nurse educators may earn more if they have more than 10 years of experience. Nurse educators who are skilled in training program development, operating room education, clinical education, and hospital education may also earn higher-than-average pay.
Employers may pay more money than average for nurses with knowledge and nursing experience in:
- Wound care (20%)
- Oncology (14%)
- Labor and delivery (13%)
- Operating room nursing (7%)
- Emergency room nursing (6%)
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