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Professional Development for Nurses: The Role a Nurse Educator Plays

Healthcare professionals choose rewarding careers educating, training, and mentoring other nurses.

When you decide to invest in your future with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), choosing a nursing education specialization can be a step to a win-win-win future.

An online MSN degree is a win for you, as it deepens knowledge and opens up opportunities for advancement and new career paths. Win No. 2: Adding the nurse educator specialization will allow you to contribute to the professional development of other nurses. And win No. 3: As a nurse educator—also known as a nurse professional development (NPD) specialist—you and the nurses you teach will be ready to improve patient outcomes.

Professional Development for Nurses: The Role a Nurse Educator Plays

Becoming a Leader of Nurses

A nurse educator program can ready you for a career as an NPD specialist, advancing the professional development of other nurses as an academic and clinical educator, a mentor, and much more.

“These experienced educators help nurses engaged in lifelong learning to develop and maintain their competencies, advance their professional nursing practice, and facilitate their achievement of academic and practice career goals,” say Diana Swihart and Diane Johnstone in “What Does a Professional Development Specialist (Nurse Educator) Do?” for American Nurse Today.1

In helping to advance professional development, NPD specialists guide nurses “into all things clinical, with knowledge, skill, and encouragement,” Swihart and Johnstone say. “ … The [NPD specialist] will also be an ongoing member of your career development team.”1

In “Career Options for Nurse Educators” in American Nurse Today, Joan Warren, Mary Harper, and Christine Wilson write that mentoring “is perhaps one of the most rewarding roles of NPD specialists.”2

“Besides influencing patient outcomes, NPD specialists serve as mentors to influence staff nurses’ professional development, helping them achieve their personal and professional goals,” they say.

Another key role NPD specialists play in furthering professional growth is as “partners for practice transitions,” Warren, Harper, and Wilson say.

“NPD specialists prepare both new and experienced nursing staff to move into new or different practice roles. They help newly licensed nurses transition to the professional practice setting and help experienced nurses move from one organization, specialty, or role to another. In all of these situations the goal is to help nurses gain competence and confidence in their practice and to foster their continual growth and development,” they say.2

Choosing an NPD Specialist Career

As a nurse educator, you can teach, mentor, and lead in hospitals, academic settings, community health organizations, consulting firms, and corporations.

“They work in a variety of practice settings and environments of care,” Swihart and Johnstone say of nurse educators. “Some are in schools of nursing and facilitate the learning experiences of students seeking to become nurses. Others work in clinical settings to orient, precept, and manage competencies of staff nurses, new graduates, and student nurses working at the point of care. Clinical NPD specialists (sometimes called clinical nurse educators) support nursing research, evidence-based practice, and quality improvement through professional nurse development.”1

Nurse educator is one of the top job titles for RNs, and teaching is among the most in-demand job skills, according to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insight Real-Time Labor Market Information Tool. Other traditional job titles for nurse educators include patient educator, nursing faculty, nursing instructor, staff educator, continuing education specialist, case manager, and consultant.

Enrolling in a Top Online MSN Program

Look to the leader in Master of Science in Nursing degree programs when you’re ready to step into a nurse leader role. Walden University holds the distinction of graduating more nurses with advanced degrees than any other university.3

Walden’s Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education-accredited MSN program offers relevant specializations, like Nursing Education, that let you match your degree to your interests. You’ll learn from expert teaching faculty—100% of whom hold doctoral degrees. With Walden’s innovative online learning platform, you’ll collaborate with nurses from across the United States. And upon graduation, you’ll be prepared to excel as a nurse educator, ready to:

  • Design curricula and programs that facilitate the learning of nursing students, colleagues, patients, and other healthcare professionals.
  • Evaluate learning and document the outcomes of the educational process.
  • Pursue academic research that advances the nursing field.
  • Synthesize organizational/systems leadership for cost-effective specialist nursing practice that contributes to high-quality healthcare delivery, advancement of the nursing profession, and social change.

These and many other outcomes will equip you for nurse educator jobs that deliver satisfaction and rewards. Create your own win-win-win situation. Expand your knowledge and professionalism and step into the future as a nurse educator and mentor.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program with a Nursing Education specialization. Expand your career options and earn a degree online in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

3Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Retrieved July 2017, using CIP codes 51.3801 (Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse); 51.3808 (Nursing Science); 51.3818 (Nursing Practice). Includes 2016 preliminary data.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,