Nurse educator teaching with whiteboard

The Role of Nurse Educators

Nurse educators inspire, teach, and mentor the next generation of nurses, leading the way to the future of patient care. Without them, graduating nurses would be ill-equipped to face the ever-changing demands of today’s dynamic healthcare system.

The best nurse educators take time to invest in their students and teams at a personal level. They prepare aspiring nurses for the transition to the real world, and their efforts don’t stop at graduation; many nurse educators continue mentoring and advising nurses throughout their careers.

In today’s article, we’ll discuss how leaders in nurse education play significant roles in shaping the future of nursing.



What is a Nurse Educator?

Instead of dedicating their career exclusively to patient care, a nurse educator is passionate about teaching and advocating for nurses. They instruct aspiring nurses and offer guidance, which may include training in both practical and educational settings.

Nurse educators hold an advanced degree, either a master’s or doctoral. They are often employed by universities, but are also found in hospital or clinical settings where they keep nurses up-to-date on the latest needs in health and patient care.

The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines eight core competencies for nurse educators which are, in summary:

  1. Theories and principles of adult learning
  2. Curriculum design and implementation
  3. Nursing practice
  4. Research and evidence
  5. Communication, collaboration, and partnership
  6. Ethical/ legal principles and professionalism
  7. Monitoring and evaluation
  8. Management, leadership and advocacy

Nurse Educators in an Academic Setting

Nurse educators play an important role in promoting quality nurse education.

In community colleges and universities, nurse educators teach in a traditional setting. They instruct others using a curriculum they’ve created and find new ways to engage students. These teaching strategies are grounded in educational theory and evidence-based practices.

Effective nurse educators are passionate, lifelong learners who work to keep up with changing techniques in technology, medicine, and teaching.



Roles of a Faculty Nurse Educator

Balancing all the duties required of an educator can be tricky, especially as a member of university faculty.

Not only teachers, nurse educators serve as administrators, advisors, clinical coaches, lab instructors, mentors to new faculty members, course developers, researchers, and more.

It’s also crucial that a faculty works together as a team, sharing the load and providing students with a truly exceptional nurse education.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) categorizes a nurse educator’s duties into three main roles: collaborator, director of student learning, and role model.


Nurse educators are collaborators, capable of bringing others together and building partnerships. Aside from nursing staff, they coordinate student learning with professors across all disciplines.

Nurse educators also prepare students to work as a team in an environment where collaborative relationships have been directly linked to better patient outcomes.

Director of Student Learning

The director of student learning encourages development of staff, program, and curriculum. A faculty member in this role should have graduate level courses in education as well as nursing.

Role Models for Students

Nurse educators provide ongoing mentorship and serve as examples to students through various stages of hands-on learning. It’s an especially important role in clinical development, where students look to their teachers for feedback on patient interaction, decision-making, and health assessment.

Role Models for Faculty

Seasoned nurse educators serve as role models for newer faculty as well. By spearheading a culture of learning, nurse educators can inspire each other to improve the delivery of nurse education.



Nurse Educators in a Hospital Setting

A nurse educator’s role looks a bit different in a hospital setting. Rather than instructing students who are at the beginning their nurse education, these educators support working, registered nurses through experiential learning.

Fostering Growth

Nurse educators work with their teams and other staff to assess each students’ capabilities. This gathering of information, combined with direct observations, allows them to provide feedback on ways the student can improve within the healthcare setting.

Some areas of student evaluation may include:

  • Effectiveness in applying person-centered care
  • Independently implementing and following up on nursing interventions
  • Being able to accurately document patient history, status, diagnosis, actions, and summary of care

In addition to student development, nurse educators also support the professional growth of healthcare teams. This often involves arranging team-building exercises and educational seminars for nursing staff and colleagues.


When it comes to research, nurse educators serve as advisors, collaborators, and patient advocates.They are an excellent resource for nurses who are working on clinical research, answering questions and ensuring that patients receive the protection they need.

Servant Leaders

Nurse educators lead by example as they support and guide nurses during transitional periods. They serve with ethical conviction and professionalism, encouraging their team to do the same.

Through their actions, nurse educators are responsible for creating a team that communicates well and works together, improving patient care along the way.



Nurse Educators and Staff Retention

Since nurse educators help support the development of new staff, more professionals in this role can help alleviate turnover. With nearly one out of every five new nurses quitting their jobs within the first year, on-the-job support is needed.

From an employer’s perspective, this kind of turnover can cost them as much as $88,000 per nurse.

Organizations have also found their turnover rate decreases when they foster a culture that promotes learning and encourages skill-building.

Creating a Positive Culture

Nurse educators are essential in creating a positive work environment. When they do their job well, their team is more likely to stay, decreasing turnover rates and giving everyone a win.

The bottom line: nurses that feel heard, understood, and supported, are more likely to stay in their position and thrive.



Lead the Future of Healthcare

If your organization is seeking ways to improve nursing staff retention, Global Health Education (GHE) can help. GHE specializes in partnering with employers to hire and retain the best talent for your team.

We can help you find the right fit by optimizing your tuition assistance programs and education benefits.

Contact us today.

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