Frustrated Nurse Educator

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    I have been an educator at many levels and in different settings...from CNA to ADN to BSN and from LTC facilities to academia at the community college to university. I have returned to a part time position for preparation of BSN students. All of the things that I did not like about nursing education are haunting me today. I love being with the students and I have really enjoyed them. But, what bothers me the most is that it seems that compared to most of the nurses that I have worked with, nurse educators seem to be the most disorganized and very poor communicators. It is frustrating to try and work with someone to be consistent for a course and I prefer not to team teach. However, I am currently doing so for two courses.

    I am very frustrated right now as I do not know how to encourage others to communicate and be consistent with the overall plan. I am mostly frustrated because I know that all of this inefficiency is adding to my students' frustration level...quite simply, they don't need that stress added to what they already have on board. I have made it clear to both of the other faculty and the Dean that our communication with one another must improve...but, it still has not occurred and we began the semester on August 25th.

    I am curious what tactics other Deans or faculty members have used to encourage the faculty to work closer and more effectively together. I also would like to know your opinions on why there are so many ineffective nurse educators out there...the students are fully aware of it as well. This is my opinion...many nurse educators did not take the Education track in their Masters' program and they quite simply, do not know how to teach. I also believe that some educators were born to teach. I constantly am trying to break down concepts so that the student can understand them and it is very trying at times. For one of my courses, I am the clinical instructor and the students informed me that the lead instructor sits and reads from her notes while she lectures and it is not a distance education course. For me personally, I know that when I read my notes or stay at the podium constantly, it means that I don't know the material well enough and I have more research to do...

    I also would like to understand why it is that we make things so very difficult on students...there is so much content and they cannot specialize in every course we teach...there is never enough time. I do know that nursing education regardless of what level it is, needs some drastic changes. In my personal opinion, we should make the entry level into practice a BSN but I would like to see the reality of the program be a combination of the diploma and baccalaureate education.

    I appreciate your comments and the time to allow me to vent....

    Barbara
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    Barbara:
    I found that you posting echoed my teaching experiences in USA nursing schools, although were the opposite of my experiences in the UK.

    I have lived in the USA for many years, but in the UK would-be nurse educators were required to obtain a teaching credential as well as having an appropriate clinical background. The teaching credential was usually obtained by full time attendance at a teachers' training college or Uni, thus ensuring interaction about education and teaching methods and not just about teaching nursing.

    In order to obtain this coveted place on the course, the general background of the RN was viewed in the light of how much demonstrated interaction there had been over the years with students and active involvement in informal/voluntary teaching. And any student evaluations of clinical experiences that mentioned the RN.

    The credential was only obtained on completion of teaching practice in schools of nursing outside of the area to which the educator would return to teach.

    I recall this learning experience as very thought provoking and fostering much creative teaching. Subjects taught included philosphy of ed.; psychology of teaching/learning; experiential learning; curriculum studies; low and high tech visual aids; evaluating learning materials; assessment (=evaluating students' progress), all the domains in Bloom's taxonomy, writing objectives, board and display work; voice modulation; student centered learning, practice and more practice in 'helping people to learn' (not 'teaching') using everything from 5 minute sessions to being evaluated on a longer series of sessions.

    We were expected to be able to manage everything from a 2 hour lecture to a five minute skill session to achieve objectives and to keep our students alert and interested. All sessions were evaluated by a minimum of 2 - usually a peer in the classes and a professor of ed.

    I was horrified when I started to teach here in the USA and found my peers were criticized by students for reading from the text, that exams were not standardized, that many 'educators' knew no educational theory, had no classroom techniques to use, did not know how to 'manage' a class of 50 or a group of 4 students with different techniques; did not adhere to professional standards regarding fair rules; adequate time for students to prep something etc. etc. Psyche. teachers who did not understand the importance of consistent approach or realistic expectations.

    I battled the system here for six years, culminating in dragging 35 colleagues to a form of consensus over the writing of a new curriculum. I have never met such apathy and inability to produce what they promised at each meeting; yet these were the same people who made ridiculous demands of their students.

    I was very fortunate in having a 'content expert' who, although without formal education training, was a superb people person with natural organization and fairness. Together we battled the time crunch and got literally scores of students thru to competency. But the other issues never changed thru succeeding DONs and minor shifts in administration.

    The DONs spent much time and energy on team building with little result. I still believe the basic issue is that USA nursing educators usually have no formal training in education issues and have not had to pass rigorous assessment of their teaching skills in a variety of settings. Until this happens, 'ineffective educators' will be the norm.

    Managing huge classes every day is very stressful and students naturally bring issues with other teachers/students/courses to an understanding ear. Our courses received great evaluations from the students and we were proud of our achievements, but of course there were things we could have done much better.

    Time, as you say, is a problem, and the more experience I gained the more I kept that little distance from the students' issues and maintained focus on teaching my portion of the curriculum. I did this because experience showed that I wasted my time. A quantum change in educators' attitudes/abilitiies was not going to be achieved by me alone.

    The students should have some sort of forum or rep attendance at the faculty meetings as a channel for this sort of communication of theirs and I would foster their use of these vehicles. My usual advice to students, however unfairly treated, was to put it behind them, focus on the RN and realize that in a year or so they would be in an enjoyable nursing position, earning reasonably and that this current episode or grade or student or teacher issue was not going to change that. That it was not worth their effort in the long run.

    But my colleagues' lack of skill did embarrass me and I look back with some sadness at the time that ineffective educators wasted in our students' lives. So many of our students were older, juggling families and children's needs during an accelerated program. Many showed more organization and focus than the educators.

    Another issue of mine is that so many USA educators just teach in the classroom; clinical and classroom should be an essential mix to maintain current practice. And in order to maintain credibility, these out of date educators make the course unnecessarily hard academically for the students - your last paragraph addresses this in part - on some sort of power trip, ignoring curriculum objectives. Ridiculous.

    So, no solutions, except to improve faculty teaching skills. But I do validate what you say.
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    Not all nurses are teachers which makes teaching a very hard job and makes life very hard on students.

    renerian
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    Thank you very much for your comments...wish there was an immediate solution, but did not count on that either.


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