Pursuing to be a Nurse Educator

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    Hi everyone. My goal is to become a nurse educator by next year. I have 4 years of nursing experience (in postpartum, antoartm & cardiology) and I will be finished my MSN program early next year. My question is what can I do for supplemental income, if I choose to work at a college? Also, what is the difference between a staff development nurse & a clinical nurse educator? Thank
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    I am assuming you are in the United States. If not, the situation in your country may be a bit different.

    If you decide to be a faculty member for a school of nursing and need supplemental income, your best bet is probably to work part time as a staff nurse. Picking up an ocassional shift can be quite lucrative, particularly if you do it on nights, or on a weekend, or holiday, etc. Those shifts often work best for faculty, anyway -- and they will help you keep your clinical skills current. At my hosptial, we waive the minimal shift requirement for faculty members who teach clinicals here to try to make it easier for them to work an ocassional shift because everyone benefits from it. The faculty members stay current, we feel safer about trusting them with our patients when they are here with students, etc.

    On the downside, if you spend too much of your "off time" from school working as a staff nurse, you probably won't have time and energy to spare doing some of the things your school may want you to do to advance up the career ladder there (such as research, publication, committee work, etc.). So be careful not to jeopardize your faculty job by doing only what is minimally required there. If your faculty job is going to be your primary role, you'll need to devote most of your time and attention to being successful there.

    As for education roles within a hospital ... different hospitals sometimes use different terms to describe the same thing. The specialty of "professional development" as an organized specialty group is fairly new. In fact, just last year they changed their name to the "Association of Nursing Professional Development." In 2008, they devloped a new model and set new standards defining the scope of NPD practice, etc. Not every hospital around the country has used that model and those standards in their job titles and job descriptions. You will find lots of variation in the field.

    But in general, NPD Specialists are graduate prepared nurses who specialize in Nursing Professional Development. They tend to make more money than new MSN level faculty members because they are paid on a hospital-based pay scale. They can work either in a hospital's centralized education department -- or report to the director of a particular unit. Usually, the full focus of their job is education -- and perhaps some project management, policy development, etc. thrown in. The term "clinical educators" can mean the same thing, but it can also refer to someone who is a little closer to the staff nurses in terms of role description. Some educators are expected to work as a staff nurse sometimes and do direct patient care -- and/or their focus is on education for one unit only -- while the centralized education department does larger, hospital-wide programs. You would have to look at a particular facility's job descriptions and organizational plan to identify the particular job titles and responsbilties of the educators at that facility.
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    Congratulations on achieving your MSN!

    I can help clarify the 'service' side of education. The normal career trajectory is to begin in a unit-based role which reports to the nurse manager of that area - most of these jobs given to expert staff nurses who are asked to devote X days per month to 'staff development'. These are the 'getting your foot in the door' type jobs. Second step is to become an educator that supports a larger area (multiple related departments, a service line or specialty area). These jobs are likely to report to a service line director or nurse VP. The top rung educator is responsible for the entire scope of education (not just nursing) - normally reporting to the Chief Nurse. Most large organizations/hospitals (like mine), require 'second step' educators to have MSNs. It is not unusual for the top level educator to have a terminal degree (EdD, DNS, Phd).

    Even with your MSN, you will need experience in the practice of education/professional development to obtain a second tier education job. So, I urge you to take that first step - if there are no nurse educator positions available, start volunteering to conduct 'inservices' for your employer. Get certified as BLS, NRP, and Fetal Monitoring instructor. Volunteer to serve as a preceptor. Get involved in the instructional process in any way that is open to you. You need to build your NPD resume. In addition to traditional 'stand up' instruction, you'll need to have demonstrable competency in performance assessment, analyzing educational needs, developing educational strategies, curricula, instructional design (including eLearning) - whew!

    Another avenue is participation in the 'training' part of any major organizational initiative such as a technology implementation or JC survey prep. Volunteers are usually very welcome - this is a great way to network and show everyone how good you are. It is also a way to begin to understand the strategic role of education/professional development within a healthcare organization.

    Good Luck to you! Keep us posted on your progress.


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