Don't Dodge Your Instructor - Try This!

For many students, communicating with their instructor leads to the type of anxiety they would just rather avoid. Don’t miss out on opportunities for faculty interaction by trying these tips.


  • Columnist
    Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 30 years experience.
This article was reviewed and fact-checked by our Editorial Team.

There is a reason why nursing students avoid meeting with a nursing instructor. If fact, there are several reasons. It's not just the intimidation factor or the words "you're really inconveniencing me" written all over the instructor's face. It's talking with the instructor, walking away and thinking, "what did I just say?".

Most likely, your faculty appreciates your initiative in asking a question or voicing concern. You can reduce your stress and get the most out of your faculty interactions with a little pre-meeting prep work. Let's look at a few guidelines to point you in the right direction.

Take Action

Nursing school can be very confusing. Everything is a new experience from lectures and skills, to clinical assignments. Students often make the mistake of "getting stuck" in coursework because they don't understand what the instructor expects. The semester marches on, due dates arrive and the student just "wings it" instead of asking for help. But, faculty are not mind-readers and it is up to you to initiate a meeting.

STEP 1 Tips for Requesting Faculty Time

  • Avoid confronting your instructor in front of the class and putting them "on the spot".
  • Read the syllabus and course information to determine if the instructor has preferred methods of communication (email, phone, office stop-by, etc).
  • If you stop by the instructor's office, make sure it is during office hours.
  • Be specific on why you need to schedule a meeting.
  • Offer several time alternatives and be open to other forms of "meetings" (phone, on-line chat)

STEP 2 Do The Prep Work

  • Be sure to review the course policies, syllabus and any applicable instructions before your visit. The answer to your question may be hiding "in plain sight".
  • Ask yourself, "why do I need to meet and what do I expect to get out of the meeting?".

STEP 3 Tips for the Meeting

  • Show respect
  • Arrive on time
  • Use the person's name
  • Make eye contact
  • Speak clearly, using positive language
  • Stay within the allotted time-frame

STEP 4 Show What You Know

  • Briefly express some interest in the course content
  • Express enthusiasm for what you have learned

STEP 5 Avoid Dumping

You want to be specific about your question or concern. You don't want to spend the meeting time with your instructor on everything but what you need. Here are a few examples:

Don't"I don't understand assignment 2. What are you wanting us to do.”

Do: "I am confused about the care planning process, specifically, how to assign a measurable outcome."

Don't"I missed lab and did the class do anything that will be on the test?”

Do: "Is there a convenient time I can practice in the skills lab? I want to catch up with the class since I missed class.”

Don't"I made a D on our test. What am I doing wrong?”

Do: "I did not perform well on the last exam and want to do better. I would like to tell you my main study strategy and would appreciate any feedback or suggestions."

STEP 6 Own Your Part

  • Take responsibility for any mistakes or oversight on your part.
  • Be honest and express what you will do differently moving forward.
  • "I now realize the importance of spending time reviewing lecture notes after every class".
  • "I apologize for being late to clinical. Moving forward, these are the steps I will take to ensure punctuality.”

Before You Leave

  • Be sure you and your instructor are on the same page and what are the next steps.
  • Stop and ask for clarification (if needed) before you leave
  • Express gratitude for the meeting.


You have the right to ask questions and seek clarification. You also have a responsibility to do so tactfully, and decisions made by the instructor should be respected.

What tips can you share to help other students make the most out of faculty interactions?

Interested in more information? Check out these resources:

Tips on Communicating with a Professor

Meeting With Your Professor


J. Adderton MSN has over 20 years experience in clinical leadership, staff development, project management and nursing education.

168 Articles   496 Posts

Share this post

14 hours ago, J.Adderton said:

What tips can you share to help other students make the most out of faculty interactions?

For some reason in this country, we look at instructors as some type of authority figure. They're not. They're equal to all of us. And we're paying money to be taught by them. It's ok to have high expectations of them. Remember that it's their job to teach. That's what they're getting paid to do. That's what you're paying the college thousands of dollars to have them do. You deserve a high quality of education for the money you're paying them. Time is limited in class, but never be afraid to meet with them to have them answer any questions you have. Or if you want to review the basic concepts of the chapter before a test you have next week, that's their job. Classroom time they're in control, but during their open office hours, they have to address your needs.

Be respectful, approach everything the same way you'd want a customer asking you for help at your job, but remember that they're there to answer every question you have. Just be reasonable, if you're going to need an hour every week to go over everything, maybe it's a better idea to meet with a tutor at that point.