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In 2008, four-year and graduate nursing programs turned away nearly 50,000 qualified applicants, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (www.aacn.nche.edu). The reason? A lack of nursing faculty.
Nurse educators are also needed in non-academic settings. This includes nurses who work in staff development as well as those who serve as preceptors, managers and administrators in hospitals and other healthcare organizations.
Understanding Needs Of Learners
Whatever the setting, nurse educators must have expertise not only in nursing theory and clinical care, but also in learning theory - or how people learn. This means understanding the needs and characteristics of diverse learners and their learning styles. Only then can nurse educators create engaging and effective curricula and programs.
For example, an instructor or preceptor who is teaching clinical reasoning must take into consideration the experience of the learner. Is this a new graduate or a nurse with several years of bedside experience?
"The better we understand the theoretical framework for learning, the better we'll serve the nursing profession," says Alice Swan, associate dean for nursing at St. Catherine University (www.stkate.edu).
No Shortage Of Jobs
For this reason, St. Catherine University offers a master of arts in nursing with a nurse educator concentration. The part-time, evening program attracts students ranging in age from late-20s to mid-50s. The diverse group includes nurses who work in hospitals, long-term care and staff development, as well as some who currently serve as faculty assistants in college programs.
The program offers courses in instructional technology, curriculum design, evaluation and measurement, and systems design, as well as nursing theory and research.
Some graduates go into management or staff development, others find teaching positions in two- and four-year colleges. And some go on to earn a PhD or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. "They have no trouble finding jobs," Swan says.