A Day in the Life of a Nurse Educator: Thoughts from Deborah Dolan Hunt
Nurse educators work in many different settings with various roles and responsibilities. The academic nurse educator’s role is perhaps the most unique; each day is quite different. Nurse educators participate in teaching, service, and scholarly activities. The amount of time spent in each of these areas relates to the academic setting and the type of appointment. Some faculty appointments include a dedicated program of research; however, teaching is often the mainstay of the faculty role. Faculty must be well-versed in the various teaching and learning theories, and theories of the adult learner.
Academic nurse educators have numerous responsibilities. When planning teaching activities for theory and clinical courses, the pre-planning phase is vitally important. Prior to the start of the semester, faculty must develop:
- course syllabi
- course content
- teaching strategies
- evaluation methods
Once the course has started, faculty prepare for weekly classes and review and update content and teaching strategies. A typical day may include a two or three-hour theory course in the morning and afternoon followed by office hours. Office hours may be spent meeting with students or completing coursework. This includes:
- student advisement
- course preparation
- test planning and development
- grading assignments
Another day may consist of meetings and committee work. Committee work may be program specific, college-wide, or community-based. Faculty attend meetings and engage in committee work, and often serve as liaisons to share the work of the committees with their faculty colleagues.
Scholarly activities may be done individually or with a partner or group. Scholarship includes writing for publication, presentations, and teaching. Although each academic organization has different requirements for scholarship, Boyer’s Model can be quite helpful when determining appropriate scholarly activities. For example, Boyer (1997) discusses the scholarship of:
- discovery (search for knowledge, publications)
- integration (knowledge from different sources and disciplines)
- application (new knowledge used to solve problems)
- teaching (teaching, advising, and mentoring)
Student advisement is another responsibility of the nurse educator, which requires knowledge of the curriculum and student’s progress. Faculty may be assigned a specific group of students to advise and meet with on a consistent basis to discuss their progress and progression. Faculty are also responsible for advising the students in their courses regarding their progress and concerns. It’s always important to document advisement sessions and ensure that the student understands issues and develops a plan for improvement, if necessary.
New faculty will have ongoing evaluations by students, faculty, and administrators. The purpose of these evaluations is to guide new faculty in their new role and assist them with any areas of improvement. Evaluations are also used for re-appointments, promotions, and tenure decisions. As new faculty become more experienced, they will be required to evaluate their peers. Evaluations are usually focused on teaching, service, and scholarship.
Clinical coordination is often done by the full-time faculty who teach the theory courses and perhaps a clinical course. Many clinical courses are taught by adjunct instructors, and the clinical coordinator serves as a liaison to ensure that adjuncts understand their roles and responsibilities. Faculty may be expected to locate clinical sites, interview potential adjunct instructors, and address any issues with faculty, students, or clinical site. They may also be expected to conduct site visits to evaluate teaching abilities of the clinical adjuncts.
The role of the nurse educator is one that may be fraught with challenges; however, it is quite rewarding. Each day will be different depending on the expectations of the academic organization and assignments, but the triad of teaching, service, and scholarship is always a part of the nurse faculty role.
Boyer, E. L. (1997). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hunt, D. (2017). The New Nurse Educator: Mastering Academe (2nd ed). New York: Springer Publishing Company.