More nurses than ever are finding enrichment by moving toward a career doing something they probably never expected: teaching.
The country needs nurses. Desperately. But in order to address the seriously problematic nursing shortage taking place across the nation, the country also needs people to teach those nurses. As such, nurse educators are highly in demand, and nurses young and old are flocking to these jobs for myriad reasons.
Today, we’re going to explore precisely what those reasons are. Don’t be surprised if you see something that speaks to you.
I Spent My Summer Vacation Having a Summer Vacation
Nursing is a rewarding profession that allows you to make a difference in so many lives. But there’s no getting around the fact that the schedule can be exhausting. After years of working 12-hour shifts, you may come to the realization that your body simply can’t cope with the stresses placed upon it by working day in and day out on the hospital floor.
It’s precisely this stress that is sending so many people to seek out nurse educator degrees. Numerous people still want to be involved with nursing, as it’s what they’re most passionate about, but they also have the foresight to recognize that they may not be able to work 12 hour shifts on nights and weekends for the next few decades, especially as family and other professional obligations outside of work add up.
Many are finding that becoming a nurse educator is the answer. When you teach, you’re not working those same hours. Instead, your schedule is more regular as you attend class, grade papers and mentor students. And depending on your position, you may be able to take summers off, not to mention the requisite winter and spring breaks that are par for the course at most colleges.
That’s a stark contrast to the hectic schedule afforded most nurses, and it’s something that causes many to give teaching a thought.
You Don’t Have to Give Up Clinicals If You Don’t Want To
But what if you’re still passionate about providing bedside care? After all, you got into this field to help patients, and the thought of doing a complete about-face from regular patient interaction could be a lot to take in.
Hopefully you’re not reaching for the Back button, because there’s something important you should realize: becoming a nursing professor doesn’t have to mean an end to patient care.
In fact, many nurses prefer the educator setup because it gives them the best of both worlds: balance in their schedules plus the opportunity to work closely with patients. This kind of pivot is actually encouraged, as it ensures that nurses who teach remain on the cutting edge of what’s going on in their fields and are never far removed from their practice.
And don’t forget that students need clinical instructors. Many of our own professors’ favorite work takes place outside the class and in the hospital, when they take students under their wing and walk them through actual patient care. This is an eye-opening and cherished experience for our students, who get to take their first tentative steps into the hospital as a nurse-in-training for the first time, and educators get to witness the remarkable transformation that occurs as their protégés blossom into full-fledged nurses themselves.
The Demand Is There
As previously mentioned, the world is in dire need of nursing instructors. Much of the modern nursing workforce is aging out of the job rapidly, with the Baby Boomers who comprised most of the industry reaching the age where they can retire comfortably.
Systems across the country need to fill their positions quickly, and with the Bachelor of Science in Nursing becoming the preferred entry point in many locales, nursing colleges are bending over backwards to find qualified individuals who can teach the classes coming up through the ranks.
This gives you options for employment, especially if you’re willing to travel. While it’s true that you will always be limited based on the availability of nursing colleges and programs in your area, when you take a nationwide look at the state of nursing education, job openings are most certainly there. Adjunct faculty, faculty member and even program director are all possible with a Master's degree with a focus in education.
The Nurse Faculty Loan Program
We’ve talked about this before, but it definitely bears repeating: the Nurse Faculty Loan Program, set up by the federal government to help deal with the nursing shortage, provides 85% student loan cancellation to those who qualify. If you find a full-time teaching job in an accredited nursing program within 9 to 12 months of graduation, and you work in that job for four years, you’ll only have to pay back 15% of your student loans.
That’s a pretty great deal, and one that makes becoming a nurse educator financially rewarding in addition to spiritually fulfilling.
Make Your Mark on Tomorrow’s Nurses
Here’s one final thing to never lose sight of as you think about becoming a nurse educator: you’re still making a difference in so many peoples’ lives. Only now you’re doing so through your students, reaching all the patients they will eventually care for.
You get to pass the knowledge, skill and wisdom you’ve acquired as a nurse on to the next generation. Remember all those things you wish you’d known when you started? Now you get to make sure everyone who’s lucky enough to have you as a professor gets that information.
You’re still helping patients, even more so if you choose to balance teaching with hands-on care. But even if you focus solely on teaching, you still have the chance to impact more lives than you’ll ever even see. Everyone you teach who makes a difference, part of that will be because of you.
As a nurse educator, you don’t have to change what you’re passionate about. Instead, you get to inspire others to follow their own passions, showing them how care, consideration and technical prowess can combine to create the best nurse possible.