How a Nursing Degree can Lead to a Career as a Nursing Educator

Do you enjoy being around other people, love teaching patients and staff, and can’t imagine yourself as anything other than a nurse? If you answered yes to those questions, you might want to consider becoming a nurse educator.

Once you have your nursing degree, there are many different avenues you can take in your career, and educating others is one of those avenues.

“Typically, if a nurse is interested in becoming an educator they decide to go on and get their master’s degree,” Stephanie Yackel, Rasmussen College dean of nursing, said. “As an educator you have to have a degree one higher than the one you’re teaching, which is why most earn a master’s degree or higher.”

Nursing educators fit one or more of these essential roles:

  • Teacher
  • Trainer
  • Mentor
  • Role model for nursing students

“If someone is interested in becoming a nursing education they will typically have the passion to pass clinical expertise onto the next generation of nurses,” Yackel said.

And even though every nurse’s story is different, Yackel made the switch to educator because she knew it was the right move for her.

“I knew because I had worked both in the hospital and clinical setting,” Yackel said. “In my position as an oncology RN, I was doing some educating pieces…I was educating families and patients, as well as mentored coworkers. During this time, it triggered my passion for educating others.

“I had been working as a nurse for 11 years and I knew that 10 to 20 years from then I didn’t want to be doing full-patient care bedside. I knew I wanted to take another avenue, which is why I looked into my other options.”

Yackel has been an educator since October 2011. She started out as a faculty member at a college in both lecture and clinical and then moved into a dean position, which she still holds.

Now, once you’ve decided to enter the educator phase, you will need to consider whether you want to be a faculty member, dean or stay in a hospital or clinic setting.

Yackel said she recommends nurses research each role to discover which fits them best.

For example, a dean oversees faculty and also deals with student issues, while an instructor mentors students in a clinical setting and teaches them on a daily basis.

“I like [working in] the dean role because I wanted to be in management,” Yackel said. “Ever since I earned my master’s [degree] I have wanted that leadership role vs. faculty/instructor role.”

“However, many educators that decide to work as clinical nurse educator often work more closely with families, the organization and the patients themselves,” Yackel said. “The biggest issue that needs to be considered is the learners, who do you want to educate and who is client base?”

If you’ve made your decision and you decide to work in a college/university setting, Julie Witt, Rasmussen College manager of employee recruitment, said they’re most looking to hire someone with passion.

“They must have a passion for teaching and a passion for passing information onto on generations of nurses,” Witt said.

And remember: it’s never too late to become a nursing educator if later on you decide that’s the path for you.

Jennifer Pfeffer

Jennifer is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who researches and writes articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about learning and higher education and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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