Educating the next generation of nurses is a critical mission, as our nation’s healthcare system — currently stretched to its limits — relies on well-prepared, expert nurses to support Americans’ well-being. However, it can feel overwhelming for nurse educators to shoulder this substantial task.
Nurses enrolled in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Educator program will learn valuable teaching tips and gain hands-on experience developing curricula and modifying instructional strategies to meet learners’ needs. Whether mentoring new nurses or helping seasoned nurses brush up on their skills, nurse educators should follow widely accepted best practices.
Establish Clear Guidelines and Expectations
Establishing clear guidelines and expectations early on is key, as it will allow students to budget their time wisely and succeed. As noted in the Online Nursing Education Best Practices Guide (ONE Guide), which provides “comprehensive, evidence-based teaching strategies to give a roadmap for success in the online teaching environment,” nursing course content should be presented in a “clear, organized and easily accessible” fashion to “minimize confusion and frustration.” It may be helpful to distribute the information in several formats — via a handout, email and as part of an orientation video. When introducing the course, nurse educators should include the following information:
- Course structure
- Course calendar and deadlines
- Course introduction and learning objectives
- Anticipated learning outcomes
- Required materials
- Netiquette and behavioral expectations
- Instructor introduction and relevant background
- Navigation instructions, especially for courses with an online or hybrid component
Be Accessible to Students
Students will have questions or issues as they arise, so being accessible to students is critical. Given that instructor presence is instrumental to student success, says the ONE Guide, nurse educators should offer a variety of ways for students to engage with them, such as email, an online discussion board or set office hours. Instructors should encourage students to contact them for assistance, respond to messages within 24 hours and be supportive and friendly. Connecting through weekly announcements and individualized feedback can foster personal connection and increase student satisfaction.
Maximize Online Technologies
Incorporating technology into the curriculum may improve engagement and learning outcomes, though you will want to consider the needs and abilities of your students when selecting platforms. Asynchronous discussion boards allow students to communicate at their convenience, “encourage deeper learning and help students be more engaged in learning activities related to analysis, synthesis, decision-making and the use of knowledge,” says the Korean Journal of Medical Education. Using multimedia platforms, like a curated YouTube playlist or an online quiz program, can reinforce course objectives among many different learning styles.
Customize Your Teaching Style and Philosophy
An MSN – Nurse Educator degree provides a solid foundation for developing proven teaching styles. However, every nurse educator brings unique experiences and insights to their role, and it’s beneficial to use your background to inform your teaching strategy.
In Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, Ahtisham Younas, MSN, BSN, RN, credits his experience as a critical care nurse with shaping his teaching philosophy. He says, “We use the nursing process to help our patients in a caring and compassionate manner. Likewise, as an educator, I believe that I must assess the learning needs, capabilities, and preferences of students. Identifying your teaching philosophy isn’t accomplished all at once; rather, it’s an ongoing process.”
Over time, you will more fully develop and fine-tune your teaching philosophy.
Be Willing to Refine and Adapt
Nursing education has changed significantly in just the last few years alone, and more learning is occurring online and in digital formats. As a result, techniques successfully used by educators in the past may no longer be effective. Today’s nurse educators must keep a pulse on the latest teaching strategies and emerging trends, anticipate students’ needs, regularly refine curricula and adapt their teaching style.
Nurse educators prepare up-and-coming nurses and assist the nursing workforce in leveling up their knowledge and expertise. Although there are many ways to facilitate nursing education, the best practices outlined above are generally applicable across all settings and students.