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Curriculum Development and Instructional Strategies for Nurse Educators

High-quality nursing education is necessary to establish a dynamic and capable nursing workforce. Given the challenges of the modern healthcare system, today’s nurses must transition into their new roles with minimal disruption and well-rounded skill sets. Nurse educators ensure graduates are ready.  

Why Pursue a Career in Nurse Education?    

A career as a nurse educator is an enticing option for nurses seeking to move away from direct patient care yet still utilize the skills and experiences they’ve acquired. Nurse educators, who typically earn advanced degrees like a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), develop curricula and instructional strategies to achieve targeted learning objectives. They help students hone their interests, navigate coursework and establish a foundation from which to launch successfully.

The job outlook for nurse educators remains strong, especially as older nursing faculty retire. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there were more than 1,600 faculty vacancies in 2019. Ongoing pressures to increase the number of nurse graduates will also likely contribute to job growth.

Although nurse educators have tremendous responsibilities, the career offers immense rewards, and nurse educators often enjoy:

  • flexible schedules
  • collaboration with colleagues, students and the community
  • mentorship of the next generation of nurses
  • competitive pay, $94K on average per ZipRecruiter (December 2021)

3 Best Practices to Guide Nursing Curriculum Development

A primary responsibility of nurse educators is curriculum development, which requires engaging, relevant and timely materials. Therefore, nurse educators should consider these three best practices when devising a curriculum:

  1. Develop a curriculum that aligns with the goals of the nursing program. Creating course objectives that align with the program enables measurement of overall student achievement in each course. Each course objective should tie back to an element of the program’s mission and outline the expectations related to the student’s overall success within the program.
  2. Focus on evidence-based practice. Curricula should foster critical-thinking skills and allow students to apply evidence-based practice in various scenarios. It should cover research strategies, data analysis and collection and any potential legal or ethical implications. Combining research techniques with clinical expertise and patient preferences provides a basis for informing evidence-based nursing practice.
  3. Ensure a unified approach. A well-designed curriculum is cohesive, with clear and concise goals that correlate to individual competencies at the course level. Consistency across all written materials, in terms of language and educational strategies used, is encouraged, too.

3 Best Practices to Guide Nursing Instructional Strategies

Along with developing curricula, nurse educators must also utilize various instructional strategies to convey its contents adequately. Here are three best practices to keep in mind: 

  1. Carve out T-moments. Teachable moments, or T-moments, are brief opportunities for highly impactful learning. For example, when a student struggles to perform in a practice setting, an experienced nurse educator will coach the student through the situation, creating a safe space for discussion and exploration.
  2. Welcome technology. Technology can streamline the flow of information, reinforce key points and enhance engagement. The intentional use of technology, from asynchronous discussion boards and YouTube videos to online quizzes completed during a lesson, can strengthen participation and supplement the learning process.
  3. Form interdisciplinary partnerships. Collaboration across disciplines is something nurses must do every day in practice. Forming similar partnerships during a degree program — where nurse educators pair students with other academic mentors — allows them to gain real-world experience in collaborative relationships and become accustomed to seeing different perspectives.

Nurse educators are instrumental in creating a skilled nursing workforce. Following the latest best practices, such as developing an evidence-based and concept-driven curriculum and incorporating innovative instructional strategies, can help them achieve this goal.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University’s online MSN – Nurse Educator program.

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