Teaching Is a Great Way for Nurses to Take on New Challenges

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By ANA Career Center staff—July 2015

Mary Bondmass, PhD, RN, director of faculty development for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, has been teaching nursing at the university level for almost 20 years, but says she really became a teacher the day she became a nurse. “What is a nurse other than a teacher? I started my career in education teaching patients and precepting other nurses.”

Bondmass says she believes a great way to begin a career in nursing education is to volunteer to precept new nurses. At some point in their careers, almost all nurses find themselves mentoring new hires and students, but with the AACN reporting a full-time faculty vacancy rate of 6.9 percent in 2014, there is a need for nurses to step up to the plate and take on the challenge of educating the next generation.

Doing this can be an interesting, fulfilling challenge for experienced nurses. If you’re looking for opportunities outside of basic nursing practice, teaching may be a good option for you.

The Nursing Profession Needs Teachers

Candice Zizilas, MHA, BSN, ARNP, director of clinical sales for global pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, never thought she’d go back to school after earning her original nursing degree, but is now working on her doctor of nursing practice degree. After spending years as both a bedside nurse and a pharmaceutical sales representative, Zizilas kept noticing a demand for experienced nurses to educate the next generation of nursing professionals.

“So many nurses get locked into bedside nursing and they don’t see all of the opportunities for nurse educators,” she said. “Nurses don’t just educate patients at the bedside; they can work as educators in so many different capacities. A nurse can educate patients on behalf of managed care companies or teach physicians how to use a new piece of medical equipment.”

Teaching in nursing also affords a better understanding of the complex health care environment, Zizilas says. “You become more well-rounded and see the big picture. You understand how all of the complicated components of health care, like managed care, health care administrators and providers, work together.”

How to Find Teaching Opportunities for Nurses

Professional organizations often offer opportunities for nurses to get involved with teaching. For example the American Nurses Credentialing Center is always looking for subject matter experts to help develop and lead educational programs for nurses. You can put your name on its Subject Matter Expert Registry to be considered for a variety of teaching opportunities.  American Nurses Association also taps nurses to lead Navigate Nursing webinars, create CE modules and present at conferences such as the 2016 American Nurses Association conference focusing on quality and staffing. And as a bonus, some of these opportunities pay.

Online job banks are a rich repository for nursing jobs that involve or focus solely on teaching, and many — like the ANA Career Center —  include job listings from across the U.S. Try searching for “education”, “teaching”, “instructor” or “faculty” to see what kinds of opportunities are available and learn more about what qualifications employers are looking for.

Opportunities Abound for College-Level Nursing Educators

For those who want to become clinical instructors at a college or university level, the suggested minimum credential is a master’s degree in nursing, and nursing faculty in a classroom setting should have a doctorate degree, Bondmass says. “The doctorate of nurse practitioner is the degree of the future. Nurses just starting their education journey might consider a BSN to a DNP program.”

College and university nursing faculty positions are plentiful due to a shortage of qualified nursing instructors. According to the 2012-2013 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing report, nearly 66 percent of nursing schools were forced to turn away qualified students due to a faculty shortage, leaving almost 80,000 qualified applicants without a nursing program. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting the need for RNs to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, an adequate number of qualified faculty must be available.

Teaching not only offers nurses another job opportunity, it can also provide personal satisfaction from helping to educate the next generation of nurses. “Teaching others to be nurses is important work,” Bondmass said. “It is extremely rewarding when you see the lights come on in a student’s mind. Watching them grow is extremely rewarding.”