by Susan Sportsman, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN
The shortage of nursing faculty is severe and likely to become worse in the next several years. There are many interrelated reasons for this—reasons that we all know well. However, many of you reading this blog chose to become a nurse educator and have had long, successful careers teaching students of one kind or another. Why did we become nurse educators in the first place and why have we stayed?
In the March/April, 2018 edition of Nursing Education Perspectives, Evans (2018) describes a survey of 940 nurse educators in which she asks, in part, the reasons they chose the educator role. The primary reasons included:
- Teaching in a stimulating, yet flexible work environment
- Wanting to influence the profession (Wanting to teach)
- Wanting to learn
- Receiving encouragement from valued mentors
- Seeking change and challenge in their careers (Evans, 2018)
I was intrigued by this research, which stimulated me to think about my own decision to teach nursing. Even before I was a nurse, I enjoyed working with groups to plan activities and help younger kids learn various skills. Nursing practice provided me with those opportunities, but the schedule for a clinical nurse was somewhat erratic, as most nursing opportunities that I was interested in at the beginning of my career required rotating shifts. As I began to have children, I recognized that a relatively stable schedule would be important for my family. I was encouraged by older colleagues to consider teaching opportunities, first in a hospital education setting, then an associate degree program, and then in university settings. After my doctorate, I took a side road for seven years into nursing administration, but throughout that time, I continued to teach as an adjunct faculty. I returned to teaching as an Associate Dean and Dean and ultimately as a consultant, helping other faculty to improve the teaching-learning process. In short, I became a nurse educator because of its flexibility, but continued the work because of the stimulation I received from the opportunity to interact with and learn from students and faculty colleagues.
For the last several years, I have been part of a group of Texas nurse educators who have been working to call attention to the nurse educator shortage in the state. We wrote The Challenges Ahead for Texas Nurse Educators: Texas Team Education Committee Taskforce Findings and Recommendations to lay out the facts of the shortage and suggest solutions to address this challenge. One of the proposed solutions included:
Increasing nurses’ awareness of the benefits of a career as a nurse educator and resources to support this career trajectory.
We all know the challenges to become—and remain in—a nurse educator role. I would never suggest that we pretend that those challenges don’t exit. Nor would I want us to give up the fight to improve the work environment in education. However, I do believe that we should also share with others, including potential nurse educators, the joy we find in the work we do. Evans (2018) is certainly doing this in her new article, which stimulated me to think about my own reasons for being a nurse educator. It also encouraged me to ask several of my colleagues why they became a nurse educator and why they remained. Here are a few of their responses:
Why did you become a nurse educator?
- “As a student, I found that the work involved in teaching spoke to me—it was exciting. Even more exciting was coming to understanding the rationales behind the work we do as nurses. Becoming a nurse educator allowed me to dive into those rationales and think about the philosophies that drive our stated rationales. As a faculty member teaching in the classroom and writing, it wasn’t long before I was looking into why we believe what we believe and how change can be introduced to strengthen the quality of care. Teaching feeds my intrigue with understanding what motivates the action of individuals and groups, and I think it positions me to have the kind of impact in nursing that is required to contribute to patient care excellence.”
- “I liked the idea of a work place where I could explore new ideas freely.”
Why do you continue to be a nurse educator?
- “As a nurse educator, I’m able to advance nursing care by engaging many nurses simultaneously at both undergraduate and graduate levels. As a ‘right-brainer,’ I find that I really like to focus on ideas and possibilities. As a nurse educator, that’s what I get paid to do.”
- “I get to do the work that I love at a pace in which I work best.”
I suspect that many of you—like my colleagues and me—are very glad that you became a nurse educator. Besides the challenges we face, the work feeds our souls. So while we work to improve the educational environment, let’s share with our students and other nurses in our world the value we find in our work. Enthusiasm is contagious, so let’s spread the word! We need the next generation of nurse educators to continue the journey.
Evans, J. (2018) why we became nurse educators: Findings from a nationwide survey of current nurse educators. Nursing Education Perspectives. 39 (2)61-65.
Allen, P., Batcheller, J., Boswell, C., Cannon, S., Starlin, M., Sportsman, Valerio, J. (2017) The Challenges Ahead for Texas Nurse Educators: Texas Team Education Committee Taskforce Findings and Recommendations https://static1.squarespace.com/static/541228a2e4b0a5a88e01308b/t/59488c442994ca118d0b9388/1497926726332/TexasChallenges+for+Texas+Nurse+Educators.pdf Last accessed: April, 2018