Q & A on the Value of Nursing Education

Below is a Q & A with Suling Li, PhD, RN, Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Faculty Scholarship at Lewis University College of Nursing and Health Professions

Why would nurses want to make the move into nursing education?
Nursing education offers you great job security. Although you already have a good job security for being a nurse, you may have even a better job security for being a nurse educator as there is a huge demand for nursing faculty. The shortage of nurses and nurse educators continues in the United States. AACN research shows that there were more than 1,500 vacant faculty positions that are unfilled, translating into a national nurse faculty vacancy rate of 7.9 percent (http://www.aacnnursing.org/News-Information/Fact-Sheets/Nursing-Faculty-Shortage). In addition, it is expected that a wave of faculty retirement will occur in the next decade and the demand for nursing faculty will not be met by the graduates of the current graduate programs in nursing. According to AACN’s report on 2016-2017 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs, faculty shortage has contributed to the nursing programs’ inability to enroll more than 64,000 of qualified applicants to the nursing education programs around the country. Thus, it is expected that there will be growing demand for nurse educators at least for the next 10 years. As an administrator of a college of nursing, I know personally that it is extremely challenging to find qualified individuals to teach in the nursing program in the academic setting.

Why would nurses want to make the move into nursing education as
a profession?
There are great opportunities for nursing education students to receive fellowship or be part of faculty loan program for tuition support. Many initiatives are available to support the education of future nursing faculty through fellowships and loan forgiveness programs. Addressing the nursing faculty shortage, a driving force of nursing shortage, is the first step of addressing the priority of expanding the nation’s capacity to prepare quality nurses (RWJF, 2010). Organizations including HRSA, AACN, NLN, and RWJF have mechanisms to support nurses to receive graduate degree in nursing education.

What do you think the main incentives are and how do they relate to your decision to move into the field?
Being a nursing faculty is a great career choice. There is no doubt that being a faculty member can be challenging at times because you have to juggle the responsibilities of achieving excellence in teaching, research, practice and services. The rewards of being a faculty member, however, are numerable:

  1. Being a nurse educator gives you a great sense of accomplishment. As a nurse educator, you are a respected intellectual in the academic setting. You gain a great sense of accomplishments and satisfaction every time you see sparkles in the students’ eyes in the classroom and/or clinical settings. It is such a joy to see the difference you make in the students’ lives as they grow from a lay person to a professional nurse. In addition, teaching offers you new insights, knowledge, skills about patient care and experiences every day. Each student has unique personalities, experiences and ideas. You will grow along with your students, who always bring to the classroom thought-provoking questions, which in turn prompts you to research and learn more about a topic/issue. You always learn as much from your students as they learn from you.
  2. Teaching is an exciting job as there are minimal routines. Being a nurse educator affords you the opportunities to interact with a broader range of individuals, including students, faculty peers, patients and families. Since nursing is an evolving science, you will have the opportunity to exercise creativity and try something new and different every day in your teaching.
  3. If you are burned out from providing direct patient care at the bedside, being a nurse educator will give you the opportunity to work with nursing students, which involves limited direct patient care. In addition, you will have great autonomy at work. With the academic freedom you are given as a faculty member, you decide how to teach the students to achieve the expected outcomes in the curriculum. You have the opportunities to be creative in offering your classes.
  4. You will have high levels of schedule flexibility. No more night shifts or weekend. No more clock in and clock out each shift. As long as you are fulfilling your responsibilities as a faculty member, your schedule is mostly yours to determine. Most academic institutions give nursing faculty a 9-month contract, allowing you a minimum of three months break during summer to enjoy vacationing and/or being with your children. In addition to summers off, faculty members typically get three weeks off during the winter and one week during the spring.
  5. As a faculty member, you can be a nurse educator and practitioner at the same time. Many nursing education programs allow faculty members to practice in the clinical setting in addition to their full time teaching position. So you can enjoy the additional income and also keeping up your nursing skills.



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