Recently, the world has seen an increase in the need for nurses. According to scientists, the US will need at least 260,000 more registered nurses by 2025 (Oermann et al., 2017). Despite the increased interest in the profession from people under 30, about one-third of the workforce are nurses over 50 (Oermann et al., 2017). Considering the aging of nursing faculty, scientists expect an increase in demand for academic nurse educators (ANE) who will teach new students. In other words, society requires professional ANEs who understand their role in a broad perspective. This paper aims to analyze the roles and responsibilities of ANE, summarize a challenge that impacts the position, and present a reflective analysis and development plan for becoming socialized to the ANE’s role.
Roles and Responsibilities
ANE performs many functions and responsibilities, the main of which is students’ education. This format of teaching is distinguished by the need to adapt to the educational needs of students. It should be noted that all nurses have teaching duties since they are responsible for patient education, and initiation of changes in their lifestyles, following the HOPE approach (Bastable, 1998). The ANE’s role involves curriculum development, teaching in the classroom, laboratory, and clinical environment, and the ability to create an educational moment to stimulate students to the learning process (Bastable, 1998). Besides, ANE is responsible for ensuring safe, quality patient care, which is implemented through quality student education.
In particular, ANE should convey to students the need to become agents of changes for patients, educate them, explain the treatment process, and support them in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, diet, and reducing risk-behavior. It is because, during the 20th century, healthcare has evolved from disease-oriented patient education (DOPE) to prevention-oriented patient education (POPE) and health-oriented patient education (HOPE) (Bastable, 1998). This approach can also be called patient-oriented; similar to the changes that have taken place in patient care, nursing education has also acquired a new, learner-centered focus. Such focus assumes that when developing standards for the education process, ANE puts emphasis not on the teacher presenting the information but on the students who assimilate it. The shift in focus in education has led to the fact that students today do more independent work and are autonomous subjects in the learning process.
Even though this approach raises expectations for students’ efforts, ANE is still responsible for delivering information that must be learned. All students are different from each other and may need different educational approaches, so ANE’s task is to develop the learning process that suits everyone (Bastable, 1998). The students’ learning outcomes measure the success of the ANE’s endeavor. If these results do not meet the requirements, the ANE should revise their learning style, curriculum, or mentoring approach. Scientists advise that when organizing the educational process, nurse educators can use the ASSURE model. This model includes the following steps – analyze the learner, state objectives, select instructional methods, and tools, use teaching materials, require learner performance, evaluate the teaching and learning process. Therefore, successful ANEs must consider the above characteristics of their role and responsibilities to achieve satisfactory learning outcomes.
Functioning within the Parent Institution
Before becoming an ANE, a nurse must receive education to work at a faculty, the starting point for which can be an MSN degree. Today in the healthcare industry, there is a great demand for professional nurses and ANEs. Some college and university faculties have high requirements for ANE, such as a doctorate, before being admitted to teaching (Oermann et al., 2017). However, this practice does not exist in all educational institutions; for most community colleges, four-year liberal arts colleges and universities, BSN or MSN is enough to allow a nurse to the faculty (Oermann et al., 2017). The demand for nurses is driven by many factors that require a multitude of employees who are open to change.
As a representative of the parent institution, the nurse must consider the forces driving these changes, including the severe nursing faculty shortage, increasing multiculturalism of society, and decreasing financial resources in education and health care (Billings & Halstead, 2019). Equally important factors that determine the way ANE works at the faculty are “changes in the delivery of health care through health care reform, the integration of evidence-based practice and the need for more nurses with higher degrees, expanding technology” (Billings & Halstead, 2019, p. 33). Therefore, ANE has a variety of job functions that reflect responsibilities for faculty and students.
Consuela Blaizes, Doctor in Nursing Practice, Registered Nurse, and Practical Nursing Program Director at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford, NC, spoke about her teaching responsibilities. Doctor Blaizes noted: “I am actively involved with ongoing curriculum development and improvements. I am also an active member of the ADN / PN Director’s group and the NC Council for Practical Nurse Educators.” As a council, she holds ongoing discussions and problem-solving sessions around curriculum development, improvements, and program accreditation.
Doctor Blaizes also said that her organization expects specific responsibilities concerning her role in teaching, scholarship, and maintaining clinical expertise. She stated, “We must maintain professional development (PD), at minimum 5 hours for the college. The college encourages PD by offering activities on campus, scholarships, and provides funding for conferences and certifications.” Doctor Blaizes also added that such activities are necessary to maintain competence within the organization and in clinical expertise for nursing.
Since ANEs are a part of the organization where they work – that is, a college or university, they can take advantage of the partnerships in that organization. Quite often, educational institutions have partner programs, which help them exchange experiences in interprofessional collaboration (Halstead & Frank, 2017). Faculties can also collaborate with accreditation bodies such as CCNE and ACEN, which offer ANEs certification programs and other opportunities. Professional organizations and government associations of nurses, such as the NLN and ANA, can be part of the partnership as well. These organizations offer certification programs, and they support nurses in professional development by creating a professional community. Associations offer practice and advocacy, recognition, and professional development programs, including grants and scholarships, and develop useful teaching resources.
When working with partners, ANE should maintain a professional relationship, as this facilitates interaction. For cooperation to be practical, each side must understand their role in it. For example, ANE clinical centers usually work with nurse managers, nursing education departments, and preceptors. Scholars advise treating students with due respect during clinical teaching, not belittling them if they make mistakes when trying to navigate the situation and find the best treatment for the patient (Billings & Halstead, 2019). The same rule of mutual respect should apply to nurse managers, nursing education departments, and preceptors.
Conducting clinical teaching can create some difficulties for clinical personnel; therefore, ANE should think in advance about how to organize the educational process unobtrusively and effectively. Besides, ANE should explain to students the specifics of the hospital work processes. ANE also has to reach an agreement with nurse managers, nursing education departments, and preceptors, notifying them of students’ arrival and outlining the goals and time frames of their stay on the clinical site.
Another option for communication with external stakeholders is a nurse educator’s participation in the Nursing Program Advisory Boards’ discussions. In this case, the ANE will communicate with representatives from local hospitals and healthcare agencies and community members, who might sit on that board. The primary function of Nursing Advisory Boards is to provide support and advice to nursing education programs and its objectives may include discussing curriculum content and building public relations. Within this board, health education programs and healthcare programs aimed at the local community can be defined. Therefore, one of the ANE’s responsibilities can be effective communication with representatives of local hospitals and healthcare agencies during meetings.
Besides, nursing programs must submit annual reports to the State Board and accreditation agencies to communicate outcomes and performance. Effective communication with these institutions is essential, as they help evaluate and get feedback concerning students’ learning outcomes and may share news related to changes in curriculum requirements. If ANEs receive useful feedback, they will better understand the formal and informal student performance requirements. Further, by adapting their curriculum to these requirements, ANE can help students be more successful.
Interprofessional or interdisciplinary collaboration is one of the critical areas of student learning, along with patient-oriented help, technology use, and evidence-based medical practice. Students are highly likely to engage in interdisciplinary collaboration in their professional lives. Therefore, ANE’s essential task is to teach students to work in teams, whose members may not be equal in terms of responsibility, social position, and education. A good simulator of this practice can be work on an interdisciplinary case study with partners from other disciplines or engaging nursing students with other members of the health care team in a rounding experience on the clinical unit (Billings & Halstead, 2019). Students can also be tasked with collaborative patient assessment and present findings in front of the team.
This practice will help students become comfortable with being a team leader or a team member. It is necessary because, due to their profession’s nature and the holistic approach to treating patients, the nurse is the central link in teamwork. For the organization of interdisciplinary training, ANE will need to ensure inter-optional cooperation and the inclusion of interdisciplinary classes and clinical-based practices in the curriculum.
In an interview, Consuela Blaizes, PN Program Director at Central Carolina Community College, stated that her biggest challenge is the fear of failure. It is an educational challenge related to ANE’s desire to do their best job. Doctor Blaizes said: “I take it personally when students don’t succeed because I want them to do well. I do a lot of self-evaluation on how I taught the class, were my words easy to understand.” Doctor Blaizes also noted that she is worried about the need to conduct online training. She said: “The barrier of teaching online has been a struggle for many of the students, and I don’t have all the answers for them. It is difficult to tell them how to study for a nursing exam”. Therefore, Doctor Blaizes feels responsible and looks for suitable ways to overcome this barrier.
Impact of the Identified Challenge
Recently, there has been a strong demand for professional nurses and nursing educators in the health and education systems. Given the changes in the education system associated with funding cuts, ANEs are required to be creative and flexible in their educational efforts (Halstead & Frank, 2017). Since the main asset of the faculties is personnel, the primary resource of ANEs is their professionalism. Besides, due to widespread funding cuts, state legislators can closely monitor faculties’ learning outcomes and allocate funding to the most successful ones (Halstead & Frank, 2017). Therefore, ANEs certainly need to find good ways to overcome this challenge and turn barriers into opportunities and advantages.
Online learning can be both an obstacle and an opportunity, as many scholars have claimed. For example, Stott & Mozer (2016) note that ANEs today feel pressure to use technology and apply online educational strategies, integrating pedagogy and creativity. Scientists believe that developing well-structured classes with an appropriate set of online tools can foster engagement and enthusiasm. The scholars also emphasized that many teachers did not have time to properly navigate the situation due to the hasty introduction of technology and chose content and resource-oriented approach.
Therefore, according to scientists, ANE and their students, who are current or future nurse practitioners, need guidance on applying online learning technologies. Wu et al. (2018) also recognize that online learning offers affordability, convenience, and flexibility, which can benefit working adults. Further, Xu (2016) recognizes the importance of choosing an appropriate nursing education strategy and offers ten different options. Therefore, the arguments presented by academics validate the widespread challenges that online education creates for nursing educators.
Opportunities and Barriers
Online education, if one learns to use its capabilities accurately, can enhance nursing education. Scholars propose adapting classical approaches to classroom education and provide options for existing educational strategies (Xu, 2016). These are lectures, high-fidelity simulation, concept mapping, online courses, games, role-playing, jigsaw classroom, case study, debating, and problem-based learning. Since focusing on content and resources during online learning is not a practical approach, adapting these strategies to online learning can be extremely useful. In particular, Xu (2016) notes that lectures can be combined with Prezi software to create presentations and overlay them onto live video broadcasts. The scientist also believes that the Poll Everywhere app is a useful tool since it allows hosting interactive remote meetings. ANEs can also easily use strategies such as high-fidelity simulation, role-playing, jigsaw classroom, case study, and debating during live online meetings with students. Further, online learning can be enhanced greatly using concept mapping tools, like Prezi, which can be applied to case studies, high-fidelity simulation, and problem-based learning.
Teaching, Scholarship, and Service
Teaching, service, and scholarship are the primary responsibilities of ANE. Therefore, before getting a job in a community college, four-year liberal arts college, or university, ANEs have to understand the essence of their future responsibilities. Teaching involves a teaching and learning process, while service may include duties associated with serving as a faculty, educator, and college committee member and serving patients if ANE is a nurse practitioner. The scholarship is an integral part of ANE’s duties as a faculty and involves participation in scientific work. According to Boyer’s model, there are four types of scholarship, including the scholarship of discovery, scholarship of integration, scholarship of application, and scholarship of teaching (Oermann et al., 2017). At the beginning of a career, ANE may be offered to choose a tenure-track type of employment. Such employment involves drawing up a professional development plan for 5-6 years and further accumulation of merits to the faculty.
ANE’s responsibilities, which is on probation and is passing tenure-track, may include participation in committees, scientific activities, and extracurricular work with students. In terms of scholarship efforts, ANE can start with teaching scholarship by doing research and contributing to evidence-based learning. With professional-level growth, ANE’s leadership can be realized through participation in national and international programs. Therefore, an ANE on probation can start by participating in college or university-based committees that consider student education issues.
Ethics, Values and Cultural Norms
Different educational institutions have distinct views on the need for the professional development of ANE as a scientist. Therefore, when choosing a place of employment, ANE should pay attention to ensuring that their professional goals are aligned with the mission and goals of the organization where they will serve. For example, some organizations may consider the learning process as a higher priority than obtaining advanced degrees. In contrast, others may have a strong scientific base, which requires serious efforts from ANE to participate in scientific work. Besides, ambiguous situations can arise if ANE can not properly plan their career and tenure promotion (Billings & Halstead, 2019). In particular, ANEs need to remember that when choosing tenure-track employment, after five to seven years of service, their tenure will not necessarily be approved. In this case, they may be dismissed from the organization. At the same time, ANE will have the opportunity to change the employer and try to get tenure elsewhere since other educational institutions usually recognize tenure-track merits.
Academic Environment Type
When choosing a place of work, ANEs need to consider that there are three types of organizations – community colleges, which provide two-year education for high-school graduates, four-year liberal art colleges, and universities (Fressola & Patterson, 2016). These organizations require a different education level for future teachers – from BSN to Ph. D. (Oermann et al., 2017). Most often, however, MSN is enough to work in the ANE position since the next degree can be obtained in working as a faculty. The choice will depend on ambitions, experience, professional training, and willingness to make professional development efforts in the next 5-7 years as part of a career development plan.
Thus, the roles and responsibilities of the academic nurse educator (ANE) were analyzed. ANE’s main task is to educate students, evaluate the compliance of their results with required learning outcomes, service, and scholarship duties. Next, a challenge that impacts the role was summarized, and strategies for overcoming barriers and online-learning opportunities were presented. Finally, a reflective analysis and development plan for becoming socialized to the ANE’s role was presented, including advice on career development.
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