Evolving Roles of Nurse Educators

Introduction

The process of teaching future professionals is always associated with challenges and risks. However, in the sphere of healthcare education, these challenges are more numerous. Those who decide to become academic nurse educators (ANEs) have to be fully committed not only to the teaching dimension of their work but also to the practical and research aspects of it. The present paper offers an overview of the ANEs’ roles and responsibilities based on research and data obtained from an interview with an ANE. Also, an educational challenge identified from the interview is analyzed, along with strategies to address it. Finally, a reflective analysis of the transitioning process to the ANE’s role is performed.

The Analysis of the ANE’s Role

Roles and Responsibilities of an ANE

ANE bears numerous responsibilities in ensuring safe and high-quality patient care in both academic and practice settings. Nurse educators are accountable to their institution’s administration, the board of nursing, accrediting body, community health care organizations, and the public (Lippe & Carter, 2018). The primary role of an ANE is, therefore, providing students with adequate preparation for caring about patients in professional practice settings.

ANEs perform a variety of roles and responsibilities within the teaching, scholarship, and service dimensions. Concerning teaching duties, it is not sufficient to transmit knowledge to learners. ANEs also need to possess evidence-based knowledge of relevant teaching methods, students’ learning styles and approaches to evaluating learners’ skills (Oermann & Frank, 2018). Furthermore, ANEs are accountable for formulating the curriculum that would both meet the standards of practice and get students ready for their future professional roles. ANEs’ scholarship responsibilities are contingent on the idea that every teacher is a scholar (Halstead & Frank, 2018). Therefore, ANEs will most likely be required to participate in research programs (Oermann & Frank, 2018). Finally, the service duties of ANEs incorporate participation in different committees and the performance of various functions within the organization.

The mentioned responsibilities demand extra preparation from ANEs, who frequently engage in additional activities to keep up with the latest data on their practice area. For instance, the interviewed ANE works as a floor nurse on a medical-surgical/telemetry unit three weekends a month to maintain a high level of assessment skills. Additionally, the interviewee is going to start a doctoral program in spring 2021. Along with the mentioned responsibilities, nurse educators are guided by such core competencies as facilitating learning, learners’ development, and socialization, utilizing appropriate assessment strategies, functioning as leaders and change agents, pursuing regular quality improvements, and others (“Nurse educator core competency,” n.d.). The variety of roles urges ANEs to continuous self-improvement and awareness of the most current innovations in the professional and academic spheres.

Apart from the mentioned roles, ANEs also serve as change leaders, educational advocates, collaborators, and facilitators. By performing the functions of the facilitator and collaborator, ANEs help to maintain students’ knowledge and overall competence, which results in providing patients with high-quality care. Furthermore, by serving as the change leader and educational advocate, the ANE can ensure patent safety. This can be gained through the implementation of innovative teaching and learning methods, as well as through protecting students’ right to have a sufficient amount of practice.

Functioning of the ANE within the Parent Institution

ANEs perform a variety of functions within the organizations where they work. These specialists combine several crucial roles within the parent institutions. First of all, they teach undergraduate students in different environments, including laboratories, theory classes, and clinical settings. Secondly, ANEs perform scholarly and service functions in order to remain aware of the latest research trends and provide patients with high-quality care. Next, ANEs serve on their universities’ task force by conducting evaluations, such as preparing reports from the college of nursing or the college of education. Additionally, ANEs participate in various committees at the universities where they work. Also, nurse educators perform important functions in charity events, including open houses, community events, and fundraisers.

The parent institution holds certain expectations of the ANE in regard to her roles in teaching, scholarship, and clinical expertise. The primary requirement for ANEs is to continue challenging themselves academically at a personal level. To do this, ANEs have to step out of their comfort zone and apply for doctoral programs, which requires additional time and resources. Furthermore, the ANE has to obtain certification for CNE (certified nurse educator) and participate in research with colleagues.

ANEs are also expected to accommodate changes and challenges promptly. These include being flexible in various situations, such as the lack of patients of the selected direction, and coping with emerging difficulties, such as the need to alter teaching methods due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, ANEs have to be respectful and helpful in every situation in order to maintain dignity and be recognized both by students and colleagues as honorable professional.

External Stakeholders and Strategies Facilitating Communication with Them

Probably the most significant stakeholder groups vital to the roles and responsibilities of an ANE are consumers (patients and communities) and nursing employers. Consumers are highly interested in the positive outcomes of nurse students’ education since the health of the former depends on the level of professionalism of the latter. Meanwhile, nursing employers are also contingent on the quality of nursing students’ education since the reputation and profit of healthcare organizations depend on their employees’ skills and professionalism.

In order to gain the best outcomes of communicating with external stakeholders, ANEs have to focus on arranging inclusive partnerships with them. Useful prompts to encourage and enhance such partnerships include building on the existing relationships, generating talking points for different audiences, performing a dual needs assessment, concentrating on patients and communities, and creating a strategic plan with measurable outcomes (Gorski, Farmer, Sroczynski, Close, & Wortock, 2015). Such actions will enable ANEs to arrange a successful collaboration with stakeholders.

Communicating with Patients

To facilitate interaction with the consumer stakeholder group, ANEs should use in-person communication during clinicals, as well as while preparing for clinicals. Such an approach can be maintained by the ANE by going into patients’ rooms and talking to them directly. No surveys or follow-up procedures should be carried out due to privacy regulations. However, learning about patients’ perceptions of the quality of care received within the institution considerably increases the level of communication with this stakeholder group.

Communicating with Nursing Employers

The strategy for communicating with nursing employers presupposes both in-person communication and written correspondence. The ANE can meet with this stakeholder group directly at conferences, workshops, or seminars. Also, ANEs can communicate with nursing employers via emails or newsletters. The increased awareness of nursing employers about qualified nursing students allows the ANE to help learners find a good job and, at the same time, to provide employers with experienced staff.

ANE’s Facilitation of Interprofessional Collaborative Efforts

ANEs have the potential to boost interprofessional collaborative endeavors, which can profoundly improve the outcomes of both learning and practice. In the healthcare environment, collaboration and communication between different teams of specialists is a highly crucial element of gaining successful results (Sullivan, Kiovsky, Mason, Hill, & Dukes, 2015). ANEs are responsible for arranging such dimensions of interprofessional collaboration as drawing links between education and practice, accelerating innovative models of learning, incorporating interprofessional communication in the learning process, and realigning the existing resources to promote the connection between education and practice (Sullivan et al., 2015). An example of the ANE’s facilitation efforts is the arrangement of learners’ work in teams while studying nursing programs. Such an order will demonstrate to students how significant communication and collaboration are and how vital it is to sustain respectful and professional relationships between team members. Furthermore, teaching students to make decisions regarding patients’ health in teams promotes the learners’ ability to listen to the opinions of others and find drawbacks in their own ideas. Overall, by promoting interprofessional collaborative efforts, ANEs will help both nurse students and patient communities to gain the best healthcare outcomes.

A Summary of an Educational Challenge Identified from the Interview

The Impact of the Identified Challenge on the ANE’s Role

The educational challenge identified from the interview is the implementation of a flipped-classroom approach in nursing education. A flipped classroom is a reversed form of a traditional class, in which lectures are commonly given in class, and practical assignments are carried out at home (Post, Deal, & Hermanns, 2015). Meanwhile, in the flipped classroom, lectures and other theoretical materials are watched by students at home, and classroom time is fully dedicated to laboratory work, tests, and other assignments aimed at applying theoretical knowledge. Flipped classrooms have the potential to boost students’ critical thinking, which is particularly significant for future nurses (Dehghanzadeh & Jafaraghaie, 2018). As the interviewee mentioned, she considered interactive approaches to teaching and learning most important and effective. Hence, her preference for flipped classrooms is justified both by her experience and scholarly research.

Along with evident benefits, the identified approach has a number of challenging influences on ANEs. Firstly, educators have to adjust to emerging realities faster than anyone else in order to prepare their students for new tendencies. Therefore, ANEs have to remain aware of all innovations in the spheres of education and technology not to lose an opportunity of receiving the most favorable outcomes. Secondly, ANEs need to be able not only to utilize the necessary software for creating mobile lectures but also to explain the peculiarities of home acquisition of knowledge to their students. Learners can have different levels of computer skills, and it is of utmost importance for educators to make sure that each student receives the most of the materials given.

Finally, ANEs have to sacrifice much time to prepare such materials. It is rather difficult to present the lecture in a concise but exhaustive way, taking into consideration all the possible additional questions that may arise by the end of the lecture. As a result, to attain the most positive outcomes of a flipped classroom, an ANE should not only desire to use students’ class and home time effectively but also put much effort in the process of arranging such a change.

Support of the Identified Challenge in Scholarly Sources

Betihavas, Bridgman, Kornhaber, and Cross (2016) have conducted a study to review the flipped classroom in nursing education. Scholars note that the flipped classroom allows for a student-centered approach in education. Hence, according to Betihavas et al. (2016), the method may be utilized to promote nursing students’ understanding of the complex nature of the modern system of health care. Scholars note that it is crucial for nursing students to possess the skills of reasoning, problem-solving, and applying theory into practice. Betihavas et al. (2016) have found that the use of flipped classrooms in nurse students’ education generates neutral to positive academic achievement. The level of learners’ satisfaction with the flipped classroom is reported as mixed. The review indicates that students’ engagement in flipped classroom learning increases when teachers provide a rationale for the model and offer a substantial explanation of instructions.

Another scholarly review of the flipped classroom in nursing education has been performed by Njie-Carr et al. (2017). Scholars justify the need for switching to this method due to its potential to optimize the pedagogy of nursing education. Njie-Carr et al. (2017) emphasize the importance of preparing nursing students to manage the health problems of patients with multiple comorbidities, as well as to apply critical thinking and make accurate clinical decisions. Furthermore, the article dwells on nursing students’ low possibility to meet the needs of patients they deal with in their professional practice. On the part of educators, according to Njie-Carr et al. (2017), current difficulties include the impossibility to fill in the gap between education and practice. Specifically, nurse educators cannot gain a proper balance between didactic approaches, interactive techniques, and high-quality instruction for both. Hence, researchers consider the flipped classroom as a positive opportunity to manage the mentioned problems and enhance nursing students’ educational and professional skills.

Post et al. (2015) have analyzed the question of the flipped classroom from the nursing students’ perspective. Scholars argue that the flipped classroom can promote these learners’ academic experiences. The authors note that by utilizing the flipped classroom method, teachers can help their students to synthesize and assimilate the material. For instance, learners can watch the lectures when they can and as often as they need. Meanwhile, in the classroom, they use the time saved for the more profound interaction with their peers and educators. Additionally, the use of the flipped classroom enables educators to assess the level of students’ understanding of the material and give them additional explanations if necessary.

At the same time, Post et al. (2015) admit that the process of transformation from a traditional to a non-traditional type of learning is associated with challenges. The major problems have been found in such areas as time management and lack of communication. Post et al. (2015) note that students may feel frustrated due to not being able to ask their teacher the question they had in mind when watching the lecture. Also, some learners feel depersonalized and disconnected in the flipped classroom settings as opposed to the physical presence in the classroom. Finally, students report the need to watch a lecture several times in case they could not understand some concepts (Post et al., 2015). Overall, while the method is highly promising, learners also express some apprehensions concerning its use.

Strategies to Address Barriers and Opportunities of the Challenge

The first of the suggested approaches to address barriers and opportunities of the flipped classroom is implementing a thorough preparation of all nurse educators to the process of transforming from the traditional classroom to the flipped one. Since any innovation requires new knowledge and additional preparation, it is reasonable to arrange courses for nurse educators where they could gain an understanding of the core aims and principles of the flipped classroom. As well as students, some teachers may feel opposed to such a change, which is why it is crucial to explain the necessity of the method to educators first. A teacher who is aware of all benefits of the flipped classroom will find it easier to outline these advantages to students. At the same time, an educator who knows the drawbacks and possible limitations of the process will be able to warn students about them and come up with viable solutions for problematic issues.

The next strategy that might be proposed is promoting learners’ time management skills. The flipped classroom environment is reported to upset some learners due to the need to listen to the material more than once or look for additional sources to understand some concepts better (Post et al., 2015). Hence, it is crucial to teach students to grasp the main points of the lecture, take brief notes, single out the key terms and concepts, and synthesize the material in the most convenient way. It might be useful to conduct an introductory lecture on the flipped classroom in a physical classroom environment and spend some time training learners on the use of the new approach.

Finally, to grasp the opportunities of the new method fully, educators need to pay the utmost attention to creativity while preparing the lectures. The lack of the possibility to control students’ knowledge acquisition in the distance urges educators to make their materials as engaging as possible. The more exciting and lively the lecture is, the more likely it is to create a vivid discussion in the classroom. Teachers should not treat the flipped classroom only as an opportunity to save time for other tasks in the classroom. Rather, educators should utilize online lectures as a tool for promoting knowledge and inquiry among students.

A Reflective Analysis

The Incorporation of Teaching, Scholarship, and Service of Nurse Education

In the process of transitioning to the ANE role, I will have to incorporate teaching, scholarship, and service as crucial prerequisites of a successful nurse educator. The plan for utilizing teaching skills includes the application of evidence-based practice and the knowledge I possess. I will apply the knowledge obtained during my nursing experience to prepare myself to educate students on a variety of nursing subjects. It is also important for me to be creative when preparing lesson plans for students, so I will use not only professional skills but also unique approaches to make the material both informative and interesting for the students.

Part of the socialization plan concerning scholarship incorporates continuous learning and participation in research programs. At first, I intend to take part in small projects and play the role of an assistant researcher in them. That way, I will be able to gain valuable experience and not allocate too much time to this part of work. Further, I will select an individual topic and engage in a doctoral program. So far, I do not have a concrete specialization to which I would like to dedicate my scholarly inquiry, but I will monitor the most viable areas of research as I proceed with my career.

Finally, becoming an ANE requires one to serve others. First and foremost, I will be of use to students and patients. Personally, I cannot single out one of these two groups as more crucial than the other since they are both interrelated. By taking care of patients, I will gain valuable experience and develop my skills, which I will pass on to learners. Meanwhile, by teaching students how to apply theoretical skills in practice, I will improve their professionalism, which will lead to positive outcomes for the community.

Adherence to the Ethics, Values, and Cultural Norms

It cannot be doubted that the nursing profession is one of the most demanding in terms of ethics. Becoming an ANE requires precise adherence to values and cultural and ethical norms. As advised by the interviewee, I will always follow the regulations set by the institution where I work so as to rely on its protection in case of any disputes. Apart from that, I will be guided by ethical norms that all healthcare professionals and educators are expected to follow, such as serving as patients’ advocates, protecting their values, and respecting their cultures.

What concerns the purely educational dimension, I will be guided by the ethical norms and core values outlined by the National League for Nursing. This organization defines caring, integrity, diversity, and excellence as the main aspects that should be incorporated in ANEs’ work. The culture of caring is considered as a principal component of the nurse educator’s job (“Core values,” n.d.). As an ANE, I will consider students’ personalities as a whole, commit to the common good, and pay particular attention to vulnerable individuals. The principle of integrity presupposes demonstrating respect toward every learner unconditionally (“Core values,” n.d.). I will practice this value through open communication and honesty. Also, I will allow my students to participate in the decision-making process and express their opinions on crucial questions.

The ethical principle of diversity implies acknowledging all cultural differences between students and respecting their ethnicities and values. I will make sure that no prejudice or bias is allowed in my classroom, be it based on identity, socio-economic status, religion, political views, or sexual orientation. This approach will enable me to arrange an environment of mutual trust and respect among the students. Finally, the principle of excellence implies creating and implementing “transformative strategies with daring ingenuity” (“Core values,” n.d., para. 2). By adhering to this norm, I will promote stable growth and improvement of my students, as well as ensure the successful implementation of such principles as innovativeness and transformation.

The Type of Academic Environment Most Suitable for Successful Transition

The academic environment which I believe to be the most beneficial for my transition into the ANE’s role should, first of all, be modern and open to innovation. I respect traditional establishments and organizations, but I believe that I would be best suited for a place that promotes technological progress both in health care and education. Probably, I would feel myself best in a college hospital where students can immediately apply the obtained knowledge into practice. I would also appreciate the opportunity to work in a team of professionals from diverse fields so as to remain fully aware of any improvements in various areas. By doing so, I will be able to provide my students with the most recent data and evidence-based approaches. I would also like my future academic environment to enable each member of the team to try himself or herself as a leader without the fear of being judged or misunderstood. I am open to innovation and healthy criticism, and I would like to practice my ANE role in the settings suited for these parameters.

Conclusion

The paper allows concluding that there exist numerous challenges in ANEs’ professional functions. At the same time, one can note that with careful consideration of the transitioning process and by preparing a thorough plan, it is possible to avoid complications and get ready for the role of an ANE with minute complications. Undoubtedly, this role is rather demanding, time-consuming, and multidimensional. However, it is also highly rewarding and beneficial for society, which is why anyone desiring to engage in the ANE’s role should consider all aspects of this profession carefully.

Summary of the Interview

The ANE’s Role, Student Population, and Learning Environment

The interviewee has taught pediatrics rotation to BSN students in the learning environment of a state college. This course is taught to third-year students with the aim of instructing them to provide competent and effective care to infants and children. E. L. admits that teaching this course presents some challenges associated both with the instructional side and time-management issues. She recalls not having a sufficient number of pediatric patients during clinical time. In such cases, ANEs have to be creative and professional and think of a plan to make the educational process the most beneficial for students. E. L. mentions that on occasions like this, she allows students to share patients but, at the same time, requires a different care plan from each learner.

Overall, the learning environment is quite favorable for the ANE and students alike. However, E. L. admits having some difficulties with the moral aspect of her work. Specifically, she notes that there are students whose main goal is not caring about patients but making money. According to E. L., such instances are rather discouraging since they dehumanize the role of a nurse in society. Fortunately, the majority of learners are truly dedicated to their future practice and concentrate on fulfilling their academic and practical assignments with responsibility.

Responsibilities Related to the ANE’s Role

First of all, the ANE performs the function of the facilitator of students’ learning. This responsibility involves preparing for lectures and practical assignments, remaining aware of the latest achievements in the professional sphere, and promoting students’ skills at all levels. An ANE should keep learners interested in the subject and find solutions to the problems that may occur in the process of teaching or learning. The next important responsibility is that of a communicator and collaborator. ANEs should be able to arrange effective collaboration between different stakeholders of the educational process. Along with that, ANEs have to make sure that all participants of the teaching and learning process are engaged in communication free of prejudice or misunderstandings. ANEs also function as professional development activists, which means that they are engaged in continuous learning. ANEs conduct research in certain fields of the nursing profession, as well as inspire their students to investigate various issues related to their professional duties. Without this skill, an ANE cannot keep up with the innovative processes in nursing, which can lead to ineffective fulfillment of their duties both as educators and nurses.

Another crucial function of an ANE is that of a change leader. ANEs perform regular assessments of their students’ skills, as well as of emerging trends in the field. An ANE should carry out a thorough analysis of potentially positive changes and present their benefits to the organization’s administration. An ANE should be able to outline the advantages of innovations so as to bring benefits both to learners and patients. Finally, ANEs serve as educational advocates, which implies their readiness and willingness to provide education to every student who wants or requires it. Adhering to the principles of ethics and cultural norms, ANEs should be guided by equality and inclusiveness. Every student has the right to become a nurse if he or she is determined and dedicated. ANEs’ responsibility is to provide equal opportunities for each learner.

How the Interview Informed My Perception of the ANE’s Role and Responsibilities

The interview gave valuable insights into the ANE’s role and responsibilities. Whereas I am still determined to become an ANE, I am not viewing this role as purely positive and easy to fulfill. I have learned that no matter how hard one works to get ready for lectures and practical assignments, the lack of equipment or a sudden change of circumstances can lead to unpredicted outcomes. For instance, the interviewee explained her position on the flipped classroom, which is a rather positive idea, but a deeper investigation of the matter demonstrated that not all students are ready for such an alteration.

I also learned that to become a good teacher, one has to possess much more than excellent knowledge of the subject and practical skills. The interviewee made it clear that such features as a sense of humor, the ability to communicate and collaborate, the passion for nursing and teaching, empathy, and patience are inherent components of the ANE’s job. Although I learned that ANEs’ duties are numerous, and their efforts are not always noticed and rewarded, I have developed even more respect for these professionals and became more interested in becoming one of them.

References

Betihavas, V., Bridgman, H., Kornhaber, R., & Cross, M. (2016). The evidence for ‘flipping out’: A systematic review of the flipped classroom in nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 38, 15-21.

Core values. (n.d.). Web.

Dehghanzadeh, S., & Jafaraghaie, F. (2018). Comparing the effects of traditional lecture and flipped classroom on nursing students’ critical thinking disposition: A quasi-experimental study. Nurse Education Today, 71, 151-156.

Gorski, M. S., Farmer, P. D., Sroczynski, M., Close, L., & Wortock, J. M. (2015). Nursing education transformation: Promising practices in academic progression. Journal of Nursing Education, 54(9), 509-515.

Halstead, J. A., & Frank, B. (2018). Pathways to a nursing education career: Transitioning from practice to academia (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

Lippe, M., & Carter, P. (2018). Using the CIPP Model to assess nursing education program quality and merit. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 13(1), 9-13.

Njie-Carr, V. P. S., Ludeman, E., Lee, M. C., Dordunoo, D., Trocky, N. M., & Jenkins, L. S. (2017). An integrative review of flipped classroom teaching models in nursing education. Journal of Professional Nursing, 33(2), 133-144.

Nurse educator core competency. (n.d.). Web.

Oermann, M. H., & Frank, B. (2018). The process of becoming a nurse educator. In M. H. Oermann, J. C. De Gagne, & B. C. Phillips (Eds.), Teaching in nursing and role of the educator: The complete guide to best practice in teaching, evaluation, and curriculum development (2nd ed.) (pp. 3-16). New York, NY: Springer.

Post, J. L., Deal, B., & Hermanns, M. (2015). Implementation of a flipped classroom: Nursing students’ perspectives. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 5(6), 25-30.

Sullivan, M., Kiovsky, R. D., Mason, D. J., Hill, C. D., & Dukes, C. (2015). Interprofessional collaboration and education. AJN, American Journal of Nursing, 115(3), 47-54.