Nurse Educator Role and AACN Essentials Classification

Nursing has been evolving over time. As health care changes, so do the responsibilities of nurses. There are many areas of nursing in which nurses can get advanced degree. An Educator track is an integral part of nursing.

Role of Nurse Educator
Teaching is an integral part of nursing, so becoming a nurse educator is a natural step for many nurses. Whether it is a classroom or the practice setting, nurse educator prepares and mentors patient care providers and the future leaders of nursing profession. Nurse educator plays an important role in strengthening the nursing workforce, serving as role models, and providing leadership needed to implement evidence-based practice and improve patient outcomes (Bakers, 2010).

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Nursing educators also have opportunities to perform research, publish articles in nursing and other professional journals, serve as consultants to education and health care institutions, write grant proposals, and participate in community services (Cangelosi, Crocker, & Sorrel, 2009). Nurse educator can be part of the classroom or clinical settings, while assisting in mentoring and counseling students, preparing publications, developing lectures and teaching plans.

Benefits of Becoming a Nurse Educator
Work satisfaction
Research opportunities
Flexible work environment
Job security
Nurse educators have a unique opportunity to watch their students gaining confidence and skills which can be very rewarding. Being able to have access to cuttingedge knowledge and research, having opportunities to collaborate with health professionals, being able to share research findings, and a flexible work environment are several benefits of being a nurse educator (Bartels, 2005). Given the growing shortage of nurse educators, the outlook is bright for nurses interested in career in academia. Nurse educators flourish in an environment that allows them to be independent, innovative, and visionary. Analyzing data, advocating for health policy reform, networking at national meetings, serving on committees, and sharing nursing knowledge with other colleagues are other responsibilities typical for nurse educators (Cangelosi, Crocker, & Sorrel, 2009).

Different Roles of Nurse Educator
Clinical teaching
Classroom teaching
Public health
Nurse educators can serve in diverse roles that range from clinical faculty to becoming an associate dean. Some are devoted to classroom teaching or clinical teaching, while others mentor and counsel student, develop lectures or lesson plans, and prepare publications (Bartels, 2005). Nurse educators typically teach in nursing schools, but they can also work in hospitals, public health agencies, education associations, and other community settings. Nurse educator has the high level of job security and opportunities to advance quickly up the career ladder.

What it takes to be Nurse Educator
Nurse educator must have the solid clinical background, strong communication skills, and high level of cultural competence in order to succeed. Nurse educator must be a lifelong learner, be flexible enough to adapt the curriculum and tech methods in response to innovations in nursing science and ongoing changes in the practice environment (Bartels, 2005).

The American Association of College of Nursing (AACN) has specific standards for practice for various roles at baccalaureate and masters level nursing.

Role of AACN
Serves the public interest by:

Setting standards
Providing resources
Develops leadership capacity of member schools to:

Advance nursing education
The American Association of College of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for baccalaureate and graduate nursing education (AACN, 2013). AACN works to establish nursing educational standards in research, education, publications, federal advocacy, and data collection (AACN, 2013). AACN also influences the nursing profession by promoting public support for professional nursing, research, and practice to improve the nations health care (AACN, 2013).

AACN has established Essentials of Masters Education in Nursing standards that serve as the framework for the nursing programs curriculum. Nurse Educator is one of several Masters prepared tracks that use standards established by AACN.

AACN Essentials
There are nine Essentials established by AACN, which have significant importance for current and emerging roles in nursing and designed for improving health outcomes. These nine Essentials provide the necessary framework for nursing, regardless the major, focus of a nurse, or intended practice setting (AACN, 2011):

Essential I: Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities
Essential II: Organizational and Systems Leadership
Essential III: Quality Improvement and Safety
Essential IV: Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice
Essential V: Informatics and Healthcare Technologies
Essential VI: Health Policy and Advocacy
Essential VII: Inter-professional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
Essential VIII: Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving Health
Essential IX: Masters-Level Nursing Practice
Nurse Educator & AACN Essentials
Individuals who are focused on a nurse educator role require the preparation across all nine Essentials area. All nine Essentials which are outlined by AACN are applicable to the nurse educator role. To be able to teach patients, students, nursing staff, and caregivers about disease prevention, health promotion, or disease management, the graduate level nurse should have the scientific background to (AACN, 2011). Even though all nine essentials are applicable, only three will be discussed here to show how these Essentials can be applied to the nurse educator role.

Essential I (Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities) recognizes that the graduate level nurse understands nursing and related sciences and can analyze, design, implement and evaluate nursing care (AACN, 2011, p. 9). Also, Masters-prepare nurse uses theories and frameworks in analysis of clinical problems, health promotion strategies, and illness prevention. Furthermore, nurses prepared at masters level address complex cultural issues and respond to the needs populations who have conflicting cultural needs and preferences.

Nurse educator can play a key role in addressing the educational needs of patients, family, health care professionals. Nurses agree that patients admitted in the hospitals are sicker than ever before. Many of these patients may not have survived year ago to be in the hospital. Continuing education and specialty certification, according to American Association of Critical Nursing, prepares nurses to make better informed decisions and improves overall patient outcome (2013). As a nurse educator, it is imperative that the employer embraces and supports the continuing education and certifications. Also, convincing employers on the benefit of continuing education and certification is important for educational funding. Overall, certification and continuing education reassures patients and families that the nurse taking care of them has experience, knowledge, and skills.

Essential VII: Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes: Interprofessional education engages students of different professions in interactive learning with each other (AACN,2011). Being able to work effectively as members of clinical teams within and across disciplines as students is a fundamental part of that learning (Institute of Medicine, 2003). Interprofessional learning is necessary to improve the learner outcomes and promote collaborative interprofessional practice to enhance patient care outcomes (American Association of Colleges of Nursing & the Association of American Medical Colleges, 2010). The new Masters Essentials build this essential component into the learning of all masters programs with the ultimate goal of increasing interprofessional collaboration in education and practice to impact patient and population outcomes and to prepare graduates to assume leadership roles in healthcare teams (AACN, 2011).

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