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Why Teach Nursing?

Monday April 5, 2004
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Many nurses believe that when you teach nursing, you aren't practicing real nursing. The misunderstanding that exists about the faculty role is a serious matter, since we have an acute nursing faculty shortage, right along with an unprecedented shortage of all types of nurses. Not having enough teachers to prepare the nurses of the future is a major problem - for all nurses and for the public.
Weigh the Options
The teaching of nursing is a specialty career within the discipline of nursing. It has its own unique characteristics, benefits, and challenges that can be weighed in light of a person's own interests and inclinations. A
teaching career offers these benefits -
Individual autonomy
Time flexibility
Involvement with smart, goal-directed people
Diverse work activities, such as teaching, consultation, research, grant writing, speaking, and faculty practice
Intellectual stimulation
The challenges of an academic career may include heavy workloads and broad role expectations. In addition to teaching, advising, tutoring, and mentoring students, a teacher is expected to -
Engage in scholarly activities
Update curriculum and courses
Contribute to institutional committees
Develop technology in the classroom
Stay current in clinical nursing
Serve the profession and community
These responsibilities do not involve a strict 8- to 12-hour day; rather, there are peaks and valleys within the rhythms of an academic calendar. Faculty salaries are not always ideal. In a comparison of responsibilities and salaries associated with various employment opportunities, faculty positions may not be as appealing as other types of nursing positions.1 There are opportunities for salary supplementation as a faculty member in clinical practice, consultation, workshop teaching, and professional lectureships.
Why I Am a Teacher of Nursing
I have chosen to teach nursing because I love nursing. I am a clinical nurse specialist and enjoy sharing my knowledge and clinical skills with student RNs. It gives me satisfaction to instill in others a sense of passion and pride about nursing's contributions to patients and society. It is a great privilege to participate in the development of a human being - to witness the joy of learning and growth in each one of my students. I like being part of "growing" the next generation of nurses - of contributing to the future and the legacy of our profession. As I teach students, I grow and learn right along with them.
My students are women and men who represent a wide diversity of people - in ethnicity, culture, age, work, and family backgrounds. They are high school graduates, nurses seeking higher degrees, and individuals from every imaginable career background who wish to enter nursing. The classroom and clinical settings are alive with energy because of what each person brings to the setting.
What Does It Involve?
The faculty role requires broad preparation and experience, solid skills in nursing and teaching, self-confidence, and devotion to others' development. Since nursing education is a specialty area, it is necessary to possess at least a master's degree and, preferably, a doctorate.
Half of the current nursing faculty hold a master's degree.2 Master's-prepared faculty teach in associate degree programs, are adjunct faculty, or hold nontenured clinical positions in collegiate programs. The doctorally prepared nurse has the potential for full integration, recognition, and contributions to the larger life of the academic world. Faculty who hold a doctorate are teachers, researchers, or administrators in university or college programs, and are expected to serve as academic leaders in curriculum, research, and clinical areas.
Issues to Explore
The profession needs committed teachers. The following suggestions may be helpful in learning about this specialty or gaining exposure to teaching -
Talk with nurse faculty about a career in
Pursue graduate study in education.
Volunteer to be a preceptor for nursing students if you are a clinical nurse.
Teach in staff development and/or continuing education programs.
If you have a graduate degree as a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist, contact nursing schools about the possibility of being an adjunct teacher.
Enroll in a post-master's or post-doctoral certificate program in nursing education.
Seek a mentor who is willing to share advice, networks, and support about academic nursing.
Connie Vance, RN, EdD, FAAN, is professor of nursing at The College of New Rochelle, NY, and a member of the NY/NJ Nursing Spectrum editorial advisory board. Vance received the 2003 Nursing Education Award from the Teachers College Nursing Education Alumni Association, Columbia University.
1. White paper. Faculty Shortages in Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs: Scope of the Problem and Strategies for Expanding the Supply. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges of Nursing; 2003. Available at: www.aacn.nche. edu/Publications/WhitePapers/FacultyShortages. htm.
2. Berlin LE, Stennett J, Bednash GD. 2002-2003 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges of Nursing; 2003.