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What does a Clinical Nurse Educator do?

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  • Written By: Linda Hinkle
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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A clinical nurse educator is a registered advanced practice nurse who is also a teacher. "Advanced practice nurse" is a general term used to describe a nurse who holds an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing. Clinical nurse educators teach in various educational settings to prepare and train nursing students. Many nurse educators began their careers caring for patients, and many continue to do so after becoming teachers.

The role of the clinical nurse educator is important to the future of nursing. Along with teaching and guiding student nurses, a clinical nurse educator may have responsibilities such as designing curricula, developing programs of study and related courses, evaluating learning, and documenting all phases of the educational process. The quality and expertise of the next generation of nurses depends heavily on today’s clinical nurse educators.

The day-to-day tasks of clinical nurse educators are varied. They advise students, write lesson plans, teach classes, and oversee their students’ clinical practice. Nurse educators may work in research, as well as evaluating educational programs and writing grant proposals. They are often a part of professional organizations, and participate in conferences. They must also maintain their clinical expertise by keeping up with the newest nursing methods and technological developments.

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There are numerous academic settings in which a clinical nurse educator can practice. Many teach at colleges and universities, hospital-based schools, or long-term care facilities. Most academic settings also offer the opportunity for nurse educators to teach courses online using distance learning methods.

Clinical nurse educators typically teach a variety of general courses in the traditional nursing curriculum. Some choose to focus on one particular area of specialization, such as pediatric nursing, oncology nursing, or nursing informatics. More experienced nurse educators may advance to administrative positions. Typical assignments at this level include managing nurse education programs, developing and implementing continuing education programs for nurses, and writing or reviewing nursing textbooks.

Some educators teach full time, while others choose to teach part time and continue caring for patients in a clinical setting. There are also job opportunities for the clinical nurse educator other than teaching courses in a traditional nursing curriculum. Pharmaceutical companies, home health companies, hospitals, and other similar organizations often hire nurse educators to provide staff development and patient education.

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