Educators and leaders aren’t so different after all

By | 2021-05-07T08:42:41-04:00 November 13th, 2015|0 Comments

(Eileen P. Williamson, MSN, RN, senior vice president and CNE, is this week’s guest blogger. A nurse executive for many years in a variety of healthcare settings, she shares her thoughts on the topic of educator as leader and leader as educator.)

By Eileen P. Williamson, MSN, RN

Nursing educator. Nursing leader.

Two separate roles. Two different titles.


Eileen Williamson, RN

But are they really so separate and so different?

Position descriptions for nurses in academia and those in the clinical arena may be different in their specific job responsibilities, or in what degrees or credentials are required. But there are many similarities in the two, and those similarities have to do mostly with leadership.

Both job descriptions include words like develop, implement, supervise and advise, along with collaborate, support and promote. Clinical nurse leaders need to educate; nurse educators must lead.

By the very nature of the roles a head nurse, service director or chief nurse has, for example, they are educators of their staffs and patients. They lead, but they also teach.

Though the role of nurses in academia calls for them to be formal educators who follow prescribed curricula, in fulfilling their role they also are leaders — of nursing students, nurses in continuing and advanced education, and of the patients they work with in clinical settings.

Nursing literature has many references to educators as leaders and leaders as educators. The whole body of work on transformational leadership, for instance, refers to leadership in both the service and academic settings. A transformational leader is one who inspires others and who has a positive and important effect on them. Think about what happens between a great teacher and a student, or about the impact strong nurse leaders can have in mentoring their staff.

Charismatic, visionary and motivational are other words used to describe nurses in both roles. Whether a professor or a clinical director, we view these nurses as confident, passionate, inspirational leaders. They are the best collaborators, advocates and promoters of change, and serve as the movers and shakers and true influencers in our profession.

The nursing professor who stands at the front of the classroom must be compelling, challenging and engaging. Aren’t those all traits of great leaders? The head nurse who chairs a staff meeting must inform, encourage, guide and develop the staff, which all are traits of great educators.

The real effectiveness of good educators and leaders is best measured by how they affect those they teach and lead, along with how invested they are in assisting students or staff to grow and flourish.

The great ones take advantage of each formal and informal teachable moment, whether in the classroom or at the bedside, to make others believe in themselves. Each does it differently, but is committed to bringing about growth and change.

As nurses, we may be leaders of students and classes or of teams and care. Regardless of the degree we hold or the setting we work in, we all are educators.
The work of good nurse educators is reflected in those they teach, while the impact nurse leaders have is reflected in those they supervise.

Nurse leaders motivate, challenge and move others forward, and so they are educators.

Nurse educators inform, encourage and applaud, and so they are leaders.

In the end, aren’t we all both?

Your turn

What abilities, strengths and talents can you identify in yourself as a nurse educator and leader?


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About the Author:

Barry Bottino
Barry Bottino is a freelance writer and editor who has more than 25 years of experience at various newspapers and magazines.

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