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6 Essential Traits of Nurse Educators

Janice Petella Lynch

Excellent nurse educators are described as those who possess strong leadership and communication skills and have outstanding theoretical and clinical knowledge. They are creative, intelligent, competent, resilient and fair. Consummate lifelong learners, they have an unquenchable spirit of inquiry, value scholarship and mentorship and use current evidence and a variety of learning styles to meet their students' needs. I asked some of my former nursing classmates what they thought the most important qualities nurse educators should possess. The discussion piqued my interest, so I also asked my nurse colleagues as well as nursing educators who work in hospitals and schools throughout the country for their thoughts. Here's a summary of what they had to say.

Love the role

Passion for the role and a desire to make a difference will affect the way nurse educators deliver their message. Inspiring educators help others know why the information is important and how they can use it, not just what the information is. They are motivating and energetic and create an invigorating atmosphere that students want to be part of. Inspired students want to keep learning and excelling in their knowledge and abilities.

Possess key elements

Nurse educators should be well-educated and knowledgeable and possess strong clinical experience and excellent communication skills. They bring foundational experience and knowledge in both the art and science of nursing to the role, as well as knowledge of educational theories and testing and evaluation methods. They are critical thinkers and problem solvers who now place a greater emphasis on use of technology in education. When nurse educators are organized and stay up-to-date on clinical practices, they enable themselves to be the best they can be. Educators who are clear about what they want their students to learn in any class or clinical experience shine above others.

Have the heart

Compassion, empathy, patience and a sense of humor are key. After learners receive new information, they often need time for the "Aha" moment when they can synthesize what they heard and begin to understand how the pieces fit together. When nurse educators develop good listening skills, they are aware of the learners' goals, expectations and responsibilities and can be flexible and reasonable without compromising academic requirements. Educators should be positive and encouraging with their students but also give specific and honest feedback.

Address the needs

Exemplary educators are open and flexible to address various learning styles and explore innovative ways to deliver content, especially in this age of online learning and reverse pedagogy. There is an abundance of research focused on how people learn, how they retain and recall information, and how certain teaching and learning techniques bring better results. Understanding and appreciating how people process information differently can help educators incorporate various teaching techniques to help students learn most effectively.

Connect the dots

It's essential nurse educators explain and link the sciences and nursing processes learned in the classroom to actual patient care situations. When educators discuss with students what they are learning and make connections between anatomy and physiology, chemistry, disease processes and patient signs and symptoms, they empower students to integrate theoretical knowledge with clinical practice.

Be a lifelong learner

A spirit of inquiry is an integral part of the role, and outstanding nurse educators are committed to lifelong learning, self-development, scholarship, mentorship and service. Nurse educators serve as role models for their students and believe in themselves. But they are humble about their nursing knowledge, professional experience and accomplishments.

Your turn

What qualities should an outstanding nurse educator possess?