6 essential traits of nurse educators

By | 2021-05-07T08:41:58-04:00 December 4th, 2015|2 Comments

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.com 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?

About the Author:

Janice Petrella Lynch, MSN, RN, is director of the Help & Resource Center at The Marfan Foundation. Also a nursing educator, she has held faculty positions at Wagner College, Skidmore College, Molloy College and Adelphi University. She is a member of the New York Organization of Nurse Leders and the Greater New York Nassau-Suffolk Organization of Nurse Executives.


  1. Brenda August 11, 2018 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    thank you! Taking this on at a very small hospital with about one year of working skills in RN ADN program. Background: adult NP, 20 years of clinic internal med provider. gonna need all the help I can get!

  2. Danièle Masson November 9, 2020 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    I wish my son had that kind of nursing instructor! He is afraid to ask a question to his clinical instructor because he knows already that she will tell him “you should have know that already”. I am an RN myself, over 20 years experience. I have mentored a few nursing students. The first thing I tell them is that they can ask me any question. That there is no stupid question. I told them too that they are here to learn and that I don’t expect them to be “perfect”. If they make a mistake, we talk about it and about why they made that mistake and how to not do it again. Of course at that stage the mistakes are not “bad” mistakes. I tell them right from the beginning that if they make a mistake we will talk about it and I will explain them what they did wrong and why, and how not to do it again. I have never had a student make the same mistake again. Of course I also tell them that if they do that same mistake again I will not tolerate it, because we talked about it and the student understood how it went “wrong”.
    Now, I don’t know if things are different in nursing schools now but it seems to me, from my son’s experience, that the Army boot camp is easier than that! The students are not allowed to bring to the attention of the higher persons at the school if they have a problem with an instructor. If they do they get penalized by the instructor. That doesn’t sound right to me. Mind you, my son is doing and never had any problem with instructors except that they are not reachable at all to questions. My son is in second year. He worked all summer as a PCA in a senior home and was loved by everybody. His manager said next summer she wants him back. Last year he had an average at the end of 89%. He is over stressed right now because he feels like he cannot ask questions. He is afraid he would be “marked” as not knowing nothing. They are “learning” their clinical skills online too because of Covid-19. Do what is your opinion on this? And trust me my son is not one of those lazy lay back students I met while in nursing school. What bothers me the most is that I have to keep my mouth shut because I know it would be bad for him. But when he graduates, if he does…as he is now thinking of quitting, even though he will be an excellent nurse (and it’s not me talking there , it’s all the RNs LPNs and the manager he worked with this summer), I know I will open my mouth and put a complain to that nursing school.

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