Nurse educators teach nurses and staff clinical concepts needed to perform their job. While many work in colleges and universities, some work in clinical settings such as hospitals and clinics.

In years past, nurse educators developed curricula and taught the course material, while ensuring nurses demonstrated competency at the given skill or concepts. As technology has advanced, more and more online training are springing up in the clinical setting. However, there are pros and cons to this advancement in clinical learning.

Online learning is quick and cost-effective. Fewer nurse educators are needed to teach dozens of staff members clinical concepts. The content is structured, which ensures all critical components are covered in the course. Competency is usually determined by passing an online exam, and completion is easily tracked electronically, which makes it easier for managers and nurse leaders to ensure all staff is trained. Moreover, staff complete online modules when they are able, rather than attending a class, which helps ease the burden of staffing coverage.

Conversely, online education has removed the hands-on approach to teaching. Students are unable to interact with an instructor, ask questions, and seek clarification of the content. While online learning is convenient, many nurses find they rush through the material as they must squeeze the courses in during their busy shift. Online learning lacks the practical approach to education - watching a procedure is far different than performing the procedure. Many nurses feel they lack competency after online learning because of not being able to practice hands-on.

While nurse educators are still used in hospitals, sometimes they are used to develop online learning programs rather than leading classroom training. However, while many educational concepts can be taught in an online program, some cannot. In this case, nurse educators can round to various departments and perform a demonstration of equipment or tasks. Additionally, many hospitals appoint "super-users" - a small group of nurses who are taught a skill or concept (sometimes by nurse educators) and go to their departments and teach their colleagues.

While nurse educators seemingly play a reduced role in staff nurse education in hospitals, they often play a more "behind-the-scenes" role in healthcare. They participate in research and help develop policies and procedures. Regardless of their work area, nurse educations are invaluable in the healthcare setting to ensure staff maintain competency and provide safe patient care.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
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