For nurses who have a heart for education, the life of a clinical nurse educator is generally a good one. You’re still close to patient care, but the regular hours, holidays off and better pay are some of the benefits not always available to bedside caregivers.
That’s not to suggest clinical nurse educators have it easy. The responsibility of equipping staff nurses with the professional development they need to do their work at their best is a huge undertaking with multiple demands. And unlike patient care, nursing professional development doesn’t tend to inspire heart-felt thanks and gratitude from the people you serve.
Like every field, nursing professional development has its challenges. Here are three common ones clinical nurse educators face, and some smart solutions for toppling them.
Attendance at continuing education sessions can be costly and challenging when nurses work out in the field. Virtua Homecare encountered this when the agency faced educating more than 160 RNs and other staff in mandatory care-related content. So a few years back, it implemented online learning.
The homecare agency used its intranet to offer educational modules on subjects including pain, end-of-life care, oxygen safety, and coagulation therapy. At the end of each module, participants had to log the correct answer to each question before the program would move on to the next. The design ensured learner attention.
“Implementation of online learning has resulted in an improvement in staff satisfaction, increase in compliance and cost savings,” the agency reported in the Journal for Nurses in Staff Development.
The initiative also hiked mandatory education compliance rates to 98%.
A nurse who disengages during an educational session may be bored or even overwhelmed with subject matter that seems irrelevant. While it may seem impressive to you, theoretical, extraneous, passive blather will likely frustrate busy nurses who feel they have “better things to do.”
Clear up your education delivery by using simple words and sticking to straight-forward message, advises Mary McKinley, MSN, RN, CCRN. Tailor your talk to focus on a specific, desired outcome.
McKinley also encourages nurse educators to consider the timing of talks. Instead of training nurses on how to use newly purchased monitors 3 months before their installation, wait until the implementation date is in sight to provide nurses with the information they need “just in time.”
This trick will make the content seem more relevant to learners, who will be newly eager to hear what you have to tell them.
As a clinical nurse educator, it’s easy to forget who your customers are. The nurses you teach? Think again.
“The students are the 'consumers' of your product, but funding is determined by leaders,” noted one CNE. “Your customers are managers, directors, and organizational leaders, NOT the people you teach.”
As such, align your work with the priorities of your organization’s leaders. Is there a push to reduce hospital-based falls? If so, offer sessions that focus on strategies to decrease falls. Do yourself one better and collect some data showing how your classes reduced the number of falls, and quantify that information into cost savings for your facility.
Consider your worth justified, your bosses pleased, and another challenge conquered.