Clinical nurse educator roles and responsibilities

Clinical nurse educator roles and responsibilities

There’s a rising demand for health and care services across the globe.

Fortunately, in the UK, the Nursing and Midwifery Council recently reported their highest number of new joiners to their register since records began in 2001. As it stands, there are currently a record 788,638 nurses, midwives and nursing associates working in the UK – the largest group in the healthcare workforce.

As such, investing in the next generation of nurses is critical to the future of healthcare. Advancing nursing practice – and upholding the highest levels of quality across patient care, safety and welfare – should be a priority for all healthcare leaders.

Clinical nurse educators, with their years of experience in clinical practice, have an important role to play. It’s an ideal time to pursue a fulfilling career within the health sector, and training as a clinical nurse educator can lead to rewarding work that has the potential to make a measurable impact on the entire profession.

What is a clinical nurse educator?

A clinical nurse educator (CNE) is a highly experienced, registered nurse who uses their knowledge, skills and expertise to provide clinical education and professional development to nursing students and nursing staff.

CNEs work within a variety of healthcare settings to ensure nursing staff are able to provide high-quality, specialised patient care. A CNE acts as a role model within their healthcare facility, offering practical, comprehensive, evidence-based and patient-centred education and staff development. It’s a position that requires a strong commitment to ensuring that the best possible standards of patient care and experience are provided.

There are also non-clinical nurse educators who generally work in academic settings, taking up positions as faculty members in universities and nursing schools. Many also hold hybrid positions, teaching in non-medical settings while also working as nurses to maintain and improve their own clinical skills.

What are the responsibilities of a clinical nurse educator?

The clinical nurse educator role can be highly varied depending on the clinical setting. However, all are passionate about advancing nursing practice and in developing those they work with into confident and capable nursing practitioners.

The CNE role requires close collaboration between multidisciplinary teams, teaching in classroom settings, and closely supporting students as they learn and develop in clinical environments.

A CNE’s role is diverse, and typical duties and responsibilities generally include:

  • teaching registered nurses and students nurses about various subjects within healthcare
  • developing nursing programmes and other education programmes for teaching and instructional purposes, and collaborating with healthcare specialists to do so
  • delivering lectures, seminars and workshops
  • training, mentoring and preceptorship of individual nurses to work in specialist areas of nursing following a job transfer or recent hire
  • conducting assessments
  • participating in research and development activities
  • advising on the proper use of new equipment and nursing techniques
  • monitoring the ongoing quality of health and social care services
  • attending conferences, continuing education courses, seminars and other practice development opportunities to ensure their knowledge remains at the forefront of the profession
  • providing support and guidance regarding healthcare policies and procedures
  • participating in clinical governance activities.

What are the essential qualities of a clinical nurse educator?

For those who are passionate about healthcare and have the patience, skill set and aptitude to excel as educators, the CNE role can be highly rewarding. While specific educational experience is not always required in CNE job descriptions, the ability to inspire and develop others is key.

The role suits highly supportive individuals with advanced:

  • leadership skills
  • interpersonal and communication skills
  • time management and organisational skills – particularly for those in dual roles
  • expertise in healthcare
  • pedagogical understanding and expertise
  • mentorship skills
  • student evaluation and feedback skills
  • public speaking skills.

Clinical nurse educators are skilled facilitators of teaching and learning experiences across the broad spectrum of nursing. As such, their specialist skill set reflects their clinical knowledge, professional nursing practice, resourcefulness, and ability to inspire, develop and lead others.

Additionally, depending on the clinical environment or setting, specific knowledge in certain areas of nursing – for example, respiratory care or brain injuries – may be required by employers.

How do you become a clinical nurse educator?

Clinical nursing educators must be experienced nursing professionals with considerable knowledge, skill and clinical judgement which spans the breadth and depth of patient care, quality standards and processes.

In terms of education requirements, aspiring CNEs must have an undergraduate/bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree through an expedited RN-MSN or BSN-MSN in nursing education. Any chosen programme must hold professional certification or accreditation status. If an individual already holds a master’s-level degree in nursing, a post-master’s certificate in nursing education can be useful. These courses provide crucial insights into the educational aspects of nursing, including the nursing curriculum and teaching and learning best practice.

There also exist plenty of opportunities for qualified, experienced CNEs looking to take the next step in their careers. For individuals who are already clinical nurse educators, pursuing more senior roles in nursing administration and nursing education might be an ambition. For example, some experienced CNEs move into roles that involve reviewing clinical standards of care, leading curriculum development for nursing trainees, or acting as directors of nursing research at their institutions.

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Could a clinical nurse educator role be the right choice for you?

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