Nurse Types / Clinical Nurse Instructor
Nurses are a hot commodity in the healthcare industry. An ongoing nursing shortage has made it more important than ever to train enough new nursing to fill the gaps.
Clinical nurse instructors are nurse educators responsible for the clinical training of new nurses. They help their students provide excellent patient care. Without them, nursing students miss out on a critical component of their education.
In this article you’ll discover:
- What is a clinical nurse instructor?
- What do clinical nurse instructors do?
- Where do clinical nurse instructors work?
- What are closely related fields?
- How do you become a clinical nurse instructor in 3 steps?
- What are additional requirements of clinical nurse instructors?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for clinical nurse instructors?
What is a clinical nurse instructor?
A clinical nurse instructor is a registered nurse (RN) who serves as an adjunct faculty member of an accredited nursing school. They are strictly responsible for the clinical component of nursing materials covered in the classroom.
For instance, let’s say you just learned about monitoring patient vitals during a recent lecture. A clinical nurse instructor would guide you in practicing this new skill during a clinical experience on a real patient.
Without clinical nurse instructors, nursing students would lack the real-world training they need to build confidence in their skills.
Qualities of a successful clinical nurse instructor
To become a successful clinical nurse instructor, you must have the following qualities:
- Clinical expertise you can use to guide your nursing students through hands-on instruction
- Conflict resolution ability to quickly resolve any issues with nursing students or patients involved in clinical training
- Critical thinking skills to make quick judgments when instructing new nurses in the field
- Communication skills that allow you to clearly connect with nursing students and the patients they encounter during clinicals
- Leadership abilities to help nurses feel capable and confident
- Organization skills to keep accurate records of all nursing students’ progress during clinicals
What do clinical nurse instructors do?
Clinical nurse instructors have many responsibilities. Your chief concern is to ensure nurse trainees have the hands-on skills needed to perform all required tasks.
Each instructor has an assigned group of students to evaluate on course-related clinical activities. You might have half a dozen students or more depending on the nursing school’s guidelines.
Some of the skills you can expect to assess include:
- Bedside manners and technique
- Medication administration
You’ll be expected to provide constructive criticism and offer mentoring opportunities to your students. Clinical nurse instructors must keep updated on the latest nursing best practices.
Another important job duty is to protect patient outcomes. New nurses can make mistakes practicing nursing skills on real people. You must closely supervise to reduce the risk of negative consequences.
A day in the life of a clinical nurse instructor
A typical day in the life of a clinical nurse instructor can be a bit hectic depending on the number of students you observe. Among the most common tasks you can expect to perform each day include:
- Checking in with nursing students and any other nursing staff involved in that day’s training
- Evaluating and setting up all equipment needed for clinical education lessons for the day
- Observing nursing students as they practice the clinical skill for the day
- Tracking student progress on clinical skills and expectations
What clinical nurse instructors teach
Clinical nurse instructors generally do not treat patients. If you pursue this nursing career, it is your job to educate nursing students on nursing best practices and other required clinical knowledge.
Some of the nursing skills you might teach include:
- How to record patient vitals
- How to bathe or clothe patients
- How to administer medication
- How to communicate with patients about their condition/treatment
- How to change linens and make beds
- How to place an IV or foley catheter
You also must guide student nurses through a typical day on the job, which means you may encounter patients with a variety of health concerns and conditions.
Where do clinical nurse instructors work?
Clinical nurse instructors work with nursing schools in a clinical training setting. You may end up teaching nursing students in a community setting, in a hospital, or in home care.
If you’re training nursing students in a particular specialty, like maternity care, you may find yourself in a birthing center or a local women’s hospital.
What are closely related fields?
Clinical nurse educators are closely related to nurse educators who teach in the classroom only. They require the same level of education and nursing licensure.
Other similar fields include:
- Education consultant
- Curriculum coordinator
- Professional development specialist
How do you become a clinical nurse instructor in 3 steps?
Becoming a clinical nurse instructor requires an advanced nursing degree and RN licensure. Follow these three steps to get started in your new nursing career.
Step 1 – Become a registered nurse
The first step in your journey to becoming a clinical nurse instructor is to earn your registered nurse (RN) licensure. You can become an RN with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). However, most healthcare employers require RNs to hold a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN).
Earn a BSN degree
You can earn a BSN in one of three ways. If you are new to nursing, you can attend a four-year BSN program at an accredited nursing school.
If you have a bachelor’s degree in a different field you can participate in an accelerated BSN program. This can take as little as 1 year.
If you are already an RN, you can enroll in an RN to BSN program so you can work and attend school at the same time.
Pass the NCLEX-RN
After you’ve completed your BSN program, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to earn your licensure. Before you take the exam, you can brush up on your skills with the NCLEX-RN exam study guides and other test preparation materials provided by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). This is the licensing body which administers the exams.
Step 2 – Accumulate experience
After you have your RN license, you’ll want to spend at least two years gaining valuable on-the-job experience. Since nursing students are evaluated in a variety of healthcare settings, you may want to gain expertise as an RN in areas like medical surgical or pediatrics.
Helpful skills and experience
Clear communication is a must-have skill if you plan to work as a clinical nurse instructor. You’ll need to provide meaningful feedback to your students, as well as have conversations with patients who have agreed to be part of the clinical training process.
Other helpful abilities include:
- Adaptability. You never know when you’ll need to change up a pre-planned exercise because of unforeseen circumstances.
- Approachability. Students become more proficient when they feel comfortable approaching you with questions or concerns.
- Clinical competence. If you’re going to teach students nursing skills, you must first master them yourself.
Changing specialty to a clinical nurse instructor
If you’re already working as an RN and interested in switching your specialty to clinical nurse instructor, it’s a fairly easy switch to make.
Let’s say you’re already working as an emergency room RN. In your current role, you’ve been exposed to a variety of illnesses and injuries. You can take that experience and roll it over into clinical expertise.
Need a few refreshers on specific procedures and best practices? Incredible Health offers plenty of free CEUs for nurses looking to expand their knowledge and change their nursing specialties.
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Step 3 – Earn an MSN degree
The final step in becoming a clinical nurse instructor is to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. While it’s not a requirement in every state, many nursing programs prefer it.
If you already hold a BSN, some nursing programs allow you to begin your new role if you’re enrolled in an MSN program. You also can take advantage of a BSN to MSN program to reach your goal faster.
What are additional requirements of clinical nurse instructors?
While not necessary, you may want to consider certifications tailored to clinical nurse instructors. One of the most popular options is the Certified Nurse Educator credential from the National League for Nursing (NLN).
Clinical nurse instructors who pass the exam receive documentation of their proficiency as a nurse educator, which can boost your chances of landing a lucrative position.
What are the salary and career outlooks for clinical nurse instructors?
The national average annual salary for clinical nurse instructors is $85,937. Some of the highest-paying states for clinical nurse instructors include:
- Florida – $116,650
- Washington, D.C. – $111,940
- Massachusetts – $106,950
- California – $106,420
- New York – $98,850
As with all RNs, demand for clinical nurse instructors is expected to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031.
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Most clinical nurse instructors report a high satisfaction level with their jobs.
If you’re still unsure whether you’ll enjoy a career as a clinical nurse instructor, you can always talk with other nursing professionals currently working in the field to seek their opinion about their working conditions.
Becoming a clinical nurse instructor opens the door for career advancement in the future. If you’ve already earned your MSN, the next step may be to consider a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
A DNP can qualify you for leadership positions like Nurse Administrator and Director of Nursing in a variety of healthcare settings.
Becoming a clinical nurse instructor is never a boring job. You’ll be educating future generations of nurses, making a true difference in the healthcare industry!
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