Teaching in a clinical setting is a lot different than just teaching from a book or videos. It is based on experiential learning techniques that ensure that nurses and other medical professionals are fully prepared to offer a high level of compassionate care.

Nurse educators are tasked with planning and facilitating clinical teaching. They offer guidance and advice throughout all clinical training. Mentors can help nursing students achieve a high level of skill.

Some teaching methods are more effective than others for specific situations. A combination of all the methods discussed in this article is used throughout a nurse’s education.

Clinical rounds and bedside teaching

Making clinical rounds and teaching in patient rooms is an important part of the learning process. A nurse or doctor who takes on a student is sometimes called a preceptor. As a preceptor, the nurse shows students what they do on a daily basis and allows them to assist with some duties. This real-world experience is invaluable because it allows nurses to gain bedside manner skills.

Talking to real patients and learning how to approach and work with people from many different backgrounds as a student is a major advantage for later on. Nursing educators need to show students how to be good listeners, express empathy rather than just feeling it, and use good body language. 

In addition, students will learn how to approach patients who are reluctant or difficult during the course of their care. Nurses often experience difficult patients, so learning how to not take things too personally is important.

Interprofessional education

Medical professionals need to work together as a team at hospitals and other medical facilities. The larger and more complex the facility, the greater the need for interprofessional collaboration on a daily basis. Interprofessional education is when two or more professionals learn skills together. This is common when medical professionals are taking courses to gain continuing education credits or seeking out additional certifications that can help them offer patients a higher level of care.

Consider that firefighters, medics, police officers, and more all need some level of medical and emergency first aid training to do their jobs. In some of these classes, you may find people from 3 or more professions all coming together to learn the same skills. These classes are made better by having people with a variety of work experience to offer insight and perspective.

Problem-based learning

There are many different methods of problem-based learning, but they are all based on the concept that the educator acts as a guide and advisor while students are tasked with figuring out solutions to a problem. This is a useful method because it mimics what the student will experience when they are licensed and offering care to their own patients.

The SNAPPS model

A popular method for nurse educators is the SNAPP model. This model encourages students to solve problems and encourages logical and critical thinking skills. Here is an overview of the SNAPP model and how it helps students succeed, and educators teach crucial concepts in a way that sticks with the student so they get the most out of the time they spend with patients.

S – Summarize what is known about the patient’s history or any background info related to the problem

N – Narrow down your diagnosis to the 2-3 most likely scenarios based on your knowledge

A – Analyze the 2-3 most likely diagnoses by comparing and contrasting while considering the background info of the patient 

P – Probe your teacher or preceptor by asking questions that might reveal if there is something you are missing or if there is a diagnosis that is likely that you overlooked

P – Plan how you will treat the patient and manage future health issues that are most likely to continue or arise.

S – Select an issue related to the patient’s case that would make a good topic for self-directed learning.

Simulation-based education

Simulation exercises can be designed and set up to mimic practically any medical situation. This allows students to practice without the risk of harming a real patient. While some might say that this takes the pressure off, there is still plenty of pressure to offer a correct diagnosis. Practicing allows students to encounter both common and rare situations so they can truly hone their skills.

Simulations mean that nursing students graduate with a higher level of skill so they can offer patients the best level of care possible from the very start of their careers. During simulations, students are given patient information that they then use to perform other tasks that lead to a diagnosis. For example, a student might read a patient’s chart and prior medical history and then take vital signs, look at previous heart rates, etc. Simulations for some situations are done using real people, while others are not. 

Standardized patient interactions

A standardized patient interaction is a simulated patient encounter with a real live person. These encounters allow students to practice how a typical patient interaction will go. The patient is a real person who has been instructed to act out a scenario. They may be portraying someone who is experiencing back pain, chronic headaches, or symptoms that may be even more serious. The student questions the patient just as they would if the encounter were real. Responses can then be used to make a diagnosis. The encounter is often timed, and a nurse educator offers feedback afterwards. Standardized patient encounters are an excellent teaching tool that can be used throughout nursing school.

These encounters are also an excellent time for students to practice how they should take patient notes. Practicing written communication skills is very important. Although patient records and notes are all electronic and easy to access, the system still relies on nurses and other medical professionals to take clear, concise, and accurate notes during a patient encounter. This record prevents mistakes and misunderstandings, such as medicine dosages and schedules.

How to become a nurse educator

One of the most important things to do if you want to be a nurse educator is to gain experience and learn as much as you can. Typically, nurse educators have at least 2-3 years’ experience before they pursue an advanced degree. Master’s in nursing education online programs from the University of Indianapolis can be completed while you are working as an RN so you can gain additional experience while earning your degree. In just 32 months part-time, you can earn your master’s in nursing education and take the next step in your career. This means if you start out with 3 years of experience, you will have nearly 6 by the time you graduate, putting you in a position to be eligible for a lot of nursing roles. The University of Indianapolis teaches you to use advanced clinical teaching methods to educate others, and it fully prepares you to be a preceptor to nursing students or teach college-level courses.

Mentoring is part of being a nurse educator

Nursing school is rewarding but challenging. Having a good support network and mentors is important for future nurses. Educators can help fulfill the need for good mentorship and offer their own experiences to students so they can learn how to overcome challenges.

For example, educators need to teach nurses the importance of self-care and how to cope with the hardest days. Many nursing students are juggling multiple obligations while taking classes or doing their clinical rotations. Offering a good perspective on how to manage it all is helpful and leads to nurses who know how to have a better work-life balance.

Nurse educators are greatly needed

With so many nurses reaching retirement age at a time when there is extremely high demand for medical care, nurse educators are needed to help train the next generation of nurses and help others maintain their licensing requirements. A large population of aging adults means the demand for medical care, especially the medical issues that come with age and chronic conditions, shows no signs of leveling out for several decades.

Nurse educators also provide valuable outreach education services for health departments and other medical agencies. They can be found at colleges teaching CPR, first aid, and other emergency classes for professionals beyond nurses. 

Who should consider becoming a nurse educator?

Experienced nurses who want to take the next step in their career

Plenty of mid-career and senior-level nurses decide that they want to teach others. Becoming a nurse educator is great for experienced professionals who want to partake in a different aspect of medical care. 

Those who want a job teaching that has a better work schedule and less actual clinical time often choose to work at colleges and universities. This helps some nurses stay in the workforce rather than retire.

Nurses who enjoy constantly learning and teaching others whenever they can

There is a lot to know in the world of medicine, especially when there are so many new innovations and treatments being researched and created every day. Nurse educators should set aside regular time to read medical journals, listen to seminars, or attend in-person conferences.

Nurse educators must take staying up to date on what is going on in the world of medicine much more seriously than the average medical professional just trying to maintain their license. In fact, they should take advanced classes when they can and look for ways to increase their credentials and certifications.

Nurses who have superior communication skills and the ability to connect with others

While all RNs need to have good communication and people skills, nurse educators need to be able to really connect with people on a different level. Educators communicate with a lot of people even more often than a regular nurse. 

Tips for being a great nurse educator

Always be a good listener

Students need to know you are listening to them and considering their thoughts, questions, and concerns. Being open to talking whenever the time is appropriate as well as setting aside some free time throughout the day for discussions with students is important. Nurse educators should know that they can also learn a lot from their students.

Be open to new ideas

Creative teaching methods and new ways of doing things are definitely something you must be open to in order to keep up in the world of medicine. 

Consider spearheading your own research or taking part in studies.

As an educator, you are in a position where you may be able to conduct research or take part in collaborative research efforts with other medical professionals at different medical facilities or universities. Research can bring exciting insight to your teaching methods and allow you to explore areas of medicine you are most interested in.

Teach the importance of good and well-thought-out medical policies

Nurse educators and administrators are sometimes involved with policy making or offering insight when policies are created. Nurses should teach about the responsibility of medical professionals to work towards good policies and fight against those that are potentially harmful to the public.


Effective clinical teaching methods are important for nurse educators because they are how the next generation of nurses and medical professionals are trained and have a direct influence on the entire future of medical care. 

When teaching methods are effective, nursing students and their educators can get more done in a day and absorb information faster. This allows more scenarios to be covered so that students get a better education and more experience with different types of medical situations.