How DNPs Can Become Teaching Faculty in Nursing Science

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The world of academia offers some advantages to those who hold an advanced nursing degree. Getting to the level of experience, credentials, and education that colleges and universities are looking for can take some time but there are things you can do to increase your odds of landing a teaching faculty position earlier in your career.

Many experienced nurses including faculty members are reaching retirement age and there is a major shortage of highly qualified nurses with advanced degrees to take their place. Now is a great time to consider your career path and change course for a future in academia.

Here are some things to consider as you decide the right path for you.

Gaining teaching experience

DNPs can gain a lot of experience teaching in the workplace. Acting as a preceptor to nursing students is an excellent way to gain teaching experience. This helps shape the future of nursing because you are using your expertise to train the next generation of nurses.

There may be opportunities for you to help out with training new employees at the facility you work at as well. Volunteering to act as a mentor and help with employee orientation and training sessions is something that everyone will appreciate and you can hone your teaching and public speaking skills.

Conducting and publishing research

If you want to gain a faculty-level position, then taking part in research is an excellent way to stand out. Colleges and universities are looking for professors who set themselves apart from others by conducting meaningful research that helps advance the field of medicine. Doing regular research and publishing your findings will help you get the teaching job you want.

Research is more often than not a very collaborative effort. You may work with students at a university even if your own job is at a medical facility. Your research may be part of being a preceptor for a nursing student, too. Research means going the extra mile and taking some risks, but the rewards can be bountiful.

Networking with academics and other medical professionals

While research projects more often than not require extensive networking, it is also important to network so you have the support of other medical professionals. There are a lot of research and job opportunities that can come to you if you take some time to network.

Medical seminars and conferences are excellent places to network and find out about exciting upcoming research. It is important that you follow up with anyone you connect with after a conference, even if it is just a short thank-you note and you are not following up on a specific opportunity. There may be someone who remembers you later and presents you with an opportunity that you otherwise would not have been presented with.

Tips for networking

Have a card with your contact information

While business cards may not be used so much anymore, when it comes to networking, they are something that you should keep on hand.  This card should have your basic contact information including email and a link to your LinkedIn profile. Be sure to include any degrees or significant credentials with your name.

You should not just go around handing out your card to everyone. Do this only if you really make a connection or they ask.

Attend in-person events

While the convenience of online events is great, it is important to take the time to attend in-person events. There is nothing like the connections you can make by really meeting people and having the chance to attend in-person lectures and mingle on your own or with a few colleagues you already know.

Participate as much as you can

Taking part in conferences by serving on boards and committees, or assisting with a talk, is a great idea. If you have significant experience in an area or have research to share then these events are a great place to do so.

Be passionate about teaching and learning

Taking any opportunity you can to teach others who are seeking to learn is important. Teaching by showing and explaining is best because this allows those who are visual learners to get the most out of your instruction.

Planning and conducting research are ways to show that you are passionate about learning and teaching others, since as a DNP you will likely have others participating in your research who have less experience or who are working on their degrees too.

Ideal candidates for faculty positions also possess a thirst for knowledge. There is a lot to know in the world of medicine. The rapid advancement of techniques and technologies within even just one niche of medicine is overwhelming in the modern age. It is important that anyone involved with teaching keeps up with their own continued education. This means reading medical papers and journals regularly, attending important talks and lectures, reading relevant medical policies when they are proposed by politicians and lawmakers, and collaborating with other medical professionals on projects.

Although a DNP is the highest level of nursing degree you can obtain, DNPs should consider earning additional certifications and specializations throughout their career.

Keep clinical skills up to date

As one advances in medicine and achieves more senior positions, they may find that they spend less time in a clinical setting and more time in an office. It is important that DNPs keep up with clinical skills no matter what position they hold.

Working part-time at a clinic and acting as a preceptor to nursing students at the same time is one solution. Plenty of nursing faculty split their roles up so they can achieve their career goals while having a lot of variety in their job.

When choosing what continuing education classes to take to keep your medical license, you may want to choose those that concentrate on clinical skills whenever possible.

Take on consulting positions whenever possible

Teaching experience comes in many forms. Nursing school curriculum is always being updated to keep up with the changing and rapidly expanding world of medicine. Experienced nurses, especially those holding advanced degrees, are often consulted to look over and review the curriculum, make suggestions on what needs to be updated with the current curriculum, and even contribute their own papers and presentations.

Textbooks and course materials are collaborative efforts. If you have knowledge and experience you might consider looking for opportunities to contribute to college-level textbooks. This can be a lucrative side project for current nursing faculty as well.  The more experience, research projects, and skills you have the more qualified you are for writing the books that are used for coursework at many schools.

Take on nurse educator positions first

A nurse educator is someone who teaches nursing and medical skills in a variety of settings. Taking one of these positions is a good way to add to your resume and credentials so you can be a competitive candidate for positions in academia.

There is a major demand for nurse educators overall, but academic positions at a college or university are specific enough that they can be fairly competitive, especially if your goal is to work for a specific college system in a state or a single specific university at some point. The more experience you have in education before applying the better.

Where do nurse educators work?

Hospitals and medical clinics

Nurse educators often work performing clinical duties while helping train other fully licensed and qualified nurses as well as nursing students who are working toward fulfilling their clinical rotation requirements. Nurse educators act as teachers, mentors, and guides to ensure that future nurses have the skills they need to offer the highest level of care possible. Major hospitals often have nurse educators on hand to help with staff training whenever necessary. This is important when there are changes in policy or protocols that require additional instruction.

Community health centers and county health departments

Educating the public about health matters and training volunteers are duties that nurse educators may be asked to take on. Consider how much different information you hear when there is a matter of public health and you will see why there is a need for qualified medical professionals to ensure the information that goes out to the public is correct so people know what is best for their health.

Health centers help disadvantaged people get the health care they need. Community health centers are often located in disadvantaged neighborhoods or rural areas that do not have a lot of healthcare options within a reasonable distance.

Taking on a position in an area that really needs better access to healthcare can lead to a lot of learning and experience that can be used to teach others. Having a wide range of medical experience in different settings can be beneficial to anyone seeking a faculty position.

Research centers

Nurse educators may work at a lab or similar facility where medical research is conducted. Pharmaceutical companies or medical equipment manufacturers, for example, might be in need of nurse educators.

If you enjoy research, then this is a great field to find a position in. Finding a position at a research center and spending a respectable amount of time there is an excellent way to show a college or university that you have what it takes to be a valuable addition to their team.

Mental health clinics

There is an overwhelming need for mental health care practically everywhere. Finding a position at a mental health facility or clinic should not be difficult if you are willing to relocate or can commute a reasonable distance.

Working within mental health offers a unique experience and helps nurse educators learn how to work under challenging circumstances while maintaining their compassion and composure.

What degree is best for a nurse hoping for a faculty position?

Gaining the DNP entry level for nurse practitioners qualification means that, as long as you hold a bachelor of science in nursing with a 3.0 GPA, an RN license, and at least two years of full-time work experience before starting your doctoral clinical/practicum, you qualify for admission to good universities, such as the University of Indianapolis. In just six semesters, you can earn your doctorate while taking classes part-time. This degree program is a great way to advance your career quickly while keeping your current job as an RN. While you will have the education for applying for faculty-level positions, you will also qualify to take the licensing exam to be a nurse practitioner.

Regardless of what positions you choose to strive for on your path to academia, there is no question that with a DNP qualification, you will be very prepared to take on whatever challenges or opportunities come your way.

Conclusion

There are countless opportunities for nurse educators. Deciding what degree program and career path you wish to take after achieving your RN license and gaining some experience is a big decision. Online degree programs can help you achieve your advanced degree and career goals. Gaining a DNP degree is one way to ensure that you have a lot of opportunities in the world of medicine. Gaining experience teaching and learning in many areas of practice is also beneficial to any nurse wishing to pursue a career in academia.