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Making the move into nurse education: top tips

How rewarding roles in community nursing have helped me on a new career path

How rewarding roles in community nursing have helped me on a new career path

Ten years after qualifying as a nurse, I recently took up my first academic post as a nursing lecturer, in the school of health science at Bangor University.

Education was not part of my career plan until this point it was not even on the radar. My clinical background is mostly in primary care, but while I was studying for an MSc in health science, I realised I had a passion for academia.

How I knew academia was the place for me

Having submitted my dissertation, I felt a sudden sadness that it was over. I also had a desire to inspire through education

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How rewarding roles in community nursing have helped me on a new career path

Students in a lecture
Picture: iStock

Ten years after qualifying as a nurse, I recently took up my first academic post as a nursing lecturer, in the school of health science at Bangor University.

Education was not part of my career plan until this point – it was not even on the radar. My clinical background is mostly in primary care, but while I was studying for an MSc in health science, I realised I had a passion for academia.

How I knew academia was the place for me

Having submitted my dissertation, I felt a sudden sadness that it was over. I also had a desire to inspire through education as my supervisors had inspired me.

In primary care, I had progressed to be an advanced nurse practitioner focusing on minor illness and injury, respiratory care and research collaborations with pharmaceutical companies – a role I thoroughly enjoyed.

But when I saw the lecturer post advertised last year, I decided to apply, despite having no formal teaching experience. It seemed unlikely that I would get it, but I thought the interview would be good experience and an opportunity to gain useful feedback.

I was delighted when I secured the role, but I did have some reservations; I was worried that I would miss patient contact and that I would become deskilled and find it difficult to keep my practice up to date should I want to return to the clinical setting.

My primary care experience offers a different perspective

It also became apparent that some colleagues viewed my new career path as a route out of hands-on nursing, a role you might choose at the end of your career for an easy life. But this could not be further from the truth – education requires passion, dedication and organisation, all the skills needed for clinical practice.

As this is my first formal teaching post, I was concerned that my lack of experience in the acute environment would be a problem. I soon realised, however, that my background in primary care enables me to provide students with a different perspective.

I worked in acute care for 18 months after qualifying, then fell into community nursing and never looked back. I loved the diversity of roles available and the opportunities to progress my career.

The development of nursing roles in primary care allows nurses to work autonomously, assessing, diagnosing and prescribing where appropriate, at an advanced level, sometimes with limited information and diagnostic equipment. There are also opportunities to specialise or travel the world doing research.

‘When I submitted my dissertation, I felt a sudden sadness that it was over. I had a desire to inspire through education as my supervisors had inspired me’

I use primary care clinical scenarios throughout my teaching, both to ensure fair representation of the wide range of nursing roles available and to help dispel the myth that primary care is not as exciting as acute medical and surgical nursing.

We need students to feel passionate about this nursing environment and be aware of the incredible opportunities that can be found in nursing homes, hospices, community and general practice. Primary care can also provide family friendly working patterns to help achieve a good work-life balance.

Making the move into nurse education: top tips

Contact your local education provider and ask about opportunities to be a guest speaker. As well as giving you the opportunity to see if you enjoy this type of role, it is good experience to have on your CV.

Focus on the experience you already have Nurses teach, assess and support patients and other members of staff every day, so don’t be put off if you lack formal teaching experience.

Research the university where you would like to work Look at its mission statement and values to see if they align with your own and think about what you can contribute.

The role of a lecturer encompasses so much more than just teaching, so think about what you can offer in terms of the pastoral care of students, quality assurance and help applying for scholarships.

Ask for feedback If you did not get shortlisted for a post or were unsuccessful after interview, constructive feedback will help you make an action plan for next time.

Online teaching has allowed me to be creative

I teach preregistration nursing students across all three years, working predominantly with first-year students, teaching anatomy and physiology and assisting with some sessions for students in their second and third years.

The number of students I work with varies, from personal supervision of 1-30 students to supporting a whole cohort of about 200.

Theoretical content is mostly delivered online at present due to the pandemic, with students attending placements in clinical areas as usual. Students have embraced the advantages of blended learning, which has also enabled me to be creative in my teaching.

A session for first-year students on the anatomy and physiology of the immune system, for example, was delivered using PowerPoint. It was important to assess the students’ understanding and knowledge gained, so they were asked to choose a topic from organ donation, allergies, immunosuppression or autoimmunity, and record a five-minute video on the cellular pathology of this condition. I was able to give students feedback remotely and they were able to watch the other students’ videos and give feedback to their peers.

Small group activities are used to develop students’ thinking skills and their ability to use evidence-based research to formulate their own ideas and concepts. This encourages participation and active thinking, with students using Padlet discussion boards to record their findings. This enables me to observe their discussions live and provide feedback on their evidence-based research skills and teamwork in a suitable timeframe.

A career in nurse education helps direct the future of nursing

Becoming a nursing lecturer has been the best decision of my career. Staff at the school of health science have been incredibly welcoming and I have integrated well into the team.

My career has not come to a standstill – far from it – and I am progressing well through my postgraduate certificate in higher education and my work is supported, encouraged and celebrated.

My initial fears about losing my clinical skills were also unfounded as I have to keep my clinical knowledge up to date to be able to teach my students, which means my knowledge of evidence-based practice is as current as it was in my clinical roles.

Nurse education underpins everything we do; it is fundamental for professional development and should not be considered inferior to a role in clinical practice. If you are passionate about the future of nursing, a career in education might just be for you.


Leah Armitage, a lecturer in nursing at Bangor University

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