nurse educator teaching student nurse

Nurse Educator vs. Nurse Practitioner: Comparing Two Key Health Care Careers

Nursing: Healthcare Systems Leadership

Nursing has several routes for graduates exploring their professional future. Some graduates are better suited to teach the next generation of practitioners, while others are more inclined to deliver primary care as practicing nurses. Choosing to become a nurse educator vs. nurse practitioner determines how graduates apply their skills and advance through their professions. Graduates in the nursing field should learn more about each field before deciding which one suits them best.

Defining the Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NPs), according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, are quickly gaining traction as the preferred provider of medical services to individuals as well as families. NPs are clinicians who combine diagnosis and treatment of illnesses with an emphasis on prevention and long-term health management. They blend the personal touch of a nurse with the diagnostic rigor of a clinician.

NPs can specialize in one of several different areas:

  • Family Health
  • Oncology
  • Adult Health
  • Acute Care
  • Neonatal Health
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health
  • Pediatric/Child Health
  • Women's Health

What Is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators, according to the Houston Chronicle, are individuals dedicated to teaching and mentoring the upcoming generation of nurses. They may teach in both clinical and classroom settings. A nurse educator primarily works in academic settings and may hold the title of staff development or continuing education specialist.

Some nurse educators apply their clinical abilities and experience to design curriculum content and courses, while others evaluate current health care professionals for staff development purposes. All nurse educators are expected to be RNs with advanced clinical training in their respective specialty. Some of these specializations include:

  • Oncology
  • Gerontology Health
  • Pediatric/Child Health
  • Neonatal Health
  • Family & Adult Health
  • Acute Care
  • Mental/Psychiatric Care

Essential Skills Required by Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Educators

The consideration of becoming a nurse educator vs. nurse practitioner should take into account that both fields, while distinct, share some of the same skills and requirements.

Self-Confidence: As an educator, the candidate must display a level of confidence upon which students can rely. As an NP, self-confidence is necessary to instill a feeling of competence with patients and allay their fears.

Communication: Nurse practitioners must communicate with their peers effectively to ensure that instructions are executed with attention to detail. The heart of a nurse educator's job is teaching best practices to students and field their concerns.

While these skills are essential for both fields of nursing, others are particular to each.

Essential Skills for a Nurse Practitioner

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking: On the front lines of helping prevent and cure diseases, nurse practitioners must solve problems using a quick mind and the tools at their disposal.

Analytical Thinking: Diagnosis requires NPs to leverage their knowledge in dealing with facts and figures to come to the right conclusion.

Essential Skills for a Nurse Educator

Mentorship: As a teacher to future nurses, the nurse educator serves as a mentor; someone the student can emulate when entering the profession. The holistic development of a nursing student includes both attitude (in dealing with the profession) and action (when dealing with patients).

Research: Advancing the field is one of the core responsibilities of a nurse educator. They need to be able to compile research, contrast differences, and offer insight into existing problems by publishing research findings.

The Importance of Education for a Nurse Educator vs. Nurse Practitioner

The nurse educator and nurse practitioner positions both demonstrate competence through earning a degree, especially an advanced degree, such as that provided by the Norwich University online Master of Science in Nursing. Nurse educators, in particular, can leverage this degree as proof of their expertise in the field. Concentrations such as Healthcare Systems Leadership and Nursing Education prepare a graduate to apply advanced learning to the profession.

While nurse practitioners also can benefit from an advanced degree, they require additional certification. These range from clinical outcome evaluations to national certification per state requirements. Graduates focused on becoming nurse practitioners can benefit from the specialization in Nursing Informatics. Healthcare System Leadership prepares candidates to lead departments in health care systems.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurse Educators and Nurse Practitioners

According to the website PayScale, nurse educators can potentially earn an average of $74,521 annually, with the top tenth percentile able to earn as much as $99,000 per year. For nurse practitioners, PayScale reports annual average earnings of $92,540, with the highest 10% of earners being able to make as much as $114,000.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) between 2016 and 20126, the field for nurse educators is expected to significantly spike in growth by as much as 24%. The BLS also notes that the outlook for a career as a nurse practitioner is similarly robust, with expected growth of 31% until 2026. Both of these figures are significantly above the national growth average for all jobs.

Become a Nursing Leader Through the Norwich Online Program

Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program is an excellent choice for students who wish to pursue a career as either a nurse practitioner or nurse educator. The program helps students hone the knowledge and skills to assume leadership positions in nursing informatics, health care systems leadership, or nursing education. Students are trained to become nurse leaders who shape health policy, manage teams of clinicians, and provide high-quality care. The program is based on guidelines by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, the university delivers relevant and applicable curricula that empower students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities. Explore the MSN program today.

Recommended Reading:
The Dynamic Growth of the Nursing Profession
The Future of Nursing
Leadership and Hierarchy in Hospitals

What are the Duties of a Nurse Educator?, Houston Chronicle
What’s a Nurse Practitioner?, American Association of Nurse Practitioners
Nurse Educator Core Competencies, World Health Organization
Master of Science in Nursing, Norwich University
Average Nurse Educator Salary, PayScale
Average Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary, PayScale
Comparison of the Role of Nurse Educator Versus a Nurse Practitioner, Houston Chronicle
Postsecondary Teachers Job Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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