Day in the Life of a Nursing Instructor

Most nursing schools across the US receive more applicants than they can accommodate. CNN (Oct. 2023) approximates that nearly 50,000 nursing program applicants are rejected annually for capacity reasons. Although the applicants are qualified, many nursing programs need more nursing instructors to support them. Having more nurses become instructors can help resolve this problem.

Nursing instructors teach nursing curriculum and clinical skills. They are tasked with serving as role models and providing the leadership needed to implement evidence-based practice by student nurses. They give lectures, administer exams, and grade assignments. They prepare nursing students for nursing exams in both the classroom and clinical setting. Outside of the classroom, nursing instructors attend educational conferences and meet with other teaching and administrative staff.

Nursing instructors hold at least a registered nurse (RN) license and a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. They must also have several years of bedside nursing experience. Nurse instructors work in college-level nursing programs and teaching hospitals. They can work in public school systems, community colleges, and universities. Besides teaching nursing students, they can provide ongoing training to other professionals. Being a successful nurse instructor requires professional nursing experience and additional training in teaching others.

Nurse educator” is often used synonymously with “nursing instructor.” They may be similar in role, but they have some differences. A university or college may also employ a nurse educator. However, nurse educators are often working in hospitals or community health centers where they educate patients on disease management, such as diabetes or heart failure. They are expected to collaborate with other healthcare employees to ensure a positive education outcome for patients. Nurse educators can also instruct staff, by supporting working RNs through experiential learning opportunities. They sometimes work with governing health agencies, corporations, or private consulting companies.

Nursing instructors are more likely to work in colleges or technical schools. A nurse instructor requires experienced nurses to take their knowledge and skills in the nursing field and translate it into lessons that help student nurses. Their goal is to provide high-quality training for nurses that promotes safe and effective patient care.

How to Become a Nursing Instructor

To become a nursing instructor, one must complete nursing school and earn a BSN. Then they must pass the NCLEX exam and earn an active RN license. Then, the RN would need to gain experience working as a nurse providing care. Nowadays, most nursing instructors have advanced degrees, such as master’s or doctoral degrees in nursing. These degrees can be obtained before employment as an instructor or during.

Some nurses obtain a certification or advanced degree focusing on nursing education, but employers may not require this. However, it may make the nurse more competitive as it shows a standardized level of knowledge in education. Nurse educator courses focus on the foundation of education theory for professional practice disciplines, emerging trends in the teaching of nursing, innovating curriculum strategy and evaluation, and information on the legal setting in nursing education.

What Does a Nursing Instructor Do?

Nursing instructors prepare students to care for patients as future nurses. They develop relationships with these students, develop new courses, and offer training sessions.

 Some of their daily tasks are:

  • Creating lessons plans
  • Developing course curricula that have been approved by nursing leadership and program accreditation requirements
  • Lecturing in person or online to students
  • Teaching and monitoring student nurses at clinical sites
  • Overseeing clinical and lab work
  • Training and demonstrating how to perform nursing skills to students
  • Evaluating and recording student learning and progress
  • Having office hours to meet with students individually as needed
  • Supervising student internships and research

Besides teaching student nurses, nursing instructors have other responsibilities in the academic setting, such as:

  • Conducting clinical research
  • Participating in peer reviews
  • Presenting at professional nursing conferences
  • Contributing to professional associations
  • Engaging in leadership roles
  • Writing grant proposals
  • Staying up to date on healthcare policies and studies 

As a faculty member, a nurse instructor may teach didactic classes, which is the in-class nursing theory portion of the program. Or they may provide clinical instruction while the student nurses learn in a hospital setting during their clinical rotations. Full-time faculty members usually teach both, didactic and clinicals. Only clinical instructors may work part-time and often continue practicing at the bedside while teaching.

Most nursing instructors teach subjects they have a specialty and prior experience with. For instance, nurses with experience working in psychiatric hospitals will teach mental health nursing courses. Or a nurse with labor and delivery experience will be the obstetrics course’s clinical instructor.

Clinical instructors are usually responsible for up to ten nursing students on a unit. The students will shadow RN preceptors on the floor, but the clinical instructor oversees the students charting. They also assist the student nurse in giving medications and performing skills such as wound care. They evaluate students based on their communication, documentation, and procedure skills.

Many schools have simulation labs where mannequins are utilized as fake patients. This allows nursing students to learn and practice clinical skills such as injections and blood draws. Nursing instructors also teach and demonstrate clinical skills in this type of lab setting.

In a hospital workplace, nurse instructors are considered staff members that provide education on new medical devices, orient new employees, manage continuing education for staff, and act as an ongoing resource for beside RNs. Nurse instructors in healthcare facilities are often part of the leadership team. They work closely with leaders to align education goals with regulatory requirements.

Benefits of Being a Nursing Instructor

Working as a nursing instructor can be a rewarding experience. It allows nurses who are passionate about teaching to combine their love for nursing and education. They have access to the latest research and technology and work alongside experts in their field.

Additionally, the job outlook looks bright for nursing instructors. Between 2022 and 2032, the number of available RN positions is expected to grow 6 percent nationally—twice the average job growth expected among all occupations in the same decade. Thus, the need for instructors will increase to help provide these nurses with the required education. Financially, nursing schools are moving towards offering more competitive salaries to attract nurses into teaching.

By being a nurse instructor, the RN can expand their education to the highest levels of nursing education. They can advance their career by moving up within their school, leading efforts in research, and becoming involved in administration. They also have opportunities to write textbooks and educational materials.

Nursing instructors often feel a sense of fulfillment from helping future nurses. They mentor their students and enjoy helping them face challenges and succeed. It allows RNs to be leaders in their field and give back. They can help shape the future of nursing.

Working as a nurse instructor is a good option for nurses who are burned out on patient care and want to do something different. Depending on the employer, they can benefit from increased paid time off and even a retirement pension. There is some flexibility as a nurse instructor, as the RN can dictate the hours they want to work. They do not have to work 12-hour shifts or overnight hours as clinical nurses frequently do. 

Nursing instructors may work a nine-month academic year with summers off or choose to work all year long. They can also choose which setting they want to work in, such as colleges, technical schools, community centers, or hospitals. 

Resources for Nursing Instructors

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing: This establishment defines quality in nursing education by outlining necessary curriculum content expected in nursing programs at a baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral level.
  • National League for Nursing: This organization is specifically for nursing faculty and leaders in nursing education.
  • American Nurses Association: This organization has resources for nursing instructors to assist their students with their nursing education.
  • Nursing Center: This website has many evidence-based resources for nursing instructors.
Sophia Khawly, MSN

Sophia Khawly, MSN


Sophia Khawly is a traveling nurse practitioner from Miami, Florida. She has been a nurse for 14 years and has worked in nine different states. She likes to travel in her spare time and has visited over 40 countries. Being a traveling nurse practitioner allows her to combine her love of learning, travel, and serving others. Learn more about Sophia at