1. Section Editor(s): Alexander, Mary MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE, FAAN

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Every nurse is a teacher at some time in her or his career. But teaching isn't restricted to the ivory tower. There are a number of ways in which nurses convey information and a variety of students who benefit from our experience and knowledge.

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We do need doctorate-level nurse faculty for our nursing schools. Currently there is a shortage of PhD nurse faculty, and the US government is providing assistance to schools of nursing and individuals, through the Affordable Care Act, to increase the number of nursing school faculty.1


Yet each of us teaches colleagues, patients, and caregivers every day; first, by example. Our skills are emulated and carried on by other nurses, sometimes when we're not even aware of it. Thus it's essential that we always follow standards of practice and policies and procedures and not practice in a particular way because "that's the way we've always done it."


Many of us frequently act as preceptors to newer nurses, a more formal educator role. This one-on-one teaching gives us opportunities to explain more thoroughly each procedure and show how it's done in detail. It's always gratifying to witness that "aha!" moment when the student understands a concept and the reason for performing a procedure a certain way.


We also need to be aware that each learner processes information at different speeds and in disparate styles. Student nurses or new graduates will not necessarily comprehend everything at the same level as veteran nurses. On the other hand, experienced nurses might resist learning new procedures or new technologies because they are accustomed to more traditional ways. And whenever we work in a teaching role, we are responsible for making sure that information is accurate and consistent. This is particularly important when teaching patients about their care; they see many different clinicians during their hospital stays, and mixed messages could result in patient harm.


In recent years we've witnessed an explosion of new teaching technologies, such as online webinars, interactive Web sites, remote conferencing, and simulation. Both teachers and students must be willing to test the new formats and to embrace the different culture. You may want to blend some old and new methods to accommodate all your students' learning styles.


What are we teaching our student nurses, patients, and colleagues? Everything from basic infection prevention principles, such as hand hygiene, to advanced skills, such as central line insertion. We demonstrate to other nurses the proper use of devices and equipment, and we teach our patients to care for their vascular access devices, prevent infection, and recognize complications when they return home.


To do our teaching jobs appropriately, we must keep current with the latest information in order to translate evidence into practice. By attending local and national INS meetings, reading a variety of nursing journals, and viewing webinars and other INS Knowledge Center offerings (, you can continue your professional development and share your findings and new knowledge with your students.


As nurses we're lifelong learners; however, we're lifelong teachers, too. Continue to teach; our stakeholders will reap the benefits of what you have to share about best practices and infusion care.


Mary Alexander




1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 42 USC [S]5202-5311; 2010. [Context Link]