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NAME: Elaine E. Steinke, PhD, RN

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CURRENT POSITION: Professor of Nursing


CURRENT AFFILIATION(S): School of Nursing, Wichita State University


AREA(S) OF SPECIALIZATION: Acute and Critical Care, Sexual Counseling of Cardiac Patients


PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION: Diploma in Nursing, BSN,MN, PhD(Adult and Occupational Education)




Elaine E. Steinke, PhD, RN, was the recipient of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialist (NACNS) 2008 CNS Educator of the Year first presented at the 2009 Annual Conference in St Louis, Missouri. Instituted in 2007, the purpose of the award is to nationally recognize an NACNS member for outstanding professional achievement as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) educator. The award acknowledges a CNS educator's commitment to excellence and innovation in preparing CNSs and in implementing the NACNS Statement on CNS Practice and Education. She was nominated by Victoria Mosack, PhD, RN, ARNP, PMHCNS-BC, assistant professor, Wichita University School of Nursing, and Yvonne Fast, MSN, ARNP, clinical nurse specialist in adult health and illness.


Dr Steinke is a professor in the School of Nursing at Wichita State University, Kansas. She is the coordinator of the Adult Health & Illness Clinical Nurse Specialist program and the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program. Dr Steinke has been a CNS educator for many years, mentoring students and graduates in the CNS role, publication, and the conduct of research. She is nationally and internationally known for her research related to the sexual counseling needs of cardiac patients.


One of her students described her as "an inspiring educator, an accomplished speaker and writer, and a creative thinker. In the classroom, she consistently challenged her students' thinking and always had very high expectations of her students. She also made each feel they had something very important to offer when she solicited her students' expertise in class. Her humility was evident in that she conveyed the idea that she had much to learn from us."


As an educator of CNS students, why are your students attracted to this particular advanced practice nursing role?

The CNS role provides a great deal of autonomy and creativity as the CNS looks for innovative ways to address patient care issues. The diversity in the roles of the CNS is often attractive. Clinical nurse specialists have the opportunity to not only assist staff in problem-solving issues for individual patients, but also address system issues, for example, fall prevention. Some CNSs are actively involved in providing patient care or advanced assessments of patients, such as depression screening, fall risk profiles, or functional assessment of the elderly. The CNS has a multifaceted role that is essential for institutions to provide the best, evidence-based care possible.


How do you describe the role of the CNS to your students and others?

The CNS is a highly skilled practitioner with advanced education that prepares the individual to practice in a variety of roles, such as educator, consultant, researcher, or entrepreneur, to name a few. The CNS uses skills in communication, collaboration, and group dynamics to bring the voices of various health professionals to the table to discuss pressing issues related to patients and systems of care. Skill in managing outcomes in healthcare settings continues to be a key aspect of the role.


What do you think are the best teaching strategies or most promising educational innovations for today's college graduate students?

The best teaching strategies involve a variety of techniques to engage the learner that takes into account individual learning styles. In the classroom setting, some traditional teaching techniques still have value, for example, case study application, discussion of clinical issues, and evaluation of research and practice evidence. Students often bring years of experience in nursing and knowledge to the classroom setting, a strength that I capitalize on in class discussions. For today's students who are increasingly embracing various types of technology, the educator is challenged to adopt teaching techniques using new methods. These might include the use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, or the incorporation of distance media using Skype or similar programs. As educators, we must be adaptable and embrace these opportunities to further engage our learners.


Being a clinical discipline, during the course of study for a CNS, students often spend time with a CNS preceptor who helps supervise their clinical experience. Describe the ideal preceptor for your CNS students.

The ideal CNS preceptor is passionate about his/her role and has a strong desire to mentor students in this role. They are experts in their specialty and good communicators and are able to motivate people to change. The preceptor actively engages the student in learning about the CNS role, often through example, and in various clinical initiatives. The ideal preceptor carries out a variety of CNS roles so that the student can see the diverse possibilities within the role. Students highly value the "hands-on" practice that clinical experiences provide.


What impact has the NACNS Statement on CNS Practice and Education had on your role as an educator or your curriculum for CNSs?

This statement provides a guide for the curriculum, and the spheres of influence are important components in didactic and clinical course work. This publication and others are essential for students' understanding of the CNS role.


From an educator's perspective, what do you perceive as the key challenges in the graduate nursing education of CNSs today?

Students have many competing demands for their time; therefore, our educational strategies need to continually change and evolve to meet the needs of students, while providing strong, cutting-edge curricula. External forces within the healthcare market have not always valued the CNS. It is important that students have a firm understanding of the CNS role, the value that it adds to healthcare, and how to best position themselves to show this value, particularly to administrators. These discussions begin in the educational setting and as tools for practice are developed as part of graduate curricula.


To date, what do you perceive as your greatest accomplishments as a CNS educator?

As a CNS educator, my greatest fulfillment comes when I walk into a clinical agency and see firsthand the important accomplishments of our CNS graduates. The projects that they initiate and the positive outcomes that they achieve are phenomenal and very powerful when you think about the difference that they make in not only the lives of patients, but also those of families, healthcare professionals, administrators, and the profession. So, my greatest accomplishment as an educator comes from successfully role modeling and mentoring students in the CNS role, and observing the ripple effect as students and graduates make a difference in their own unique way.


What advice would you give to your CNS students starting out in their career?

Follow your passion and embrace new opportunities. Give yourself some time and space to get familiar in your CNS role; you won't know it all when you take off that graduation cap. Listen carefully-the answers to vexing problems may be easier than you think. Build collaborative relationships as these are keys to success in your role. You won't be able to do everything that everyone wants you to do in the role-find those aspects that you love about the role; these will help when you have difficult projects. Be open to new ideas and approaches. Always remember that CNSs make a tremendous difference in the many lives they touch.