By John Rossheim and Caroline Chwojka
Monster Contributing Writers
At a certain point in their clinical practice careers, many longtime nurses -- even those who have sacrificed much to care for patients -- come to ask themselves, "Is this all there is?"
Leaders in nursing say the answer is an emphatic no. Nurses who have suffered the slings and arrows of the managed-care environment while helping to bring thousands of patients back to health over the years do have a noble alternative: Teaching.
The importance of experienced nurses in colleges is reflected by this mission statement of the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), “To protect the public’s right to quality nursing services by providing leadership to the nursing profession in self-regulation.” Teaching the trade after having clinical experience means that you get to put in your two cents, which can be very rewarding for teachers and offer great perspectives to the graduates.
Registered nurses (RN) with master's or doctorate degrees are in great demand as faculty at nursing schools. Indeed, the current nursing-faculty shortage is a major contributor to the mushrooming shortage of all types of nurses.
And the shortage of nursing-school professors is expected to worsen in coming years as many faculty retire. Due to the baby-boomer demographics, we are also experiencing the aging of the nursing population, which might be challenging to replace.
Education for Nurses Who Teach
The current emphasis on clinical experience as a key element of nursing education means nurses who teach don't have to give up patient contact. Nurses who love interacting with patients may continue doing so while teaching at the same time. The key is to find a good balance.
Teaching in a nursing baccalaureate program does mean earning an advanced degree. About one-third of faculty positions require a master's degree, and two-thirds require a doctorate. Many nurses find ways to earn an advanced degree without entirely giving up their clinical practice income.
Online programs enable nurses to fit graduate study into their busy lives. For example, Athabasca University in Alberta offers online courses for its undergraduate degree in Nursing. The entire degree, 30 credits, can be done online.
Financial Aid: Needed and Available
Tuition for a graduate nursing degree is likely to run into tens of thousands of dollars, but nurses can get help paying tuition and related costs.
Financial aid for nurses attending graduate school is available from many sources, including the federal and state governments, hospitals and other healthcare employers, nursing associations and nursing schools, as detailed in CNA, Financial Assistance.
Some nurses bridge the financial gap by working while they study. Many nurses work during the day and take courses at night. It’s a temporary sacrifice because you must make changes in your time schedule. But any teaching nurse will tell you that it’s worth it.
In Canada, generally speaking, professors earn more than nurses. While a professor might start at about $50,000, an experienced nurse only earns about roughly $40,000. Of course, a nurse should not want to become an academic just for the salary raise. Being an academic has different challenges that practicing nurses might not be faced with, such as preparing lectures, correcting papers and encountering plagiarism.
Other nurses who become teachers often keep some of their part-time shifts at hospitals because it is their first passion. Working in academics doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing what you love.