Core Competencies of Nurse Educators

By Kalb, Kathleen A

ABSTRACT The National League for Nursing Core Competencies of Nurse Educators with Task Statements provide a comprehensive framework for preparing new nurse educators, implementing the nurse educator role, evaluating nurse educator practice, and advancing faculty scholarship and lifelong professional development. This article describes how one nursing department uses the core competencies with current faculty and in a graduate program that prepares nurse educators.

Key Words Core Competencies – Electronic Portfolios – Faculty Evaluation – Nurse Educators – Standards of Practice

A STANDARDS OF PRACTICE FOR ACADEMIC NURSE EDUCATORS, the Core Competencies of Nurse Educators(c) with Task Statements, published by the National League for Nursing in 2005, inspire excellence and provide a comprehensive framework for the lifelong learning of faculty (1). As such, they can be used by nursing programs in a variety of ways. This article describes how the Department of Nursing at the College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, Minnesota, has used these eight core competencies and 66 related task statements to guide the development of a graduate program that prepares nurse educators and to evaluate nurse educator practice. (See Figure.)

The core competencies are a valuable resource for nurse educators and have the potential to transform nursing education by inspiring excellence in nurse educator practice. It is paramount that these standards of practice are integrated in nurse educator curricula, faculty role descriptions, and evaluation processes. By using the core competencies of nurse educators in intentional and innovative ways, nurse educators are empowered to shape their own practice and advance the education and lifelong learning of all nurse educators, thus transforming the future of nursing education. Further, the competencies can be used to influence public policy efforts affecting nurse educators and nursing education and to identify scholarship and research priorities related to the nurse educator role (2).

Preparing New Nurse Educators Nurse educator curricula must address the core of knowledge and skills essential for effectiveness and excellence in the nurse educator role (3) and make transparent the scope and standards of nurse educator practice. The nurse educator curriculum in the master’s program at the College of St. Catherine uses the core competencies of nurse educators as an integrating framework. Each nurse educator course specifically addresses one or more of the core competencies including curriculum design, assessment and evaluation, instructional technology, and designing systems to support change in nursing education.

A systematic focus on the core competencies ensures that students are prepared to function in each educator role component upon entry into practice. Using the publication The Scope of Practice for Academic Nurse Educators (4), students conduct interviews with experienced educators, discussing and learning about the scope and standards of nurse educator practice. This focus also positions graduates to take the examination for certified nurse educator (CNE) offered by the NLN.

The capstone project in the nurse educator curriculum is an electronic portfolio titled “Nurse Educator as Leader.” Here, again, the core competencies are used as an organizing framework. For the completion of this portfolio, students reflect on the essence of each of the competencies in their practice; select evidence that demonstrates their knowledge and abilities for each competency; and project excellence based on their learning and professional goals.

The Nurse Educator as Leader portfolio is a presentation portfolio (5), that is, it presents evidence that may include assignments completed in nurse educator courses, examples of experiential learning, and documentation of participation in professional organizations and continuing education programs. Students are given a faculty-generated list of suggested evidence based on assignments and learning experiences completed during their nurse educator courses. For each assignment and learning experience, the related core competencies are identified by faculty.

The electronic portfolio is completed through the use of a PowerPoint template. The template includes information-only slides describing each of the core competencies and reflective-statement slides that address the essence, evidence, and excellence of the student’s knowledge and abilities regarding the core competencies. Slides are also included for the student’s philosophy of the “nurse educator as leader,” curriculum vitae, and a graphic image and/or motto that depicts the student’s beliefs about the nurse educator role and nursing education. Students enter information using text, uploaded files, and web links (6) and present their electronic portfolio to multiple audiences, including peers, faculty, and potential employers.

The Nurse Educator as Leader portfolio encourages students to tell their stories, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and describe their growth and development in the nurse educator role (6). This project engages students in critical thinking, fosters creativity, and motivates students to use standards to inform their own practice. Most importantly, the Nurse Educator as Leader portfolio challenges students to reflect upon their academic preparation in each of the core competencies and prepares them to assume roles as leaders and innovators in the practice and science of nursing education (7).

Implementing the Nurse Educator Role Standards-based role descriptions maximize the likelihood that faculty responsibilities are clearly connected to the role components that are consistent with nurse educator practice. These role components serve as a foundation for faculty orientation and further understanding of the full scope of the nurse educator role in the context of the academic community.

Role descriptions in the Department of Nursing are organized using accreditation standards (8) and are based on the Core Competencies of Nurse Educators, For example, faculty responsibilities related to Standard III, Students include Competency I, Facilitate Learning and Competency II, Facilitate Learner Development and Socialization. Responsibilities related to Standard IV, Curriculum, are consistent with Competency I, Facilitate Learning, Competency III, Use Assessment and Evaluation Strategies, and Competency IV, Participate in Curriculum Design and Evaluation of Program Outcomes.

By using the core competencies to substantiate responsibilities described in role descriptions, faculty have a standards-based framework for evaluating their own performance and for communicating the scope of their responsibilities to non-nursing faculty and administrators in the academic environment. This ensures that nurse educator standards are used for determining faculty qualifications; interviewing candidates for faculty positions; orienting new faculty; conducting faculty evaluation processes; and developing goals for faculty scholarship and professional development. Program directors and faculty mentors use these role descriptions to provide evaluative feedback for faculty in their development as nurse educators and members of the academic community (9).

Promoting Nurse Educator Practice The core competencies inspire excellence and serve as a valuable framework for advancing and evaluating faculty practice. Each of the 66 task statements included in the core competencies may be used as a benchmark by faculty who are seeking to improve their practice as educators. With the permission of the NLN, the author designed the Nurse Educator Self- Evaluation as an online tool for primary faculty development and faculty evaluation.

Faculty in the Department of Nursing and nurse educator students use the tool to rate their knowledge and abilities in each of the 66 task statements. A four-point Likert scale is used, with scores indicating Not Knowledgeable, Very Knowledgeable, No Skills, and Fully Skilled. The self-evaluation takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, and respondents may view and/or print their results after completing the form. Faculty are encouraged to complete the self- evaluation to prepare for annual goal conferences that are conducted with their program director. Evaluative data provide information about areas of strength and areas that would benefit from professional development activities.

New nurse faculty complete the self-evaluation as part of their orientation to the faculty role. Results are used by the new faculty member, mentor, and program director to individualize a plan for faculty orientation. For many faculty, self-evaluation using the core competencies provides an opportunity to discuss the standardsbased responsibilities enumerated in their role description.

Nurse educator students complete the self-evaluation at the beginning and end of their graduate course work. Completing the self- evaluation in their first nurse educator course, students are oriented to the core competencies and scope of the nurse educator role. In their final course, students compare their results and write a reflective paper about their current knowledge and abilities related to each of the core competencies, including their priorities, plans, and specific actions for professional development. The Nurse Educator Self-Evaluation serves as a valuable adjunct in mentoring faculty and students and monitoring their ongoing professional development. Indeed, this online evaluation is “relevant across the entire career continuum of a nurse educator,” and champions nurse educator preparation; “orientation to the faculty role; socialization to the academic community; development of teaching, research, and service skills; and facilitation of the growth of future leaders in nursing and nursing education” (9). Faculty and students also use the tool to evaluate their readiness for seeking certification as a certified nurse educator.

Spreading the Word Since 2005, the NLN’s Core Competencies of Nurse Educators have been welcomed by many nurse educators and administrators who understand their value for role descriptions, evaluation criteria and processes, nurse educator curricula, professional development programs, and mentoring activities. Those faculty and administrators who do use the competencies should be prepared to share them with those nursing programs that have not yet become aware of their value. Furthermore, nursing organizations need to address these core competencies in professional and accreditation standards, particularly standards related to the role of faculty.

Nurse educators, including students, are a key resource for disseminating information about the core competencies. Ultimately, sharing information about the Core Competencies of Nurse Educators challenges educators to develop the components of their role in all its dimensions (10) and inspires excellence in their practice as nurse educators.


1. National League for Nursing. (2005). Core competencies of nurse educators with task statements. [Online]. Available: corecompetencies.pdf.

2. Finke, L. M. (2005). Teaching in nursing: The faculty role. In D. M. Billings, & J.A. Halstead (Eds.), Teaching in nursing: A guide for faculty (2nd ed., pp. 3-20). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier-Saunders.

3. National League for Nursing. (2002). The preparation of nurse educators [Position Statement]. [Online]. Available: aboutnln/ PositionStatements/preparation051802.pdf.

4. National League for Nursing. (2005). The scope of practice for academic nurse educators. New York: Author.

5. Ramey, S. L., & Hay, M. L. (2003). Using electronic portfolios to measure student achievement and assess curricular integrity. Nurse Educator, 28(1), 31-36.

6. Skiba, D.J. (2005). E-portfolios, webfolios, and e-identity: Promises and challenges. [Emerging Technologies Center]. Nursing Education Perspectives, 26(4), 246-247.

7. National League for Nursing. (2003). Innovation in nursing education: A call to reform [Position Statement]. [Online]. Available: PositionStatements/ innovation082203.pdf.

8. National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. (2008). NLNAC 2000 standards and criteria. [Online]. Available:

9. National League for Nursing. (2006). Mentoring of nurse faculty [Position Statement]. [Online]. Available: aboutnln/PositionStatements/ mentoring_3_21_06.pdf.

10. National League for Nursing. (2001). Lifelong learning for nursing faculty [Position Statement]. [Online]. Available: PositionStatements/lifelong091901.pdf.

About the Author Kathleen A. Kalb, PhD, RN, is an associate professor, Department of Nursing, College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, Minnesota. Contact Dr. Kalb at [email protected]

Copyright National League for Nursing, Inc. Jul/Aug 2008

(c) 2008 Nursing Education Perspectives. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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