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The New Nurse Educator in Long-Term Care

Transitioning from a staff nurse or charge nurse to the role of Staff Development Director or Nursing Professional Development (NPD) practitioner is not always a seamless move. Nurses in Long-Term Care settings are often promoted into education roles based on their clinical nursing abilities without consideration of their management or education skills.

Sherry Johnson    
February 6, 2019

Transitioning from a staff nurse or charge nurse to the role of Staff Development Director or Nursing Professional Development (NPD) practitioner is not always a seamless move.  Nurses in Long-Term Care settings are often promoted into education roles based on their clinical nursing abilities without consideration of their management or education skills.  If find yourself in this situation, here are some steps you can take to be successful.

Understand the Position

Begin by knowing what is expected of your new position.  You can accomplish this by speaking with your supervisor and outlining the key responsibilities and tasks associated with the role.  You should also review the federal and state regulations related to orientation, annual training, and competency management and assess your facilities compliance status.  Finally, ask for feedback from the nursing staff on their education needs and concerns to further develop your education plan.

Harper and Maloney (2016) describe using adult learning theories, experience, knowledge, and evidence-based practice as integral parts of the role of NPD.  The Standards of Practice for the NPD are:

  • Standard 1. Assessment of Practice Gaps
  • Standard 2. Identification of Learning Needs
  • Standard 3. Outcomes Identification
  • Standard 4. Planning
  • Standard 5. Implementation
    • Coordination
    • Facilitation of Positive Learning and Practice Environments
    • Consultation
  • Standard 6. Evaluation

Knowing these standards will help you form a strong foundation for practice.  The Association for Nursing Professional Development also identifies seven roles the NPD practitioner goes between in this position, outlined below:

  • Learning Facilitator
  • Change Agent
  • Mentor
  • Leader
  • Champion for Scientific Inquiry
  • Advocate for NPD Specialty
  • Partner for Practice Transitions

The practice model, shown below, pulls together the various elements of the NPD scope of practice.

Planning and Communication

Once you have gathered your baseline information and understand the expectations and needs of the facility and staff, it’s time to create an education plan.  Your plan may include skills fairs to manage initial and annual skills competency of the nursing assistants and licensed nurses.  You may have identified a need for focused education based on the feedback provided from the staff.  Or you may need to develop training based on new equipment your facility is getting ready to purchase.

Consistent communication with your supervisor is essential for a successful education program.  This step is oftentimes missed due to the busy nature of life in the nursing facility.  You may see your supervisor in a daily clinical meeting where resident care issues are discussed or in passing in the hallway.  Although it may seem like you talk all the time, this is not the type of focused communication that will produce the results you need to achieve the education outcomes that you were hired to do.

Regular meetings with your supervisor need to include the desired outcomes of the education plan.  For example, your review of documentation of annual skills competency of the facilities nursing assistants shows only 20% compliance.  Your plan must include the skills required, equipment needed, resources desired, and dates and location of the planned skills fairs.  As you host the skills fairs for the nursing assistants you can provide weekly/monthly updates to your supervisor with a status on the compliance rate to show the progress you are making towards the goals you have set.


Depending on the size of your facility, you may be the only Staff Development Director or nurse providing education and this can feel isolating at times.  To counter this feeling of isolation, it’s helpful to find a mentor or a nurse educator community to join.  A mentor is someone you can reach out to for guidance regarding education, motivation, or just navigating your new role.  They can be an outside resource to you when you need someone to confide in as you face new situations and challenges.  Your state Health Care Association or Nurses Association may have education groups you can join.  Also, the Association for Nursing Professional Development http://www.anpd.org/l/li/in/ provides resources, continuing education and is a great source of support.

Remember Your Strengths

Finding those people who lead from the heart, engage their brains, and perform skillfully make great leaders.  Let’s break that down.  To lead from the heart, one must be caring and compassionate.  These individuals always start here.  The decisions they make are motivated in what is best for the other.  “How will this decision impact my staff, my residents and their families” guides them.  To engage their brains?  This means, they are curious, always learning, and use their knowledge well in developing programs, policies, and practices.  To perform skillfully, they take their compassion and knowledge and turn them into the practical skills needed in any given situation.  As a clinician, continue to enhance your technical skills like physical assessment, infusion therapy, wound care, etc.  As an educator, build skills in teaching, mentoring, and communication.   The heart, head, and hands are intertwined and are part of the total package needed when moving from one role to the next. Don’t forget that you are capable! Remember your strengths that got you here.


Harper, M. G., & Maloney, P. (2016). Nursing Professional Development: Scope & Standards of Practice, 3rd Edition. Chicago: Association for Nursing Professional Development.


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