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In spite of a national nursing shortage, American schools are turning away students in record numbers. This is due in large part to a critical shortage of nursing faculty. Recruitment and retention of qualified nurse educators is essential in order to remedy the current staff nurse and faculty shortage, yet nursing schools face many challenges in this area. New nurse educators are often recognized as expert clinicians at the bedside, and most have advanced degrees in nursing; however, few have formal preparation for teaching, and faculty orientation programs vary widely between institutions. Thus, new nurse educators often begin their academic careers with little preparation or guidance.
The purpose of this qualitative, grounded theory study was to generate a theory that describes the process of how nurses make the transition to the role of nurse educator. Purposive, theoretical sampling was used to identify 20 nurse educators who were teaching in four baccalaureate nursing programs in the Midwest. Using open, axial, and selective coding, a theoretical paradigm was created which symbolized this role transition as being on a journey with “no roadmap” and “no guide.” Participants described the academic work environment as unfamiliar and struggled with a fear of failure, professional identity issues, student boundary issues, and time constraints. They utilized strategies such as self-directed information seeking, peer mentoring, and gradual acceptance of responsibility in order to adapt to their new roles. Consequences of a successful role transition included feeling like a teacher and thinking like a teacher.
From this data, The Nurse Educator Transition Theory (NETT) model was created. This model identifies four phases in the role transition from nurse to nurse educator: (a) The Anticipatory/Expectation Phase, (b) The Disorientation Phase, (c) The Information Seeking Phase, and (d) The Identity Formation Phase. Recommendations for practice include integrating formal pedagogical education into nursing graduate programs and creating evidence-based orientation and mentoring programs for novice nursing faculty.