Know, Don’t know, No.

In the second edition of Skyscape’s Fellows Advisory Network nursing newsletter, Dr. Renee McLeod talked about the importance of self-care. As nurses, we know how important it is to teach patients how to take care of themselves. Sometimes, it’s harder to remember to take care of ourselves, yet we know that nurses who engage in self-care are less likely to burn out, and are much more likely to live fulfilled and productive lives than those who do not.

How can we use these same principles of self-care and apply them to our roles as faculty members?

Have you ever stopped and “taken your temperature” as a faculty member? Are you healthy and engaging in ongoing forms of health promotion to keep yourself strengthened and energized as a facilitator of learning? Or do you find yourself having some mild flu-like symptoms, a little bit achy and feverish when you think of all that needs to be done? Or, perhaps, you’ve already pulled the covers over your head and are just waiting to feel better as the changing world of nursing education swirls around you?

Faculty self-care takes place in three domains: growing what you know, learning what you don’t know, and being comfortable saying no.

Growing what you know involves enhancing your area of specialty as an educator. This does not mean becoming complacent with what or how you teach; rather, it means energizing yourself with the newest information that is evidence-based, and creating ways to translate that into meaningful learning experiences for students. What better way to engage in self-care as a faculty member, than to continue enhancing your own knowledge of materials that you teach? Reading current journals, attending conferences, and regularly visiting clinical sites gives you an opportunity to stay clinically relevant. When you are plugged into current nursing practice, your ability to teach today’s standard of care increases exponentially, which increases your own self-confidence, and the confidence of the learners entrusted to your guidance.

Knowing what you do not know is just as important.

No one can know everything. Although nurse faculty may teach in several different courses, there are always courses that feel more natural to teach based on your clinical area(s) of expertise, and other courses that are more challenging.

Challenge yourself to move outside of your comfort zone and work on developing knowledge of the topic(s) that challenges you most.

  • Openly talk with your dean or director about your willingness to grow
  • Ask to attend a conference about another specialty
  • Request to shadow nurses of other specialties

Evidence shows that students preparing for NCLEX often gravitate to reading information they know, because it reassures them that they do have mastery of some topics; however, evidence also shows that they are less likely to immerse themselves in areas where they need growth, because this is unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory. Similarly, as educators, it is very easy for us to settle into what we know, yet most of our growth as educators comes when we challenge ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Don’t limit yourself to only learning about nursing content matter.

Challenge yourself to become a better educator by:

  • Attending conferences specifically about nursing education
  • Taking a class to strengthen your teaching abilities
  • Asking for peer reviews of your classroom and clinical teaching
  • Inviting faculty from other disciplines for a purely pedagogical review

Evidence shows that peer learning is just as effective as classroom learning. Make use of this!

Finally, recognize that you are one person.

You cannot do it all in one day. There is freedom that comes with learning how to say “no”. Stop qualifying those no’s with a reason. Simply ask yourself whether certain activities are helping you to grow as an educator, or causing strife, and say “no” to things that distract you from the goal of becoming a better educator.

Provide yourself with regular, periodic doses of ongoing education so that you can process the change in, and growth of, your teaching strengths. Give yourself time. Practice self-compassion. Award yourself the same grace that you give students when they are learning. Recognize that honing your abilities as an educator is an organic, evolutionary process that takes place every day that you prepare for or set foot in a classroom or clinical setting.

Exercising proper self-care as an educator will help you go the distance, enjoying the many benefits and rewarding moments that teaching nurses can bring. And remember…know, don’t know, no…

Authored by:

Cherie Rebar, PhD, MBA, RN, COI

Nicole Heimgartner, DNP, RN, COI

Carolyn Gersch, PhD, RN, CNE