Curriculum Development in Nursing: Strategies to Educate Tomorrow’s Nurses

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A group of five multicultural male and female nurses wearing scrubs look calmly at the viewer.With the shortage of nursing staff garnering national attention and support, nurses have a vital opportunity to become educators. Students looking to pursue advanced nursing degrees to become nurse educators have an important role to play in battling the projected nursing shortage as well as improving the quality of health care throughout the U.S.

Curriculum development in nursing requires nurse educators to be creative, interpretive, data-driven leaders to reform and modernize the existing curriculum to reflect modern nursing environments. These skills, paired with a nurse’s foundational academic and clinical knowledge, allow nurse educators to reinvent courses, assignments, legislations, and policies to be representative of modern nursing environments worldwide.

The Importance of Nurse Educators

To understand the importance of nurse educators, it’s critical to understand the statistical data surrounding the concurrent shortage of both nurse educators and nurses. Between 2018 and 2019, U.S. nursing schools turned away over 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs due to an insufficient number of faculty, budget restraints, and other scholastic administrative challenges. Additionally, during that same period, over 1,700 vacancies for nurse educators were identified in a survey of 872 nursing schools across the county.

The projected nursing shortage may also affect  Approximately one-third of registered nurses (RNs) are age 50 and older (about 1 million nurses), including nurse faculty. Over the next 15 years, these nurses will hit retirement age, leading to a massive loss of health care workers and nurse faculty members. This could lead to further enrollment and faculty limitations, a decrease in the number of nurses accepted into and graduating from nursing school, and a decline in quality for nurse programs and classes due to nurse faculty being stretched so thin.

With the shortage in nursing staff garnering national attention and support, nurses have a vital opportunity to become educators. As nurse educators, nurses can leverage their existing knowledge and clinical experience to develop dynamic programs for the betterment of new nurses, as well as fill vacancies in nursing schools that are desperate for faculty.

By  modernizing the curriculum to reflect the current state of nursing, aspiring nurses can graduate from school prepared to enter today’s health care facilities with knowledge of new procedures and policies, how to handle strenuous nurse-patient ratios, and using the most current on-site equipment. This can lead to not only better care but also less-frequent nurse burnout.

How Nurse Educators Develop a Nursing Curriculum

Curriculum development in nursing has shifted from a teacher-centered to a student-centered learning model. Many schools are reshaping their teaching approaches to include concept-based learning that comprises situational problem-solving and effective decision-making. Student-centered learning offers nursing students training in clinical scenarios while developing responsiveness skills that improve the quality of care.

A student-centered curriculum includes teaching students easy-to-remember concepts that are applicable in the field. Active learning activities help students understand these concepts and offer real-world scenarios. For example, if the topic is distress syndrome, an exemplar demonstrates distress symptoms and allows students to apply concepts in a safe, risk-free scenario.

The process behind developing a nursing curriculum relies on the nurse educator. Nurse educators typically begin the process by recognizing the current curriculum’s shortcomings and identify areas of improvement, for example, updating emergency response procedures.

Next, nurse educators present findings to a committee or board, explaining problems and solutions. When transitioning from teacher-centered learning to a student-centered system, nurse educators should provide case studies or statistics supporting their solutions.

Next, nurse educators build lesson plans and grading criteria to train other educators on the new curriculum. Additionally, presenting and gathering feedback from other educators will identify any problem areas in instructional design.

When developing a nursing curriculum, nurse educators must also consider training students on adhering to current laws and policies. Policies and laws surrounding health care are updated consistently to ensure that patient care needs are being met.

What Are the Skills of a Nurse Educator?

A career in nurse education requires a high level of analytical skills to leverage data to find new ways to help patients. Nurse educators must also be well informed, consistently educating themselves about shifting health care laws and policies. Lastly, nurse educators must obtain advanced leadership and communication skills to both teach students and spearhead curriculum development in nursing.

Current and aspiring nurse educators can build and hone these skills in a master’s program, such as Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program. Designed to meet the needs of practicing RNs, Ohio University’s 100% online MSN program integrates advanced nursing theory with evidence-based nursing practice. Students are empowered to immediately apply new skills in the field while continuing to progress toward their Master of Science degree.

Learn More About Curriculum Development in Nursing

Curriculum development in nursing is critical to the advancement of nursing and health care. With courses such as Curriculum Development in Nursing, Teaching Strategies in Nursing, and Academic Nursing, Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program can help students who want to pursue a master’s degree in nursing cultivate the knowledge and skills needed to become an effective nursing leader. 

Recommended Readings

Patient Safety and Alarm Fatigue
The Importance of Nursing Theory in Nursing Education
What Is Health Disparity? Definition, Examples, and Resources


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Faculty Shortage
Johnson & Johnson, Nurse Educator
National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Changing to Concept-Based Curricula: The Process for Nurse Educators”
National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Nursing Shortage”
National Nurses in Business Association, Nurse Educator
Ohio University, Online Master of Science in Nursing