6 Things Your Nursing Professor Won’t Tell You: Insights from a Veteran Nurse Educator

If you’ve ever felt like you’re the only sane person in the crazy house of nursing school, or like your nursing instructor is operating under a different set of rules…you’re not alone.

I recently interviewed Justine Bailey, RN, a nurse educator and entrepreneur who is just as passionate as I am about improving the way nursing education is done so that nursing students can succeed. She’s also the founder of Its Jus Like That, where she empowers students and nurses of color to lead meaningful lives and careers.

Based on that interview, I’m sharing her top, insider tips to help you understand what’s going on inside your nursing professor’s head so that you’ll have the most realistic expectations possible for nursing school.

1. Nursing Instructors HATE Grading…

I know this hardly feels fair when they’re the ones assigning the projects and clinical assignments, but it’s true! Providing detailed feedback takes a ton of time…time they really don’t have. While they want to see you be successful, you might have better luck talking to them during office hours to ask questions about your assignment, versus expecting to get lots of comments on any assignments or papers you’ve turned in.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that it’s easier for your professor (and they will appreciate it!) if you ask specific questions that demonstrate you’ve been trying to improve on your own, too. If you can couch that question by letting them know some of the things you’ve already tried to answer your own question, you’ll come across as more professional, too. For example, instead of simply asking why you got #2 wrong, you could explain that you were reading about that topic in your textbook and learned XYZ, but you’re having trouble understanding how it connects to the question you got wrong.

2. Your Nursing Instructors are…Imposters!

Well, not exactly imposters, but they DO struggle with something called “Imposter Syndrome” just as much as you do. If you don’t already know what Imposter Syndrome is, it’s this common phenomenon everyone experiences at some point where you don’t feel like you belong or deserve to be doing something (aka, like nursing school!) and that you’re not actually qualified to do it. This can lead to a TON of stress and anxiety, because you’re afraid that other people will “find out” or that your supposed ‘incompetence’ will cause you to lose your opportunity.

For your Nursing Instructors, this means they might be feeling almost as stressed and anxious as YOU do! They’re not an expert of every single nursing topic (nobody is!), and it’s even possible that they’ve never even taught your class before. And yet they still get in front of your class everyday and do their best.

Professor Justine reminded us that a little understanding goes a long way. Recognizing that your educators are human can give you a sense of understanding for what they might be going through, as well as help you get the help you need when your instructors sees that you have some empathy for them.

3. They Can’t Always “Keep Up”

While a lot of things in nursing stay the same over the years (Anatomy & Physiology, I’m looking at you!), many changes in bedside and clinical care happen. And Nursing Instructors can’t always keep up with the latest trends, especially if they’re currently working bedside nursing.

(And let’s be serious…who wants to work 2 jobs if they don’t have to? Trust me, teaching is a full-time job!!)

Not only can this difficulty with stay current feed into their sense of Imposter Syndrome (refer back to point 2…), which can sometimes make your instructor feel overly sensitive if you ask a question or challenge something they taught you.

Another angle to look at this, is that often your instructors are teaching you from a “Back in my day” perspective. Since it may have been a few years (or more!) since they’ve worked bedside, they might share stories or describe a way of doing something that wouldn’t be down nowadays (at least…not in the perfect world of NCLEX, that is…).

Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why I never promise to help my tutoring students get straight A’s in Nursing School! Because some factors are outside your control…such as whether your nursing instructor is always up-to-date about everything. I’ve definitely seen instances where they might mark a test question correct based on out-dated info, and refuse to adjust the scores when you ask about it.

Now, those instances are few and far between (thankfully!), as most instructors are more than happy to learn and adjust, especially if you approach them in a professional manner and have a citation to support your argument. But if you need a way to study that helps you guard against the circumstances where that common sense approach doesn’t work–by making sure you always have comfortably passing grades so that a few bad test questions don’t make a difference–then join my Group Tutoring Membership and I’ll teach you how!

4. Nursing Professors Procrastinate, Too

You know all that overwhelming info and insane number of chapters you need to cover before your next exam? Yeah, your professor has to cover all that information, too. And they have to prepare powerpoint slides, lecture notes, classroom assignments, and projects as well…not to mention write test questions, and do all the grading.

Which is why you need to understand that as much as your instructors want to help you, sometimes they’re only 1-step (or even half a step…) ahead of you themselves. It can be challenging to do this amount of prep work, especially if it’s the first time they’ve taught the class.

5. Nursing Instructors Don’t Get Paid Enough

Did you know that most nursing instructors take a pay cut for the privilege of teaching? In most cases, they could make significantly more money working a bedside nursing job, even though they are often required to have a Masters or (more likely!) DOCTORATE level degree for RN programs.

Bedside nursing only requires an ADN or BSN to work as a Registered Nurse (or even a diploma program nursing degree, if you can still find one of those programs nowadays).

So do that math on that…your nursing instructor had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get a degree that would earn them less money than working at a hospital. Doesn’t exactly make sense, right?

And you might think it’s because the benefits are better, but that’s not always the case. Not only are instructors required to teach their classes, but it takes a LOT of time to prepare for each class. Plus they have to do the grading and be available during office hours. Add in email communication with all the students in your class (remember, there’s only 1 of your instructor, but dozens of students…), and that’s a full-time job all by itself!

And yet even in addition to that, nursing faculty often have required staff/faculty meetings to attend, assigned responsibilities within the nursing department, and if it’s a research institution then they might also be engaging in their own research projects for publication.

This means that even though they want to help you (and trust me, they DO want to see you succeed!), there aren’t enough hours in the day to provide the personalized tutoring and mentorship you need to be successful in nursing school

Investing in YOUR Nursing School Success…

It’s more than simply about getting through nursing school…you want to thrive. And understanding where your nursing instructor is a great way to work towards that goal.

At the end of the day, every nursing student does better with personalized mentorship and coaching…nobody would argue with that! Which is why Professor Justine is amazing at empowering and encouraging both nursing students AND new nurses to lead meaningful lives and careers.

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