The clinical nurse educator is often the first person to present and disseminate the latest information to employees. In a time when the educator's resources are limited and there are multiple priorities competing for attention, it can be challenging in the day-to-day workflow to figure out what the latest trend is, as the latest trend is often here and gone in the blink of an eye. While the word “trend” indicates a current style or general direction in which something tends to move, the term “revolution” indicates something more lasting than the latest thing. A revolution points to a fundamental change in power or societal structure that helps to create meaningful change. How does the clinical nurse educator decide if something is simply a trend or a revolution, and what current trends affect the effectiveness of the professional nurse educator?  

The best way to get a finger on the pulse of current trends is to go straight to the source, directly asking the question of thought leaders. An interactive survey was conducted at the National Nursing Staff Development Organization (NNSDO) conference in July of 2012. The session included 211 nurse educators who were asked the question, “What current trends affect the effectiveness of the professional nurse educator?” Audience members were provided with a handheld clicker and asked to rank each of the 10 trends presented on a scale of 1 to 4. A score of 1 indicated the trend was “not at all important,” a score of 2 was “somewhat important,” 3 was valued as “important,” and a score of 4 was valued as  “very important.” On average, 193 audience members responded to each question. Results were reported and discussed with the audience in real time.  

Of the 10 items presented, the number one thing identified by audience members as a “very important trend” is supporting a culture of patient safety, integrity, and trust. Ninety-four percent of audience members agreed that this is a “very important trend.” That is, every learning activity should be framed within the patient-centered context of safety, integrity, and trust. The second highest-ranked trend- identified by 84 percent of audience members was an environment of lifelong learning. 

Clearly, respondents represented the professional development field and value the notion of lifelong learning and development. The third highest trend agreed upon by the educators in the audience was tied among three separate trends. Seventy-nine percent of participants rated the following as trends that could potentially affect the effectiveness of the nurse educator: executing blended learning that is delivered quickly, is flexible, and uses a variety of learning modalities; transitioning new nurses into practice using nurse residency programs and preceptor development; and demonstrating value in workplace learning.  

The common theme among these three trends is the importance of continued education and the need to increase employee retention rates. Continued education is important for license renewal, promotion of lifelong learning, and the assurance that nursing practice is founded on evidence-based information. Nurse residency programs help to foster an environment of support and learning, which helps to increase the employee retention rate. Increased employee retention rates decrease the need to orient new employees, which has a direct effect on costs to the organization. This is essential for the current economic times.  

Another critical attribute for the healthcare profession, especially nursing, is flexibility. Seventy percent of the audience members believed the trend “surviving uncertain environments and finding new opportunities through change” is an essential trend that affects the professional nurse educator and the ability to which he can be effective in the role of educator. As responsibilities and demands continue to grow for the nurse educator, self-care is becoming increasingly more important.  

Sixty one percent of the audience felt “imagining our future and transforming work/life balance” was important. The lowest trend rated by audience members was “leveraging diversity and developing learning activities that promote a culturally competent staff.” Work culture and diversity in the workplace has been a large focus for many institutions in the past. Globalization, culturally competent educators, and an aging workforce have the potential to influence the effectiveness of the professional nurse educator.  


Overall, the professional nurse educators identified the most with trends that expressed a culture of patient safety and trust, valued lifelong learning that is delivered quickly and using diverse delivery methods, support of new graduate nurses, in addition to the need to remain flexible in an ever-changing environment. With the identification of these trends, the professional nurse educators can effectively meet the current demands of their role as educator and demonstrate the value they add to their organizations. 


ASTD field editor  Pamela B. Edwards is director of education services for Duke University Health System in Durham, North Carolina;


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