12 Key Qualities of Great Nurse Educators

June 01, 2018 By Denise Turner

Nurse educators play a pivotal role in supporting learning and inspiring health professionals. And a great nurse educator can have a long-lasting impact on those they teach, both personally and professionally.

When I think about qualities of the great nurse educators who have influenced my development and learning, there are a number of characteristics which consistently emerge.

Here are 12 qualities of great nurse educators.



A great educator is passionate about teaching, and about the nursing topics at hand. They are excited about being able to positively influence their learners, and by extension, the patients.

When an educator is passionate about the subject matter, it is infectious. It leads to more passionate and motivated learners, which improves the effectiveness of the education being provided.

An educator can display their passion through their energy, drive and enthusiasm. Their teaching style should mimic this, and be dynamic and up-beat.


Energetic and Engaging Teaching Style

As a learner, there’s nothing more demotivating and boring than listening to a teacher drone on and on at the front of the classroom.

Great educators will engage and hold the attention of their learners by bringing great energy and appropriate teaching methods to the classroom.


Establishes Clear Objectives and Outcomes

In the planning stage, nurse educators should ensure that they clearly define the learning objectives and outcomes of an educational session.

This ensures that an educational activity is linked to practice. The educator can then clearly align the intended learnings with a practice gap that they have identified through a needs assessment.

A more structured educational session also acts as a guide for learners. Having a sense of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there makes it easier for learners to remain engaged throughout a session.


Further Reading: How to Conduct a Needs Assessment


Qualities of Great Nurse Educators


Receptive to Feedback

While it is expected that educators will provide regular feedback to learners, they should also actively seek feedback.

Being open to receive feedback, from both learners and fellow educators, will promote a culture of collaborative learning and respect.

Further, it will enable educators to refine their teaching style and respond to the expressed needs of the learners.

Educators can encourage feedback from learners by:

  • Asking learners to fill out periodical questionnaires;
  • Facilitating classroom discussions.


Facilitates Self-Directed Learning

One of the six adult learning principles identified by Malcolm Knowles states that adults are internally motivated and self-directed.

When the educator facilitates and encourages self-directed, autonomous learning, this enables learners to take a greater level of responsibility for their own learning and development and fosters their internal motivation to learn.

To effectively facilitate this, educators can:

  • Encourage questions and individual exploration of the taught concepts;
  • Show an interest in the thoughts and ideas of learners;
  • Encourage individual research;
  • Lead learners to inquiry instead of overloading them with information.


Further Reading: How to Engage Adult Learners


Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leadership is an approach whereby the leader, or in this case the educator, works with learners to understand and respond to their needs.

Together, educator and leaners then develop a shared vision and goals.

This approach will leave learners feeling motivated and challenged and will give them a sense of ownership over their learning and development.


Respectful of Learners

A relationship that is based on mutual respect creates a supportive and collaborative environment that is highly conducive to learning.

Educators can demonstrate their respect for learners in a number of ways:

  • Taking an interest and listening to learners’ ideas and opinions;
  • Being mindful and acknowledging the prior knowledge and experience that each individual learner brings;
  • Encouraging questions, feedback and open expression.



Unforeseen situations often occur both in the planning of educational activities, and in the classroom itself.

Great educators have the ability to adapt to sudden changes that occur in the learning process.

However, educators should not simply wait for sudden changes to occur before shifting.

During a session, educators should be on the lookout for:

  • Ways in which they can make the session more engaging;
  • Whether they need to include more challenging information; or
  • Whether they need to simplify the planned content.


Strong Rapport with Learners

Learners are much more likely to engage with the content when they have a strong rapport with the educator.

Building rapport allows learners to feel safe, accepted and welcomed in the learning environment.

Great educators will constantly seek ways to build this trusting relationship with their learners.


Qualities of Great Nurse Educators


Knowledge of Subject Matter

While this may seem obvious, it is often overlooked.

Having a strong knowledge of the subject matter is a must for nurse educators.

This not only enables them to effectively deliver the content, but also enables them to answer any questions and more easily adapt when faced with unforeseen changes.



A highly organised educator conveys a sense that they are in control of the educational activity.

We’ve all had classes or learning experiences where the technology has failed the educator. This delay in learning leaves learners feeling disengaged, restless and demotivated.

Before a session, educators should ensure that:

  • Learners are aware of the logistical details (time, place etc.);
  • Required equipment is available and fully-functional;
  • They have a clear session plan that covers all learning objectives and outcomes.


Good Communicator

Great educators are great communicators.

Communication combines both an ability to provide information verbally, an an ability to listen to information being delivered to you.

Educators who develop their communication skills are able to:

  • Clearly explain concepts and skills to learners;
  • Adapt their explanation to each individual learner regardless of their learning style or level;
  • Enable learners to engage in topics that they may have perceived to be boring;
  • Effectively manage the atmosphere of the learning environment.


What are the qualities of the best educator you have ever had?

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