Nurse Educator Masters Programs: Four Decades in Review

Wednesday, July 13, 2011: 2:05 PM

Judith P. Ruland, PhD
College of Nursing, University of Central Florida, Florida, FL
Jean D. Leuner, PhD
College of Nursing, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL

Learning Objective 1: 1.Have an increased awareness of enrollment patterns in MSN nurse educator programs.

Learning Objective 2: 2.Identify curricular patterns that occur across nurse educator programs in relation to existing published standards.

Purpose: Enrollment in Master’s programs to prepare nurse educators has dramatically increased in response to the faculty shortage. This study reviewed enrollment data for nurse educator masters programs across four decades and described current curricular patterns with emphasis on clinical course content.

Methods: Annual enrollment data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the National League for Nursing (NLN) was reviewed from 1968 through 2008. Websites of the 258 institutions reporting a nurse educator program in 2008 were reviewed. Of these institutions, 198 schools published curricular plans on their websites. Curricula were compared by total credit hours, core MSN courses, nursing education courses, numbers of courses and hours of practicum, and evidence of specialty courses. Specialty clinical courses were reviewed for content and required hours. Clinical course content was reviewed in relation to reports from IOM and the Carnegie Foundation.

 Results: This review demonstrated a variable pattern of enrollment growth and decline, with dramatic growth in the past decade. A review of enrollment and graduation data shows an increase from 88 programs with a total of 1,238 students nationally in 1998 to 258 programs with a total of 12,111 in 2008. In 2008, MSN Education track graduates represented 16.3% of the 17,247 MSN graduates as compared to 3.3 % of the total 10,760 graduates in 1998. A great degree of variability in curricula exists in the nurse educator programs. Advanced specialty coursework was evident in 92 programs (46%) without any consistent curricular patterns.

 Conclusion: Curriculum development decisions need to be based on sound evidence in terms of national standards and proven curricular models. In keeping with the Carnegie Foundation report, future nurse educators need to be prepared with advanced clinical practice preparation. The results of this review will inform curricular development, evaluation and revision processes.