Certified Nurse Educators as Change Agents

Instructor: Tara Schickel

Tara has taught staff nursing courses and has a master's degree in public health.

This article will describe what it means to be a leader and a change agent as educators. We will discuss how to bring others on board with those changes in a way that is effective and preserves working relationships.

Leading by Creating Change

Being a nurse educator means being a leader. Contrary to popular belief, one does not have to have an official title of dean, administrator, or director to be a leader. Whether we like it or not, being an educator automatically brings the role of leader with it. We are going to talk about the expectations of being a leader and what it means in relation to what we do at our work places. We are going to learn how to foster change in a positive way that will push our organizations towards better serving the students who come to us for knowledge and guidance.

WHAT? I'm a Leader? I Thought I was Hired to Be an Educator!

Take a deep breath for a moment. You were hired to be an educator. What you may not realize is that being a leader goes hand in hand with being an educator. Yes, that's right. If you are an educator, you have also earned a position of leadership. You do not have to be a dean or a vice-president to be a leader. A leader is one who has the ability to guide and direct others towards a path of change. In essence, you are a change agent. Change agents are those who have the knowledge and skill to know what changes are for the best and can bring others on board in implementing those changes. Leading others down the path of change starts with knowing what changes are best.

Before you choke on that coffee you're drinking, please let me assure you that you ''do'' really know what changes need to be made. As educators, we understand that our careers are based on evidence. Nursing practice is driven by evidence. We do what has been studied and shown to produce best patient outcomes. We also understand that our teaching is based on evidence as well. Educational research is an area of study in which educators must remain well-informed in order to change our teaching methods to accommodate the way adults learn. So, by examining the evidence, we can determine if our organization puts into practice those well-studied and discovered methods that have shown to be beneficial to our students and their patients.

If we realize that our organizational practices do not meet the recommendations shown in the literature, we have a responsibility to act as a change agent and lead our institutions to pursue better ways.

The Appropriate Way to Lead Change

We must first realize that we can't storm into battle and demand organizational and practice changes. We'll be met with a few slamming doors, some dagger-like glares, and perhaps a termination letter. So, we have to make a better plan.

The most important concept of which to be mindful when orchestrating change is that we have to handle the approach to change with cultural sensitivity. In this article, when I speak of cultural sensitivity, I am referring to being respectful of the paradigm from which our colleagues come.

Since we are in the middle of our work environments, we know and understand the organizational paradigm and that of our colleagues. This paradigm includes the views, culture, perspective, and ways of teaching and thinking that are accepted and practiced. When we are about to make a change that will upset this normal way, we must handle it with the greatest care and respect. This will include:

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