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The Role of CNEs in Curriculum Development

Instructor: Leasha Roy

Leasha is licensed as a registered nurse and clinical nurse specialist. She has over 17 years of nursing experience in a variety of settings and roles including long-term care, acute care, critical care, education, and leadership.

Certified nurse educators (CNE) are an essential part of building a strong and productive nursing workforce. This lesson will discuss the role of the CNE in curriculum development.

What is a CNE?

A certified nurse educator (CNE) is a master's or doctoral degree prepared registered nurse who specializes in the academic education of nurses and nursing students. The National League for Nursing (NLN) began to offer this certification in 2009 to help establish nursing education as a distinct specialty in nursing. Certification is a step beyond simply becoming licensed and there are many professional organizations that offer certifications in a variety of nursing specialties. Becoming certified allows nurses, including CNEs, to demonstrate their expertise in their chosen specialty and supports professional development. Further, by employing CNEs, schools can be more confident in their qualifications as faculty members.

Generally, certification requires not only an education and licensure prerequisite, but also a minimum number of hours or years of practice before the applicant may even take the certification exam, depending on the accrediting body. To become a CNE, one must be a registered nurse with a master's or doctoral degree in nursing and either a post-graduate teaching certificate or a minimum of two years of academic nursing teaching experience. Once the RN has been deemed eligible, they must take and pass a rigorous exam before being deemed a CNE. As you can see, this process is demanding which can attest to the level of expertise CNEs uphold.

The Development of Academic Curriculum

The curriculum offered by nursing programs form the foundation for the education and training for the nursing students who attend. The curriculum, or courses comprising the nursing program, must be able to meet regulatory requirements as well as adequately prepare nursing students to pass the licensure exam and function at the entry level of nursing.

As you can see, the curriculum of a nursing program is just as important as the information being taught in the classroom. CNEs are experienced, knowledgeable educators who have the necessary skills to create a successful nursing program curriculum. A strong nursing curriculum should encompass the following:

  • Adherence to the state board of nursing's regulatory requirements, which are state specific and may differ between states. This may include the inclusion of certain topics such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment.
  • Meet the state's minimum clinical practice hour requirement.
  • Promote evidence-based nursing practice.
  • Incorporate education on various settings (i.e. acute care, long-term care, rehabilitation, etc.) across the healthcare continuum and across the lifespan.
  • Consider societal trends with regards to how they affect healthcare delivery in the community. For instance, with the aging population across the United States, nursing curricula should include coverage of elderly nursing care concepts.

Adherence to these regulations is vital to the ability of graduates of a nursing program to be able to become licensed. If a program does not meet these requirements, graduates will not be able to take the licensure examination which prohibits them from working as licensed nurses. Moreover, the program could be suspended by the state which may forbid the admission of new students or even require the program to stop functioning all together.

Now that we have a good understanding of what a CNE is and the importance of a robust curriculum, let's put it all together. To get a better idea of the CNE's role in curriculum development, we are going to walk through the process with Mary. Mary is a master's prepared CNE who is a faculty member at a large university. Her experiences in education and bedside nursing practice give her a broad insight into the learning needs of nursing students. The dean of her program tasks her with reviewing the nursing program's curriculum to ensure it meets new requirements set forth by the state's board of nursing. She begins by becoming familiar with the requirements. Below are some examples of what may be included at a broad level; more specific subcategories may also be included.

  • Evidence-based didactic content and supervised clinical experience encompassing the attainment and maintenance of physical and mental health and the prevention of illness for individuals and groups throughout the life cycle care settings
  • Concepts of legal and ethical nursing practice
  • Concepts of patient/client-centered nursing care
  • Supervision of and delegation to unlicensed assistive personnel
  • Evidence-based didactic content and supervised clinical experiences in conducting a comprehensive nursing assessment
  • Concepts of pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology

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