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Pivoting: Forging a New Career Path 1. Transition to Teaching

(check out this video series on Nurse Practitioner Global Initiatives Youtube)

Roberta Heale

One of the most common work transitions for nurses and nurse practitioners is from clinical practice to teaching. You may find yourself, like I did, working full time clinically while teaching part time and wanting to flip the two. There are some strategies that you can implement that may increase your chances of transitioning to teaching.

It can be helpful to start by targeting the organization or program where you’d like to teach. What are the criteria for this organization? Start by checking with the organization and try to connect with people who work there to find out what criteria are required for teaching and what teaching opportunities are available.

There are other ways to find out information about teaching at an organization. Most teaching organizations have faculty associations and collective agreements. These CAs determine how people are hired and may include clauses that give those who have taught before first dibs on courses. They also typically include how much someone is paid to teach a course and how many courses/credits you are able to teach in a semester. CAs include many other important items, so you definitely should find the CA of the school where you’ve applied or where you teach and review it in detail. Also find out who the association executive members are and who to contact if you have questions.

Many times you aren’t hired directly into a full time position. Rather you teach one course at a time. This work has a different name depending on the school: Sessional instructor, lecturer, etc.

These teaching positions are often posted on the website of the school (university or college). Make sure you’re aware of where these jobs are posted and check frequently.

Contact the school directly: the coordinator, director or dean can direct you to what positions are available and how to apply.

If you’re looking for opportunities to teach there may be competition for courses and you may need to set yourself apart from the others.

An important consideration is completing a graduate degree. A masters is typically the baseline for those in teaching positions at colleges and universities. Many require a doctorate (e.g. DNP or PhD). It can be very challenging to obtain a graduate degree while practicing, but many people can’t afford to leave work to study. Thankfully there are many schools that offer graduate degrees with flexible course delivery options. It’s been my experience that the focus of the graduate education doesn’t always matter…for example, a doctoral degree outside of nursing may be acceptable. However, it’s important to check with the school you wish to work at to see what their expectations are.

Education programs often have a focus on the academic pursuits of their instructors. Other academic pursuits that can contribute to your application for teaching are to:

Publish an article (What about Nurse Practitioner Open Journal?)

Another example of academic work is to present at a conference.

Participate in research (seek out people conducting research and ask if you can help)

Joining professional and education associations related to education may open doors for you…such as NONPF. Getting involved in associations not only demonstrates your motivation to be involved in your profession, but there may be opportunities within the association to gain experience in academic or teaching pursuits that you can highlight on your CV.

Teaching isn’t easy. We’re taught to work clinically, to teach clients/patients about health issues but not how to teach in a formal education setting. Seeking out seminars, webinars, education programs or certificates is a great way to gain knowledge about teaching and learning while you are working clinically and planning your transition to a teaching position.

For example:

Search out certificates for preceptors.

Take a course about the principles of teaching online.

Attend a conference workshop about adult education.

One of the most obvious places to start is to gain teaching experience. Becoming a preceptor within your current clinical workplace is an example. Nowadays education settings are scrambling to find people who are willing to be preceptors for students either in groups or 1:1. If you haven’t been contacted by a local school then you may want to make some inquiries and find out if there any precepting opportunities. If you’re new to a preceptor role, then it’s always helpful to do a bit of homework first. In my experience the education facility knows who is a good preceptor and preceptor experience may help you to build your reputation with the education program as well as honing your skills in teaching.

Once you have a teaching role, you want to make a good impression so you’ll be considered for additional, or full time work.

Some organizations are notoriously poor at ensuring their employees (even sessional instructors) are fully oriented. Here are a few things to check up on before starting.

Did the organization take the information required to pay you? What is the payment schedule?

Schools use Learning Management Systems, or software programs that house the course syllabus. You may have to load a course syllabus yourself and manage the student discussions and emails etc on the LMS. It’ll be important to have information about the LMS prior to the start date, along with information about your responsibility, who to contact if problems arise.

You are typically given an email address for the school and should use it for all school related communications. If you teach in a class on campus, you’ll need to find it, have a key or ensure it’s unlocked, know how to use the equipment in the room.

Find out where the policies are for things like safety, harassment, plagiarism (and other student infractions), appeals.

Find out the deadlines for submitting final marks and how to do so.

There’s much more, but this is a starting point.

If your ultimate goal is to teach full time, then these are good steps toward this goal. During this entire process, keep an eye out for permanent positions and be ready to apply for them when they come up.

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