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HealthDecember 03, 2020

Mastering the juggle and finding work-life balance as a nurse educator

By: Catherina Chang-Martinez, PhD, MSN, RN, ARNP
Are you a new educator? Have you been working in the education field for a while? Do you feel overwhelmed by multiple priorities and do not know how to get it all done?

While exciting, staff nurses may find themselves overwhelmed by the transition to a nurse educator role. The nurse educator role is pivotal in many organizations. With the increased advances in medical protocols and complexity in medical technology, more organizations find themselves in an increased need for nurse educators to support the novice nurse in the field. Nurse educators may find themselves in the midst of juggling multiple priorities to meet the needs of their organizations.

As we think of the juggler throwing the balls up in the air, we can think of the multiple roles new nurse educators encounter during their daily routine. While these are all separate roles, together these make part of the nurse educator as a whole. As the nurse educator juggles them all, it is important to keep in mind that the nurse educator has to switch on these different “hats” or roles, whether the coach, lecturer, quality control person, academician or individual. These juggling balls may also represent different tasks the educator may be presented with during the course of the shift, day, week or school term.

For the nurse educator in an acute environment, these competing priorities will include the delivering of education to nursing staff, nursing students, writing a clinical guideline or policy, grading student assignments, joining administrative or council meetings and continued learning to maintain competence as a nurse educator. In the academic environment, some of these priorities may extend to engaging in scholarly work, writing manuscripts for publication, and engaging in service in the community.

Following Benner’s novice-to-expert theory, new nurse educators may find that their mastering of juggling priorities will improve over time, with repeated exposure and opportunities to perform in the role or the task at hand (Benner, 1988, 2001). The process of mastering the art of juggling requires practice, consistency, and patience. However, in the long run, the nurse educator is likely to reap great benefits. Some of the benefits may include job satisfaction and retention for the nurse educator and nurses as staff at a time when we are facing a critical nursing shortage (Arian & Soleimani, 2018).

How can the nurse educator make the juggle easier? Here are some tips:

  1. Be flexible. Realize that you cannot be in two places at once. Allow yourself not to be perfect. Recognize that as you try to handle many balls, there are only so many that you can keep up in the air. Practice saying “no” when you cannot compromise the time allocated to high-demand priorities.
  2. Write a to-do list of assignments and their respective deadlines. You may set this up using technology like a digital calendar. You may also set up a board and write the assignment. Set your due date two-three days in advance of your scheduled deadline. This will help to anticipate for any potential delays due to unexpected circumstances. Review your to-do list periodically.
  3. Prioritize your assignment. Prioritize these by date and degree of relevance or importance.
  4. Monitor your progress. Evaluate the use of your time.
  5. Be creative. Identify opportunities to match activities or responsibilities and combine the two. For instances where these activities or responsibilities do not match, set additional time within your daily or weekly schedule to make progress on the designated activity or responsibility.
  6. When not clear about an assignment, seek clarification early in the process. This will help you make changes and deliver the completed assignment on time.
  7. Seek mentors and resource people in your field.
  8. Set time for yourself. Allow time to refresh and recover, especially when you juggled more than what you could handle at one time. Put yourself on the priority list. Add some self-care back in. Self-care is important to reduce your stress, replenish your resources and enable you to deliver high-quality education to your students or staff; and care and empathy to those around you.
Catherina Chang-Martinez, PhD, MSN, RN, ARNP
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
  1. Benner, P. E. (1984). From novice to expert: Excellence and power in clinical nursing practice. Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., Nursing Division.
  2. Benner, P. (2001). From novice to expert: Excellence and power in clinical nursing practice (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  3. Arian M, Soleimani M, Oghazian MB. Job satisfaction and the factors affecting satisfaction in nurse educators: A systematic review. J Prof Nurs. 2018 Sep-Oct;34(5):389-399. doi: 10.1016/j.profnurs.2018.07.004. Epub 2018 Jul 7. PMID: 30243696.
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