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Published on July 08, 2021

A Day in the Life of a Nurse Educator

While every shift is different for a nurse educator, Jamie Sills taught us what one might expect if they were to spend a day in her shoes. Below is a real-life snapshot.

As a clinical nurse educator for Johnston Health’s ICU, my job varies day by day. Overall, I am responsible for helping implement new education for the staff in the intensive care, and step-down or progressive care units. Here’s what one day at Johnston Health looks like for me.

7 a.m.: Arrive in Clayton for Skills Day, a yearly required activity for all nurses employed by the hospital system. Certain skills are presented to staff to ensure their competency and to answer any questions they may have. I was responsible for skills like insertion of nasogastric (NG) tubes, care of the patient with a chest tube, lipid administration, accessing and caring for a port-a-cath, use of a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump, and removal of a hemodialysis (HD) catheter. We have four-hour blocks of time for classes, with three classes scheduled. Therefore, I teach from 7:30-11:30 a.m., 12:30-4:30 p.m., and then 5:-9p.m. Luckily, most groups of nurses finish the class within three and a half hours, so I have extra time to complete other work. 

11:15 a.m.: I now spend time going through all the equipment we set up to make sure it is ready for the next group. This is also our time to make extra copies of tests, grade the tests from the first group and send them to their managers. After this, I check my email for anything that needs immediate attention, especially since I am expecting an email from a representative for the Impella device, a new heart failure assistive device that Johnston Health’s ICU will soon be using. 

11:35 a.m. - noon: I eat lunch with my coworkers in the hospital cafeteria. We talk about our plan for the next group of nurses coming through and if we need to alter anything from the morning session. 

12:10 - 12:35 p.m.: I spend this time checking in with the nursing staff who is scheduled for the next Skills Day session. We have 15 students scheduled, and six extra show up. We direct them to tasks they can work on alone before we split into groups. The nurses play a little game with questions about hypoglycemia and meal time insulin administration. After teaching both groups, we release them to work on tests and other activities on their own. When they are finished, the other educators and I grade their tests and prepare paperwork for their managers. This group of nurses finishes around 3:30 p.m. 

3:30 p.m.: After they leave, I answer pertinent emails. Then, I make a schedule for the following week. I’ll be doing education on the actual nursing units for progressive mobility. This education is geared towards ICU patients, so I have to make schedules for both the ICU in Smithfield and Clayton. I also have to plan times to be at the hospital to educate both the night and day shift nurses. In these sessions, I teach nurses working in the ICU why it is important to mobilize patients (get them moving) earlier and more frequently. Research shows progressive mobility has many positive effects on patients, including shorter ICU stays and quicker healing. I decide to start my education in Clayton and email the manager of the ICU to let her know I will be on the unit the following Tuesday and Thursday. These educational sessions or “inservices” will take place in the ICU from 6-8 a.m. each day. Then, I’ll go to Smithfield the following week to provide the same education to the ICU nurses there. 

4:15 p.m.: After getting my schedule for progressive mobility inservices, I walk up to the second floor (ICU) and third floor (med-surg) to do quick check-ins with staff. No staff have any pressing needs, but one nurse asks me if the education department can put out more information about Heparin drips. Another nurse overhears our conversation and reiterates the need. I take notes on their questions and make sure it is on my to-do list after Skills Days are complete.   

Afterward, I stop by the ICU manager’s office to discuss education for staff on bladder pressure monitoring. We brainstorm how to make training as realistic as possible. A few ICU staff members were educated and trained on this skill when we had a patient that required this type of monitoring, but because it isn’t done as frequently as other skills, we decided to set up a simulation. We also discussed planning an ICU Skills Fair that would be specific to ICU staff. 

4:50 p.m.: I come back downstairs to the Skills Day setup. Nurses for the 5 p.m. session are already coming in, so I sign them in and tell  them where to go and what to complete. We split them into groups and we begin again. Each group of nurses that come to Skills Day has varied backgrounds, so some have more questions than others. I demonstrate the entire PCA pump setup and also pass around a port-a-cath so the nurses can familiarize themselves with this equipment. After we complete the teaching for both groups of nurses, we allow them to finish their tests and once again, grade them and send them to their managers. This group of nurses finish around 7:45 p.m. The other educators and I then ensure everything is set up for the next day. I leave around 8 p.m. Tomorrow starts another day of “Skills,” so I will return to Johnston Health Clayton at 7 a.m.

Watch our video below to learn more about becoming a Nurse at Johnston Health. 

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