“Delivering our future workforce is ultimately dependent on a sustainable and high quality educator workforce to support education and training, both in practice and in academic settings” (Health Education England 2023, pg. 3)

By Dr Jane Wray, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, Hull University, and Senior Clinical Nurse Advisor (National Preceptorship Programme)

The ‘Educator Workforce Strategy1 was recently released in England has acknowledged the urgent need for workforce investment and capacity building across practice and academic settings. Health-care expectations continue to shift, new information technologies emerge, practice requirements continue to evolve and as a consequence the educator role has increasingly diversified2 with evolving competencies and skills3. The role has become complex and challenging to deliver especially during the pandemic4 however chronic workforce shortages and service pressures continue to impact the amount of time educators can spend with learners to fulfil this vital workforce function.

HEE used the term ‘educator’ as an ‘umbrella term’ in England that covers a range of roles in practice and academic settings including (but not exclusive) such as practice assessors, supervisors, clinical supervisors, workplace supervisors, academic staff, academic assessors, practice educators, designated supervisors.  It covers, regulated and non-regulated professions1. The titles, roles and responsibilities and job titles of people fulfilling these roles also varies considerably, many educators including some or all of those roles (amongst many others) within a specific job. Educators can be based in higher education, clinical practice or in units shared between academia and practice, this  varies across countries5. However,  they share a commitment and responsibility, that is ensuring patient safety and high quality care through the provision of high quality education, training, supervision, support, assessment and the continuous development of staff.

Growing the capacity and skills of this workforce is central to the success of retention initiatives. A skilled and enabled educator workforce, aids workforce satisfaction, its development and sustainability.  To address this, HEE has identified 7 strategic priority areas1 (pg. 4);

  1. The educator workforce must be a key consideration in integrated workforce and service planning
  2. Establishing and protecting educator time and resources to support the implementation of the Integrated Care Board workforce plans
  3. Introducing career frameworks for educators of all professions
  4. Supporting the development and wellbeing of educators
  5. Supporting improvement through defined standards and principles
  6. Promoting the NHS aspirations to improve equality, diversity and inclusion
  7. Embedding evolving and innovative models of education

The implementation plan is to be developed later this year, and further consultation is underway to find a way forward to deliver on these ambitious plans.  Digital literacy and learning is likely to feature significantly and reflects similar plans in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. Career frameworks for educators will be central to this work going forward, this must however, also go hand in hand with formal systems that also include recognition, reward and promotion.

References

  1. Health Education England (HEE) (2023) Educator Workforce Strategy. Available at Educator Workforce Strategy | Health Education England (hee.nhs.uk)
  2. Coffey JS, White BL. The clinical nurse educator role: a snapshot in time. J Contin Educ Nurs, 2019; 50: 228–232. https://doi-org.hull.idm.oclc.org/10.3928/00220124-20190416-09.
  3. World Health Organisation (WHO) (2016) Nurse Educator Core Competencies. Available at; Nurse educator core competencies (who.int)
  4. Enback, S (2020). COVID-19 Insights Impact on workforce skills. Skills for Health Covid-19-Workforce-Survey-Key-Insights.pdf (skillsforhealth.org.uk)
  5. Veera K, Mikkonen, K, Pohjamies N et al (2022) Competence of clinical nurse educators in university hospitals: A cross-sectional study. Nordic Journal of Nursing Research 42(4): 195-202.

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