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Concept Analysis (Part Three): Novice to Expert, Nurse Educator

Updated: May 22, 2020

The theory of Novice to Expert can be applied to the nurse educator’s journey. Nurse educators should model caring in their teaching, which promotes caring in student nursing. A nurse may feel that they are in the expert stage in their current clinical position, however, upon transitioning to a new role as educator, may find themselves at the novice level. Observing a mentor or fellow expert nurse educator allows for the adoption of effective skills. In order for the novice to progress effectively to the expert stage they must embrace opportunities to be mentored by expert educators to assist in learning instructional best practices and collaboratively reflect on teaching experiences. The concept of achieving expertise in nursing is one that involves advanced knowledge and skill and is assessed within the context of one’s current nursing practice. As it is possible for a nurse to be a novice in one area and an expert in another, the specific practice must be assessed within its own limits.


Nurses can transition through stages in various roles throughout their careers. Upon entering a new role such as that of a nursing instructor/educator, the expert clinician may find himself or herself in the novice stage. The process of becoming a new nursing instructor can be stressful. The National League for Nursing has identified issues observed within novice nursing faculty. Some of these issues include preparing to teach, understanding the curriculum, and staying current with clinical care best practices. Support from the scholarly organization, coupled with application of developed ways of knowing can aid development of the educator role. As significant stress and anxiety have been noted in transitioning from expert clinician to novice educator, mentorships and opportunities for growth should be included in faculty-to-faculty organizational models. Benner’s theory encompasses the concept of “knowing that”, which rests on nursing theory. Improved understanding of nursing theory, thus improved ability to “know that”, drives evolution of the novice nurse educator to the expert nurse educator, as applying Benner’s model to thought and practice provides guidance. During the transition from expert clinician to novice educator, the nurse must rely on their history of knowing how (knowledge and skills) and knowing that (theory) to aid in their growth and success within the new role. Benner’s model can be reviewed and applied to encourage growth and foster deeper understanding and practice. The nurse can implement their skills and knowledge that have developed over time to acclimate and advance their skills in their educator role.


In addition to relying on their history of ways of knowing and attempting to build on that, the novice nurse educator can also look for a mentor to seek guidance from. This guidance can be instrumental in the formation of new knowledge and skills. Not only does the expert educator act as a mentor to their students, they also educate their peers. A novice educator can seek guidance from an expert educator and utilize these interactions to not only progress their practice, but also to evaluate their success in progressing thus far. The challenge for mentors who are experts at educating is to relay expert practice to their novice counterparts. Expert nurse educators hold intuitive understanding between salient issues and potential outcomes. Within a scholarly program, Benner’s model can be applied to guide thinking and analyze policy to facilitate growth in new-hire nurse educators. The level of support may vary depending on the type of position, such as that of a full time professor versus the adjunct clinical instructor. However, this model can be used as a guide and a source of motivation at all levels to promote improved performance. Resources can be allocated to meet the revolving needs of the program and ensure successful position transitions and growth. These ideas are also pertinent for application to nurse educators in other arenas outside of the scholarly classrooms and clinical sites. As experience as a facilitator develops, daily interactions become more fluid.


The expert educator is confident in their knowledge and skills and possesses intuitive knowing of where their students are in their learning process. Experts hold multiple ways of knowing that can be gauged and evaluated and include the ability to induce student learning inside and outside of the classroom, which carries the capacity to use established and experienced understanding. The nurse educator can assess their position on these facets and seek feedback from mentors to assist in evaluating one’s development.

As nurse educators develop their practice, motivation and support from expert nurse educators modeling practice is fundamental. The guidelines set forth by Benner’s model allow for encouragement of growth and ways to assess progress in practice. What stage do you align with? Did you have a mentor when you first started out? Do you currently have a mentor? Are you currently mentoring?


Case Examples to Consider: In working to establish one’s role, this practice can ideally be observed as a novice nurse educator paired with an expert educator mentor, meeting initial goals, while striving to exceed them to build upon knowledge and successfully advance to the expert stage. In a related case, the novice nurse educator strives to progress to the expert stage, however, meets limitations and has difficulty progressing when true definitions of expert are not fully understood and embraced. If one does not attempt to overcome these obstacles they may not develop their skills and knowledge, and therefore find themselves halted in an earlier stage. Illegitimately, this theory may be applied to conversation as a means to critique a nursing peer's performance based on the way in which one subjectively views their colleague. During these cases, the term “expert” may be used loosely and not accurately portray a nurse’s true stage of transition in practice.


If you missed the start of this series, please go back and read Part One and Part Two.


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