The Integral Role of the Nursing Education Specialist

By Kim McPhee, MS, RN-BC


Kim McPhee says her role as a nurse education specialist, "requires a lot of knowledge and expertise in a variety of different areas."As a nursing education specialist (NES), I help impact clinical practice through professional development and leadership. My professional practice at UW Health is guided by the scope and standards for nursing professional development. UW Health has provided me with a variety of opportunities to continually grow in the nursing profession.


I am most proud of our Nurse Residency Program (NRP). With UW Health's support, in 2011, our NRP became one of the first accredited programs in the country. As the coordinator for the NRP, I strive to understand the needs of the new graduate nurses and strongly advocate for them. Nurse residents' needs change over time and we must continually change and adapt to those needs. We evaluate each cohort and incorporate their feedback into program changes. For example, we recently changed their work schedule to include 12-hour shifts to provide them with a better work-life balance and preceptor continuity. Because of the success of our program, the University HealthSystem Consortium, which oversees the national NRP, has asked me to train new site coordinators for the past seven years.


The NES role is multi-faceted and requires a lot of knowledge and expertise in a variety of different areas. In addition to precepting new NESs, I provide a variety of educational opportunities for staff and am involved on many task forces that work on process improvements. I was recently involved with a task force for differentiating the roles of clinical nurse specialists (CNS) and NESs at UW Health. Our work culminated in a role clarity document outlining responsibilities for each role.


In addition to coordinating the NRP, I have had the opportunity to be the interim educator for emergency services for almost two years. Although this practice area was new to me, my experience as an educator helped me identify ways to better support nursing staff. We incorporated formal evaluations for all new hires in the emergency department (ED) and subsequently evaluated our orientation process. We explored the competency paperwork to ensure the learning needs of new staff were met and they were competent to care for our patients before orientation ended. We also revived the ED Workspace—an informational repository located on our intranet—as a valuable clinical resource. New and existing staff have been educated and have begun to use it more regularly.


Recently, I was asked to present at the Infusion Nursing Society's national conference. We have a strong educational plan for teaching new graduates about infusion nursing practices and I was able to share our practices with others during the conference. Additionally, I submitted an article on this topic to their journal, which was accepted for publication earlier this spring.