Health care educational programs have different kinds of instructors. An anatomy professor, for example, teaches in lectures and lab sessions, while a leadership instructor might confine herself to the classroom setting. Clinical instructors supervise students in patient care settings, and have different responsibilities than other types of instructors.
Personal Characteristics and Skills
A clinical instructor might be found in a medical, nursing, dentistry or veterinary setting, as well as in allied health settings such as respiratory therapy, physical therapy and radiology. In each case, the clinical instructor should have the necessary professional skills and experience relevant to her profession. In addition, she should have excellent communication skills, both oral and written. She must be able to apply critical thinking concepts and present information to students from varying backgrounds, and must adapt her teaching methods to different learning styles.
Growing the Next Generation
The primary function of a clinical instructor is to impart the knowledge that will make a student a safe, competent practitioner. Her tasks might range from communicating an understanding of the theory behind a particular practice to the detailed, hands-on skills of patient care. She must correlate the clinical instruction with precepts and theories the student learned in the classroom setting or practice labs. Clinical instructors supervise clinical rotations, guide students through new or complex procedures, demonstrate the most effective way to perform a task and provide mentoring and emotional support in stressful situations.
A Multitude of Tasks
Like other postsecondary teachers, clinical instructors prepare lesson plans, evaluate student performances and attend meetings. They might assist in curriculum development or be responsible for supervising assistant clinical instructors or graduate students. Some clinical instructors might also conduct research and publish their results in professional journals. In certain programs, the clinical instructor provides didactic instruction as well as supervising the clinical experience, while in others, the two roles are separate.
Instructing the Instructor
Educational requirements for clinical instructors differ according to the field. Nursing clinical instructors, for example, might obtain a license with a nursing diploma, associate or bachelor’s degree, but typically need a master’s degree to teach in a community college and might need a doctorate to teach in a university program. A physical therapist who is a clinical instructor in a physical therapy program needs a doctorate, while a dental hygienist might need a master’s or doctorate. Most clinical instructors must also have an active license, be certified or both.
Money Matters and Job Outlook
Salaries and potential job growth will vary according to the occupation. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that postsecondary teachers as a whole can expect job growth of 19 percent from 2012 to 2022. This growth rate is faster than the 11 percent average growth rate projected for all occupations. The 2012 median salary for postsecondary teachers was $68,970 a year, according to the BLS.
- HealthECareers Network: Job Description of a Clinical Instructor
- University of Portland: University of Portland School of Nursing Clinical Nursing Instruction Roles & Responsibilities
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physical Therapists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Dental Hygienists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Teachers
- Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images
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