Stress and nursing education

It is summertime and the living is easy. Or so they say for many college educators who are perhaps “off contract” for the summer months. At the school where I teach, our contract ends at the end of May and we are not obligated to be on campus until the start of September. It sounds a bit heavenly, but of course much of the summer is spent working and reworking classes and syllabi.

For instance, this summer I am reworking 4 classes to align with our new course objectives and revised program outcomes. This really means everything from changing course textbooks, to reworking assignments, to updating readings. I read recently in a nurse educators social media discussion site that many educators leave nursing education because the work is constant (preparing for class, evaluating students, and so on…). It is not like a 12 hour shift where on some levels (in theory) you can walk away from work and be done. Particularly with teaching online, the online classroom never closes, and revisions also seem to be continual as we consider student feedback on an ongoing basis.

For myself, I continue to teach for various schools during the summer when I am not obligated to my primary position to teach. I enjoy doing this because it usually means I am working with graduate students and even with doctoral students outside of nursing education… and getting caught up on bills that seem to accumulate during the year is also enjoyable. As you may have heard, educators working in academia generally make less money (particularly given our educational levels) than those nurses who work in hospital environments.

I teach online during the summer, so there are no long commutes to campus, no meetings to endure (I love and treasure my colleagues, but focusing  hour upon hour is challenging to me), and though I am teaching 5 online courses this summer, my stress level is low. My body feels easy and soft, my chronic back pain has gone from a continual 3-5/ 10 to a 0-1/10. I sleep better. I lost 5 pounds and have more time to eat a healthy diet, and more time to make better choices. I work out everyday in a quality way, not trying to squeeze it into those moments between. I wake up and meditate, and don’t always feel obligated to get right online to check those urgent messages. I don’t worry about having enough time to do everything. I don’t worry about not having enough time to teach because of all of the administrative and accreditation issues, I just teach, and I try to write something publishable in the summer related to nursing education or caring and healing. And I rework my 4 classes which takes continual ongoing focus.

Although I think I do everything I can to manage my stress during the school year, obviously there is a difference here in my lived experience. During the school year I do meditate every morning, do yoga before bed every night, and work out 5-6 days/ week. But somehow, it is still not the same as having the freedom of a less restricted schedule.

And this also leads me to believe that there may be inherent stressors in our work environments which we may not have control over; I would love to hear stories of nurse faculty who are not feeling stressed during the school year. How does your work environment impact your life as an educator?


  1. When I grow up I want to be just like you! Or maybe I need to find another job. Although I preach much of the stress reducing techniques you describe above, I find it hard to put it into practice. My stress recently relates to trying to find time in these bridge programs to cover all of the course content along with trying to work on the socialization of the nurse, what does it mean to truly be a nurse. Thanks to my summer spent in class with the revered Peggy Chinn as facilitator, I am so much more aware of our nursing heritage, and fave a desire to share so much more with the nurses of tomorrow.

    So your post prompted many thoughts in my head. Enjoy your summer!

    Bethany Powell

    • Bethany, you are blessed to have taken a class with Peggy. Changes are sometimes slow and evaluating your own stress is important as we consider the depth of our work and our own stress response.

  2. Reading your blog has given me a new insight and appreciation for nursing education. When I began my career in nursing education, only 1.5 years as a clinical instructor, I did not realize how much work was involved. I appreciate reading stories of those who have been there. It reminds me why I do the work that I do. Thanks.

  3. I do meditate too to relieve stress but I can’t seem to find the time (nor energy) to do yoga. Nursing is a tough job and many will never understand it, but its totally worth it. I too would love to hear from educators who are not stressed, because I find it hard to believe there are those people out there!

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