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How to Define Your Success as an Educator

By January 23, 2020May 26th, 2023No Comments

One of the mistakes many nurse educators make is that they allow the feedback of novice nursing students to determine if they were successful in teaching their students.

I received an email from a nurse educator who wrote:

“Right now, I am feeling very disappointed, and depressed, with no desire to continue teaching nursing students. I just received a comment on my course evaluation from a student who shared anonymously that I should be respected only as a nurse but NOT as an educator because of my obvious incompetence to teach and that most of the class agrees with her.

As the admin for the Facebook group Teachers Transforming Nursing Education, a community now with over 15,000 members, the essence of this feeling is all too common, and have read numerous similar posts.

To see what is true, let’s define success.

Redefining Success

What about you, as you reflect on the past year, did you have a successful school year?

Success in nursing education is typically defined by many variables, including:

  • Course pass rates
  • First-time NCLEX pass rates
  • Student feedback on evaluations

Though each of these metrics has some relevance, they do not capture the essence of your true success as a nurse educator. To determine if you had a successful year, success first needs to be defined.

Defining Success

As KeithRN has grown over the years, it is tempting to focus on the wrong metrics that everyone else uses to determine business success.  To keep me put first things first, I had to redefine what success looks like for me.

For me, success is not defined by the size of my business. It is about making a difference by serving the needs of nurse educators to empower them to reform how nursing is taught.

For example, I can…

  • choose to serve well with excellence
  • choose to support the needs of educators
  • choose to create the best possible resources to empower educators to implement needed change

My success is not defined by others. Success is completely within my control which is the only thing I can control.

Your definition of success needs to do the same.


Success is defined by you, so you are the one who can control whether the goals that define success for you as an educator were attained.

Secret Sauce of Success

The secret sauce that defines success is entirely in my control whether I have accomplished this measure of success and is not dependent in any way upon others.

For example, I can…

  • choose to serve or not to serve.
  • choose to engage with other educators at a personal level or not.
  • choose to be part of the solution and create content to close the academic-practice gap or not.

I decide to let go of what I can’t control and emphasize what I can control to properly define my success. Your definition of success needs to do the same as well.

Listening to the Wrong Voices

If you look closely at the nurse educator, I quoted at the beginning of this blog, based on her response her definition of success as an educator was wrapped up in what students thought of her teaching. She lost control of defining success and was beginning to drift.

To provide a counter balance to the other voices that are out there in academia, choose to listen to the voice of truth and ensure that your definition of success includes variables entirely within your control such as:

  • my students will feel the warmth of the passion that I have for teaching and nursing
  • choose to get out of my comfort zone and do things differently
  • serve my students well and do all I can to help them be successful
  • I will influence my students by developing an authentic connection with them

  1. Write down your answer to the question; How do YOU define your success as an educator, and what does this look like when it is realized in your life?
  2. Place this answer in a prominent place where you can review it regularly to remind yourself of the authentic voice of truth it represents, then share it as a comment at the bottom of this page.
  3. Give no one the power to steal your joy or passion for what you do. There are a purpose and a reason you are in academia despite the sacrifice in pay and other benefits you may have enjoyed in clinical practice.
  4. Take a few minutes and keep it real in your next dept. meeting and share your definition of success and collaborate to develop a unique departmental definition of success that includes preparing students for practice!

How do you define success as an educator? Are the variables you identified completely in your control?

Closing Thoughts

Florence Nightingale wrote the following that puts real success as a nurse and nurse educator in needed perspective about the importance of making a difference:

“One whose life makes a great difference. All are better off than if they had not lived.”

I, too want to make a lasting difference because of not only what I do but the spirit and motivation I bring into my work. Life is short. Use it to leave a lasting legacy inspired by your definition of success and live it out in all you do.

Then you can look back at your life and career with no regrets knowing you did not waste your life, but was a life well done!

Keith Rischer – Ph.D., RN, CCRN, CEN

As a nurse with over 35 years of experience who remained in practice as an educator, I’ve witnessed the gap between how nursing is taught and how it is practiced, and I decided to do something about it! Read more…

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