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What is Your WHY as an Educator? (and Why it Matters!)

By September 3, 2020June 2nd, 2023No Comments

Have you ever thought about what motivated and inspired you to teach? Why do you do what you do as a nurse educator?

After taking a week off for needed rest and reflection after completing my Ph.D. studies enjoying the beauty of the Lake Superior North Shore in Northern Minnesota. The image of this blog post was my vantage point for the week!

As I reflected, I was impressed with three words that each begin with “P” that provide wisdom, guidance, and direction for the next chapter of my life.

I believe that they also have relevance for every nurse educator!

Here are my three takeaways that can also empower you and fill your tank if you feel that you have been running on empty lately.

These three principles are:

  • Pace
  • Priorities
  • Purpose

If you’d prefer the video blog, click below, otherwise keep reading!

1. Pace

How fast is your gerbil wheel spinning right now, and how long has it been at that pace?

Is this pace sustainable because the pace that you are currently on over time will inevitably wear you down!

Though there is a season where one needs to step it into high gear, be sure to know when to put it into low gear so you can go the distance over the course of the semester and year.

Looking back, the pace that I was on the past 2+ years pursuing and completing my Ph.D. was a pace that was not sustainable and was beginning to feel the burn.

I have committed myself to go slower from this point on and going at the speed of soul, which is a pace that nourishes and respects one’s spirit and soul.

Our culture and technology are pushing us to conform to live at a pace that the human spirit was not meant to live.

Be intentional and put boundaries on your schedule, including needed margin by pursuing blank space to be still and nourish your soul and your spirit.

2. Priorities

What is most important in your life?

For most of us, it is relationships…relationships with our spouse or significant other, family, or our God.

But does your schedule practically reflect this reality? This is the real test, so look back over your calendar and your day-to-day schedule to see if this is lived out in your life.

The challenge of the tyranny of the urgent is that what is urgent demands your attention right now. As an educator, there is no shortage of urgent tasks that must be attended to and emails to respond to. But are these things really most important?

Never forget that relationships are fragile and can wither and die if not nourished over time. Like the classic Joni Mitchell song from the late 60s, “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” is so true. Don’t let that happen to you!

3. Purpose

I took time to read the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Simon has also done a TED talk on the same topic that has received millions of hits that I encourage you to check out.

Identifying your life purpose and mission, which captures your WHY as a nurse educator, is essential to fulfilling the reason that you entered nursing education in the first place.

Your why must inspire and motivate everything that you do to make a lasting difference in the pursuit of teaching with excellence.

Take a moment and reflect and identify the motivation and reasons that you pursued an advanced degree and then began to teach. Academia can be a joy stealing environment, and over time we can easily lose sight of our purpose and our why.

Take a moment and write down your why and place this on your desk, where you are constantly reminded and inspired by your why and how you are making a difference teaching the next generation of nursing professionals!

Your students also need to be inspired by their WHY to go the distance as a student. Be sure to check out my most popular blog on this same topic Why Every Student Needs to Develop a Personal Mission Statement Before They Graduate


I have been on a proverbial gerbil wheel the past several years since I began KeithRN in 2012 as a passionate educator wanting to make a difference and serve the needs of nurse educators by creating innovative case studies and other resources to bring about needed transformation in nursing education.

The essence of my why that keeps me inspired is to:

Transform nursing education by challenging the status quo by providing educators with practical tools to transform the way nursing is taught to better prepare students for practice and licensure.

KeithRN empowers educators to develop students to become superheroes in scrubs who save patient lives because they possess clinical judgment!

I really believe that nursing education can be transformed one educator at a time and you are part of that needed change!

Though I have been running on fumes lately when I remind myself of my why it keeps me motivated and encouraged and reminds me that I am making a difference.

The Bottom Line…

Why has the academic-practice gap persisted in nursing education for almost 50 years and needed transformation has yet to be realized 10 years after Dr. Patricia Benner sounded the alarm after publishing the book Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation?

It is not because of a lack of knowledge or information but a lack of why and purpose among nurse educators in nursing education as a whole.

Your WHY influences HOW you teach.

Your why influences and motivates everything that you do including the choice to invest the extra energy and time to innovate your content with active learning to better prepare students for practice or to give students what they want (passive-content-heavy PPT lecture) and maintain the unhealthy status quo.

Make it a priority to identify your why and if it has been lost in the shuffle of the ongoing challenges currently present in nursing education, do all you can to find it, write it down, remind yourself daily of it and then live it out!

In Closing

As you look ahead to the new year, remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint. Be sure to pace yourself accordingly and live each day pursuing those priorities that are truly most important in your life.

Never lose sight of your why and that you live out and communicate this to your students to inspire them not just to pass the test, but be the best so that they too become superheroes in scrubs that save lives and make a difference in everything that they do!

Related Blog Topics

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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