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Advanced Practice Roles: Nurse Educator


The nursing practice contributes significantly to the successful management of patients in health institutions and the community. Over the years, nursing has grown into a multifaceted career that has different areas of patient management. This situation has led to the development of various advanced practice roles in nursing where specialist nurses perform the roles. The need for these advanced nursing practice roles emerged with improvements in healthcare. One of the advanced practice roles in nursing is the nurse educator. This essay looks at a relevant nursing theory that supports this advanced practice role of nurse educators. It employs the nursing theory concept to determine how the theory leads to improvement in the nursing advanced roles.


Just like most healthcare professions, nursing was traditionally gained through apprenticeship. Improvements in various concepts of care over the years and desire for standardization led to the emergence of nursing education and courses that equipped nurses with the necessary skills (DeNisco, & Barker, 2013). The results included the increasing number of nursing schools and continuous nursing education for the working nurses. With the development of this form of education for nurses, some individuals who had the relevant training and a certain amount of nursing practice were called to act as special tutors and educators for Registered Nurses (RN) and their Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) counterparts.

Most nurse educators work in faculties of nursing education. Although this advanced nursing role is anchored by almost all nursing theories, the most relevant theory that this paper discusses is the goal attainment theory that was proposed by Imogene King (1999). The relationship between the theory and nurse educator role is discussed in the next section of this paper. This nursing theory is also the main presumption for most of the other nursing advanced roles (Alligood, 2014).

Goal Attainment Theory and Nurse Educator

Who is a Nurse Educator?

A nurse educator is an individual who is involved in the preparation and teaching of different cadres of nurses before practicing or continuing with education to acquire a license (Brooks, & Thomas, 1997). The qualifications of nurse educators are dependent on the region in which they apply the rules and/or policies that govern nursing practice and nursing bodies (Brooks, & Thomas, 1997). In most countries, the basic qualification of a nursing educator is a basic nursing degree. However, most nursing educators have some degree of nursing practice. The majority of them have education degrees and certificates as the other qualifications (Brooks, & Thomas, 1997).

Goal Attainment Theory

Imogene King (1999) proposed that human beings are open systems that interact constantly with the environment within which they are housed. Imogene King projected different systems that interact to provide human beings with the experience that they possess, including the personal system, the society, and the interpersonal system. In the personal system, individuals interact with their body image, time, and personal space to acquire knowledge and information. Some of the concepts that Imogene King anticipated in the personal system include perception and individualism.

The interpersonal part of this nursing theory proposes that human beings learn through socialization, transaction, communication, and interaction. They also learn from society, which is the other part of the theory. According to this theory, society includes the family, school, peers, work, and religious groups among other groups.

Application to Nurse Educator

King’s theory of goal attainment applies directly to the advanced role of nursing education. The theory supports the transfer of experience between individuals as one of the most effective ways of learning as opposed to direct learning. Nurse educators transfer their experience to nurses and nursing students using the theory. According to King (1999), the nurse and patient should interact in decision-making processes regarding the patient’s management and health. Goal attainment and development of management objectives also contribute significantly to the best patient management.

The goal attainment theory proposes the interaction of different individuals to achieve the best patient care. It proposes that every individual provides different ideas, values, and attitudes as some of the special facets that are important in the management of patients. They should be transferred between nurse educators and their students. King’s theory features some important factors to consider when engaging in teaching patients, nursing staff, and nursing students. These factors include the claim that learning occurs through the interaction of individuals, environment, theory, and society.

Concepts and Sub-concepts

Components of the Goal Attainment Theory

King’s goal attainment theory consists of several concepts that contribute to the overall effectiveness of the theory and its application in nurse educators’ roles. The major concepts that make up the goal attainment theory include social systems, interpersonal systems, and personal systems.

Social Systems

Social systems in the goal attainment theory describe the society in which human beings are situated. The nursing practice considers the communities in which individuals exist and their social beliefs in the delivery of nursing care. Nurses cannot practice in the absence of social systems. Hence, this theory is not only relevant in practice but also nurse educator’s advanced role. Social systems dictate nurse educators to train nurses in society. Nurses should take time to know the society in which they are situated. According to King (2000), the role of a nurse educator is to equip nurses with updated nursing care and practice. However, this practice is only relevant if it considers the social aspects of patients.

Interpersonal Systems

Interpersonal systems as proposed in the goal attainment theory refer to groups within which individuals and nurses operate and/or belong. King observed that when nurses are put in groups, they function well than when they operate separately (Hebenstreit, 2012). One of the nurse educator’s roles is to encourage the existence of interpersonal groups within which nurses can function. Therefore, this concept of the goal attainment theory supports the role of nurse educators by improving nursing care provision for patients.

The Personal Systems

The personal systems as discussed in the nurse educator’s advanced special roles regard human beings as greatly influenced by their attributes and traits. Nurse educators aim to influence the personal systems of nurses to ensure that they learn basic personal attributes and/or modify those that can be changed to suit the nursing practice and care. Nurse educators train nurses on how to create goals, set up structures for care, and/or facilitate their learning. Personal systems in the goal attainment theory are thought to influence the learning process of individuals in nursing and other areas (Hebenstreit, 2012).

Research and EBP Guidelines

Research and Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) are two concepts that are related and in constant conflict with each other. Research guidelines allow the analysis of the best practice in nursing and healthcare by using research methods to investigate health interventions in nursing. Research informs practice since what researchers find appropriate is incorporated into practice. Most of the available practices resulted from research concerning how they work when incorporated into practice. The main difference between research and EBP is that research may not necessarily lead to the adoption of a suggested intervention while EBP uses the available evidence to influence the available practice.

Improving Practice

Nurse educators are key pillars in the improvement of nursing practice. Incorporating the goal attainment theory improves the nursing education practice through the different concepts discussed above. Nurse educators should consider the personal, interpersonal, and social systems at play in the delivery of nursing education. According to Hebenstreit (2012), nursing theories are developed after rigorous trials and research. They are applicable in most nursing aspects. The goal attainment theory can improve practice in several ways, including the improved interaction between the proposed systems to produce better nurses.

Nursing educators frequently incorporate different skills from practice and books. The application of the goal attainment theory will ensure that the knowledge they share satisfies the social, personal, and interpersonal systems of the individuals they are training. Traditional standards of nursing care that are taught throughout the nursing institutions offer the best example. The goal attainment theory requires that the statutes of nursing care be altered based on the society that the nurses will practice. A nurse who is practicing in a developing country such as Africa is ill-equipped compared to another who is training to work in a significantly developed country. These two nursing students should receive different pieces of training that are relevant to their social systems.

Religious affiliations provide another example since they constitute the interpersonal system in the goal attainment theory (Cone, & Giske, 2013). Different religious beliefs have different levels of care. These levels are important in nursing education. Nurse educators should consider the religious beliefs of students under their care and alter their teachings based on these beliefs. The consideration of patients’ religious beliefs should also be a key part of nurse educators’ education to their students.

Changing Role and Scope of Practice

The roles of nurse educators should change after the application of King’s goal attainment theory. Nurse Educators need to incorporate the different systems proposed in the theory in their general management of nursing students and their patients. They should engage more in teaching future nurses at their respective places of work. The training should be based on these workstations. Nurse educators need to focus their training on the personal systems of individuals. This strategy means that apart from training students and nurses, they should consider the learners’ views and incorporate them in the final practice.

In practice, nurses should ensure that they maintain social links because nursing is not practiced in a vacuum. The laws, systems, and beliefs of different individuals are important in training and care. Hence, nurse educators should incorporate them while performing their roles. According to King (2000), the scope of nursing practice is ever-changing. Researchers use nursing theories to support these changes. The goal attainment theory is one of the theories that will influence future changes in nursing care.


Imogene King proposed the goal attainment theory that is crucial in nursing care and the advanced practice role of a nurse educator. This paper has proposed that the theory is crucial in the alteration of nursing care and the practice of nursing education. The different concepts that the theory incorporates include social, personal, and interpersonal systems. The consideration of these systems by nursing educators will lead to better patient management and nursing care.

Reference List

Alligood, R. (2014). Nursing theorists and their work. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

Brooks, M., & Thomas, S. (1997). The perception and judgment of senior baccalaureate student nurses in clinical decision-making. Advances in Nursing Science, 19(3), 50-69.

Cone, P., & Giske, T. (2013). Teaching spiritual care – a grounded theory study among undergraduate nursing educators. Journal Of Clinical Nursing, 22(13/14), 1951-1960.

DeNisco, M., & Barker, M. (2013). Advanced practice nursing: Evolving roles for the transformation of the profession. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Hebenstreit, J. (2012). Nurse Educator Perceptions of Structural Empowerment and Innovative Behavior. Nursing Education Perspectives, 33(5), 297-301.

King, M. (1999). A theory of goal attainment: Philosophical and ethical implications. Nursing Science Quarterly, 12(1), 292-296.

King, M. (2000). Evidence-based nursing practice. Theoria: Journal of Nursing Theory, 9(2), 4-9.

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StudyKraken. (2022) 'Advanced Practice Roles: Nurse Educator'. 31 March.

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