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Reducing variations in clinical nurse educator roles: a service improvement project standardising roles and career pathways

24 June 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 12



There is limited research evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of clinical nurse educator (CNE) roles in clinical practice. UK employers tend to use generic nursing job profiles, although the definition, expectations and implementation of nurse educator roles are interpreted differently between employers.


This project intended to reduce variation and standardise job titles, job descriptions and job plans for CNEs ranging from band 5 to band 7 and identify the academic requirements and professional experience required of each band.


An evaluative service review of existing CNE roles was conducted across a large division of a major NHS hospital trust. Focus group interviews were conducted to identify CNEs' and matrons' perceptions of the role.


Themes identified from the coding of narrative data included: the importance of the role; variations in expectations of the role, job titles, job descriptions and plans; and a lack of career progression pathways.


This service improvement project demonstrates that a standardised approach to the implementation of CNE roles can be achieved with the support of a unified senior nursing team. Clearer role definition and career progression pathways would improve job satisfaction and may help retain CNEs in post.

Across the UK, there are wide variations in registered nurse job titles, job person specifications, role expectations and pay bands within the nursing workforce.

Leary et al (2017) examined variations in the job titles of nurses working in specialisms in the UK. From the available published studies (n=17 960) they found 595 different job titles. Similarly, there is evidence of 35 variations in clinical nurse educator (CNE) job titles and different expectations of CNE roles across the UK (Sprinks, 2015).

In 2014, the first UK Clinical Nurse Educator Network (CNEnet) was founded. Survey feedback from CNEnet's 235 members identified: variations between organisations in how CNEs work; inconsistencies in job descriptions; and the lack of a national framework or career progression pathway for CNEs in the UK (Sprinks, 2015).

UK CNEs are usually registered nurses employed by NHS organisations, not universities, to ensure staff receive essential training and support in clinical practice (Sprinks, 2015). The role of the CNE is multifaceted and encompasses a variety of responsibilities and role expectations, such as:

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