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Addressing the Crucial Need for Health Professions Educators


Education, in some form, touches every aspect of medicine. Whether health professionals are providing one-on-one education to patients, creating educational resources for a broad patient population, precepting students during clinical rotations, participating in interdisciplinary rounds, or discussing evidence-based practices amongst peers, some form of learning is embedded in nearly every medical situation. 

Because of this, most clinicians are naturally skilled educators. So making the decision to transition into an instructional role after years of clinical experience makes perfect sense. Not to mention the extreme demand for health professional educators.

If you’re intrigued by the thought of leveraging your years of experience to help equip and empower future generations of health professionals, keep reading to learn more about this rewarding opportunity.

Understanding the demand for health professional educators

It’s no secret that the healthcare field as a whole is experiencing extreme growth. In fact, it’s projected to add more new jobs in the coming years than any other occupational group, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is largely due to an aging population requiring more access to healthcare services.

In order to help meet this demand across the board for healthcare practitioners, there is a parallel need for qualified educators to train them. This is where the opportunity lies for seasoned practitioners to step up and build upon their existing abilities as natural educators in a new way.

Many health professions such as nursing, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and medical laboratory sciences are experiencing a high demand for qualified educators. Regardless of your precise area of practice, there’s a need for experienced professionals like you to help equip the future of your field.

Consider nursing as an example. The American Association for Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported that 75,029 qualified applicants were turned away from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2018 due to faculty shortages, amongst other academic resource insufficiencies. Additionally, a separate AACN survey revealed that 1,715 nursing faculty vacancies were identified in a survey of 872 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs across the country.

This predicament exists in other health professions as well. The healthcare field is in need of a faculty pool skilled in pedagogy and meaningful learning; faculty who are prepared to maximize limited resources to effectively prepare future healthcare professionals for clinical practice.

Appreciating the importance of health professions education

Healthcare institutions and national organizations are working to maximize patient outcomes with limited resources, and education is an essential component to addressing this demand. Educators are not only needed in college settings, but also in clinical environments.

Clinical care navigators, patient education guidelines and disease management programs are a few examples of the growing use of education in clinical practice. Additionally, clinical educators and clinical effectiveness experts teach health professionals about the latest developments in healthcare practice. 

All of these instructional opportunities depend on individuals trained in health professions education. Keep reading to find out how you can be part of the solution by taking this next step in your healthcare career.

Advancing your career through health professions education

Much like healthcare is built upon science, education also comes with its own growing body of evidence-based practices. The practical knowledge and experience you’ve gained in the field is half of the equation. But in order to effectively train aspiring practitioners, you’ll also need to acquire skills specific to the practice of educating.

This is why graduate education is essential to a career in health professions education. Bellarmine University’s Ph.D. in Health Professions Education was designed specifically for working professionals like you who desire to expand their impact in the healthcare field.

The program is geared toward experienced practitioners with diverse healthcare backgrounds, equipping them with the educational theories and strategies needed to complement their existing clinical knowledge and skills. Graduates are prepared for college and university teaching, leadership and research careers.

The Health Professions Education program meets regional and professional accrediting body requirements in healthcare-related fields, including:

  • Nursing
  • Physical therapy
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Athletic training
  • Speech-language pathology
  • Medical laboratory sciences
  • Imaging sciences
  • Pharmacy
  • Physician assistants
  • Radiation therapy
  • Dental hygiene
  • Healthcare administration

What to expect from the Health Professions Education program

If you have experience in one of the fields mentioned above and have a desire to pass along your passion and wisdom to others, you’re an ideal candidate for the Bellarmine University Ph.D. in Health Professions Education program. Now you’re probably curious about the details of the training.

This is a 48-hour cohort-based program with a blended delivery format to provide convenience for working practitioners. This means students will attend physical classes on weekends while completing online coursework in between. You’ll meet three to six weekends each semester, with courses being spread out through eight semesters (no more than two courses per semester). A dissertation will be completed during semesters nine and ten. 

The Health Professions Education curriculum covers important elements such as student development theory, the practice of teaching (pedagogy), curricular development and assessment of learning outcomes. 

Here’s a sampling of the courses included:

  • Pedagogy in Health Professions Education
  • Diversity in Healthcare Education and Workforce
  • Principles of Student Assessment and Evaluation
  • Statistics in Health Professions Education Research
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Health Professions

This well-rounded training will help you acquire the leadership and education skills needed to effectively pass along your existing knowledge to the next generation of healthcare practitioners.

Increase your impact on the future of healthcare

As the American author Leo Buscaglia once said, “Change is the end result of all true learning.” 

Rapid advancement in healthcare makes health professional education a critical element to continued growth of clinical practice. Opportunities are mounting for healthcare professionals with experience and knowledge in the science of teaching and learning.

If you feel compelled to take advantage of the opportunity to leverage your experience in a new, impactful way, learn more about how Bellarmine University can help you prepare. Visit the Ph.D. in Health Professions program page for more info, or email program chair, Dr. Christy Kane, at

Contributed by Sarah Pehlke, MHS, RRT

Tags: College of Health Professions News , health professions education , healthcare

About Bellarmine University

Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.