Top 16 Teaching Strategies for Nurses

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 1, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working as a nurse educator involves teaching nurses-in-training the best patient care practices and important healthcare concepts in diagnostics, illness management and medication administration. There are many different strategies for teaching nursing students in the classroom or in clinical a setting. Reviewing the tried and tested teaching strategies can help you as a nurse educator improve student engagement, retention and skill-building. In this article, we cover the various benefits of different teaching strategies for nurses and list some of the best strategies you can try in your nursing classroom.

Related: Learn About Being a Nurse Educator

Benefits of various teaching strategies for nurses

Here are some of the benefits your students can experience when you use different teaching strategies in your nursing classroom:

  • Improved student engagement: When nursing students are challenged and provided information in different ways, they may be more likely to pay attention and participate during class activities.

  • Stronger student relationships: Some teaching strategies involve putting students in groups, which allows students to interact with and learn from one another.

  • Unique opportunities to build nursing soft skills: Teaching strategies that promote interaction during class provide students chances to build soft skills, like communication, critical thinking and collaboration, that can make them more effective nurses.

  • Enhanced clinical skills: Various teaching strategies also take new approaches to teach students patient care skills, which can improve how quickly they learn techniques and apply clinical concepts in real-world scenarios.

  • Increased likelihood of retention: Teaching strategies that actively involve students in their own learning and even put them in situations where they can teach others can greatly improve students' ability to retain important nursing concepts.

  • Promotion of self-guided learning: Some strategies promote independent learning, which can improve students' critical thinking and decision-making abilities.

  • Appeal to different learning styles: How students retain information and stay focused during lessons depends on how they best learn. Some students are visual learners who prefer to observe and get information from watching, while others prefer to learn by doing. Trying different teaching strategies can help you adapt your teaching to different learning styles in your classroom.

Related: 8 Common Types of Learning Styles

16 Common teaching strategies for nurses

Here are 16 teaching strategies you can use as a nurse educator:

1. Lecture

Giving a lecture involves outlining lessons, creating a presentation and reciting information to students. This is a standard teaching strategy for many instructors, and in nursing, this strategy can be helpful in courses that teach basic clinical concepts and applications of biology, chemistry and anatomy in nursing. Using attractive and organized presentations and allowing students to ask questions throughout can maintain student engagement.

2. Mid-lecture quizzing

If you choose the lecture approach, you can also include more interactive elements like quiz questions included throughout the presentation or lecture with:

Quiz applications on a smartphone

Create a lecture-based quiz, incorporate the questions throughout the lecture or at the end and have students submit their responses as questions arise. Some apps gamify the experience by providing points for every correct answer and for giving a correct answer quickly. You can use this tool to introduce friendly competition, make the lecture more fun and increase overall engagement with the information.


Clickers are small technological devices, like a remote, that students can use to submit responses as questions arise during a lecture. Insert quiz questions into lectures and have students use clickers to provide their answers anonymously, which removes the potential fear of judgment for answering incorrectly. Then, you can reveal the answer and the overall response results, which shows students how well they've done and provides you information on whether the students are understanding the lecture. This option also removes possible temptation to use a smartphone during class while still encouraging active participation during a lecture.

3. Simulations

Simulations are classroom exercises where you present real-world scenarios that students, often in small groups, have to work through. One tool you can use for simulations is a manikin, which is common in nursing education settings because it allows students to learn and practice important patient care techniques in a safe, controlled environment. You can improve manikin simulation exercises by creating realistic stories for manikins in particular situations to help students better connect with the manikin as if it were an actual patient, thus increasing students' investment in doing well in the exercise.

Another simulation option you can use in the classroom is a tag-team simulation, which involves a small team of students switching between active participant and observer during a simulation exercise. As an observer, a student must pay close attention to what participants do so that when they're called upon as a participant, they can continue a scenario from where it left off and react to previous actions. This type of simulation can increase engagement and develop skills in observation, problem-solving, decision-making and collaboration.

Related: Guide to Kinesthetic Learning: Definition, Benefits and Careers

4. Online course

Many instructors use online courses to allow students to work through course materials at their own pace. You might include forums and discussion boards for students to answer prompts and respond to each other's answers, additional readings like journal articles, concept breakdown videos, recorded lectures and quizzes or exams. This self-paced learning approach can put students in control of when to complete their work, promoting independence and time management. It also allows students to complete work when they are best able to focus on the content.

You can also incorporate an online course module into an in-person class to optimize time spent in class on practical exercises.

5. Videos

You can find subject-matter and tutorial videos on many online video platforms and use them in classroom settings, like during a lecture, or as supplemental material in an online course. These videos, produced by trustworthy institutions, can provide a new take on concepts, showcase characters or hosts different from their own teachers and use unique features and graphics to enhance viewing. Plus, the novelty of these videos can improve engagement and knowledge retention for visual learners.

Related: A Guide to Visual Learning

6. Storytelling

Storytelling involves creating real-world characters and situations that nursing students may encounter in clinical training or on the job. One technique you can use is to create a virtual community, with families and healthcare workers as characters, that students can follow throughout a course. Students can form connections to the characters and become invested in the stories of families dealing with healthcare situations and healthcare teams working together to solve them. This emotional investment can make students better pay attention to the choices the healthcare workers make and even recall these stories during exams or clinical training.

7. Games

Gamification is becoming increasingly popular in nursing education and healthcare workplace training because of its ability to teach concepts in a fun, engaging way, improve interpersonal communication skills and create strong bonds between students or trainees. There are many ways to gamify the nursing classroom and improve engagement, including:

Crossword puzzles

You can create a crossword puzzle of nursing concepts, vocabulary, theories and other important course content. Then, you can have students complete them individually or in small groups. In advanced courses, you might allow students to create their own crossword puzzles to share with the rest of the class.

Competitive quizzing

When it comes time for exams, you can have students form teams for a review quiz game. You can ask questions and reward points, getting students engaged in working together to determine the answer and excited about recalling important nursing concepts they'll need in the workplace.

8. Collaborative testing

You can also create quizzes and have students break into small groups to review and discuss questions and select the answers together. This technique promotes student-to-student teaching, cooperative problem-solving and critical thinking.

9. Role-playing

Role-playing activities have students play characters in scenarios based on real-world healthcare situations, like patient-nurse interactions. Students playing nurses apply patient care concepts learned in their course, and other students observe and provide feedback. This can be a great teaching strategy to build patient-focused interpersonal communication, quick problem-solving and decision-making skills.

10. Jigsaw

The jigsaw technique involves splitting students into groups and dividing their projects into separate parts, such as by individual topic. Each student in the group chooses which topic and part of the project they want to complete. They complete the research, writing or other tasks in their portion and then share what they learned with the rest of the group. Finally, they compile each part together into a cohesive project.

This strategy creates a learning environment that relies on students completing independent work, which promotes values like dependability, time management and cooperation, which are vital soft skills for nurses. It also has students teaching their classmates, encouraging them to share information willingly with one another to help everyone develop into effective nurses.

11. Debate

This teaching strategy involves providing students a prompt, such as a controversial topic in nursing or healthcare or a current trend in the nursing field, and having them share their thoughts on it. Debating encourages active participation with the material and with fellow students. It also helps students develop skills in critical thinking, public speaking and argumentation.

12. Case study

A case study in nursing is a review of a patient's condition, medical history, diagnoses and treatments over a period of time. Reviewing case studies in the classroom can help nurses-in-training contextualize theoretical nursing practices in a real-world situation. As a nurse educator, you can discuss the case study with students in class and have them talk about the effectiveness of treatments or other decisions from the healthcare team. You can also have students discuss case studies in small groups or in essays.

13. Interdisciplinary partnership projects

An interdisciplinary partnership is where students pair up with academic instructors in different healthcare disciplines to complete projects, including research projects. These partnerships provide students with opportunities for mentorship, professional development and academic improvement. Creating opportunities for students to interact and work directly with you and other instructors can improve students' skills in collaboration and professional communication as well as clinical practice skills. Being able to work with other healthcare disciplines while in school can help nurses-in-training better prepare for working with a variety of healthcare providers in the workplace.

14. Reflective exercises

Many nursing courses require students to complete reflective essays and reviews, evaluating themselves after clinical training. You can also incorporate reflective exercises throughout a course, such as after completing projects or in-class exercises. Self-reflection allows students to assess their performance, identify their strengths and weaknesses and ideate how they can improve.

15. Service-based learning

This teaching strategy involves taking students out of the classroom and putting them into service projects or organizations in the community. This may include the class going as a whole or students going in small groups or individually to complete service hours. Some service-based learning activities might include volunteering at a local healthcare-related organization or clinical setting, such as a hospice center. Students may complete a variety of tasks or projects, developing skills in collaboration, communication and problem-solving. Service-based learning also promotes values like dedication to community and active learning.

16. Peer assessment

Peer assessment involves students grading each other in a variety of situations, such as after individual presentations, group projects or essays. This teaching strategy allows students to practice critical analysis and giving constructive feedback. It also promotes student-to-student teaching since they share their knowledge and perspective with students they grade and can review their assignment considering feedback they got from peers.

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