• nurse education;
  • nurse roles;
  • nursing theory;
  • professional development;
  • reflective practice

adams r. (2011) Exploring dual professional identities, the role of the nurse tutor in higher education in the UK: role complexity and tensions. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(4), 884–892.


Aims.  This paper presents a discussion on the role of the nurse, teachers in mainstream education and nurse educators, reviewing theories of professional identity and how these theories have had an impact on practice.

Background.  The professional identity of both the teacher and nurse aspect of the nurse educator role is reviewed using historical perspectives to define the role of a nurse from doctor’s handmaiden to autonomous practitioner, and determine society’s idea of a teacher.

Data sources.  The literature reviewed for this paper has been drawn from the Cumulated Index Nursing And Allied Heath Literature, Educational Resources Information Centre, Professional Development Collection and Education-line. The period of literature publications taken up for review was 1960–2009 to gain a historical view and the main phrases used were Nurse Education and Educators, Nurse Roles, Professionalism and Professional Development.

Discussion.  Issues of role complexity were considered, highlighting tensions, supposed or actual and ethical obligation in healthcare education. The apparent need to gain professional status is discussed.

Implications for nursing.  Tensions and complexities in the nurse educator’s role combine, causing problems in their practice. Opinions are that nurse educators are expert nurses and teachers. Published authors believe that there is a need for the nurse educator to maintain specialist knowledge in nursing practice, yet there is little discussion relating to specializing in teaching practice.

Conclusions.  Combining the roles of nurse and teacher removes each concrete identity. A role crisis occurs when nurse educators may be unable to prove their professional ability in nursing or establish their professional position as a teacher.