The NLN Makerspace Strategic Action Group: Two Nurse Educator Perspectives

By: Kyle Johnson, PhD, RN, CHSE, Texas Tech University and Shannon Olson, MSN, RN, Arizona College

For nurses and educators, 2020 was a disruptive and challenging time. Nonetheless, amidst the burden of a global pandemic, there were some highlights for our communities. One highlight was the shared experience of a small group of nurse educators involved in the inaugural National League for Nursing (NLN) Makerspace Strategic Action Group.

What is a makerspace, you may be asking? While not a new concept, a makerspace is described as a “physical location where people gather to share physical resources and knowledge to build solutions” (Forneris, 2019, para. 1). The NLN, an innovator in nursing education, designed a virtual workspace experience for collaborative learning, exploration, creation, and dialogue. Nurse educators with varying levels of experience and educational backgrounds were tasked with the ambitious endeavor to define, create, and operationalize faculty development initiatives that would support the 21st-century nurse educator and meet the transformative needs of today’s learners.

Facilitation of the NLN makerspace by Drs. Susan Gross Forneris and Barbara J. Patterson helped us sift through numerous innovative ideas and engage in dialogue. We unpacked several topics intentionally designed to disrupt standard processes within teaching and learning while supporting the creation and integration of innovative pedagogical strategies to support today’s nurse educator. Numerous ideas emerged and percolated around the virtual “think tank” of the makerspace through shared philosophy, mindset, curiosity, vision, and disruptive innovation.

What is it like to experience a makerspace? For the two of us, Shannon and Kyle, the decision to commit to such an immersive process was intriguing, thought-provoking, and humbling. We represent diverse educational and professional backgrounds, but we agree that the opportunity to contribute in such an innovative, knowledge-sharing arena was like no other. The value of a lived experience is integral to both the nursing and education professions. We hope that by sharing our perspectives we can provide insight and offer support for future nurse faculty as they develop and embrace their practice and pedagogical endeavors. 

Shannon:  “I was initially introduced to the concept of a makerspace at the 2019 NLN Education Summit, where I participated in a mini-brainstorming session over the lunch hour. As I participated in a small group, I recall feeling excited that many of my colleagues addressed similar issues to my own. I wasn’t alone in this new career, after all. I felt empowered from the simple act of sharing ideas and collaborating to seek transformational solutions. From this experience, I eagerly accepted the invitation to participate in another makerspace.

As a nurse educator of two years at the time, feelings of apprehension and unworthiness about participating with experienced panelists on a larger scale were overwhelming. Imposter syndrome, a familiar foe, was present at that first meeting. Like many new nurse educators before me, my transition from bedside nursing to the nurse educator role was not without struggle. Barriers such as course workload, isolation, marginalization, organizational commitment and support, socialization into the profession, and fostering competence in educational pedagogy are common areas of concern identified in the literature (Bittner & Connor, 2012; Harris, 2019). I felt all of them.

As I grappled to find my bearings in a new role, whatever confidence I possessed as an educator at the beginning of 2020 was deeply challenged by the onset of the global pandemic. However, the makerspace offered an opportunity to engage in something meaningful during a chaotic time.”

Kyle:  “As a nurse educator in my ninth year of teaching and third year of research in nursing education, the invitation and goals elicited an excitement that couldn’t be contained, paired with similar feelings that Shannon experienced —imposter thoughts. I entered into the field of nursing education research in my late 20s/early 30s. I felt humbled to be asked but also wondered, What do I have to offer? I had navigated many of the barriers Shannon mentioned. When it comes to competence in pedagogy, I was privileged to have had some excellent teachers who exposed me to alternative pedagogical/theoretical approaches and pushed me into learning about the education discipline while learning specifically about nursing education. Although one might say I developed competencies about pedagogy in these nine years, I still struggle with enacting pedagogies that challenge us to question our standard practices in nursing education. The makerspace invitation gave me hope to explore these barriers and ways of thinking about teaching with participants who had dedicated their careers to making nursing education better.” 

As the thinking and making process of the makerspace evolved, themes that most resonated with both of us centered around the notion of the makerspace itself. We were in awe of our collective ability to actively contribute in a rigorous, iterative process that resulted in our identifying a need, teasing out potential solutions, and creating something tangible. This was both empowering and transformative. The makerspace provided inclusiveness and a collective process to share and dissect various experiences, knowledge, and insights that generated momentum for innovative ideas to materialize in nursing education.

Through these efforts, our group identified key concepts for further development in the areas of professional identity, coaching, community, socialization, ideation, resource development, and scholarship. That resulted in the presentation of a collective vision and further dialogue with a broad community of educators at the 2020 NLN Education Summit — held virtually, of course, because nurses and educators don’t skip a beat.

While the NLN Makerspace Strategic Action Group has concluded, the creative and innovative ideas that emerged continue to be developed by the NLN. Through this experience, one thing is certain: The NLN Strategic Action Makerspace embraced us as teachers/facilitators in a space that enabled a diverse power-sharing practice and created the beginning of a movement — from a traditional vertical (least to most experienced) to a horizontal (shared or collective experience) framework. It offered a place to bring our imposter thoughts into a space where barrier-breaking was encouraged. We were valued for our individual and collective curiosity to become better educators.

The makerspace experience fostered a mindset to explore and discuss what we know and have yet to learn about education, pedagogy, the disruption of nursing education through innovation, and nurturing of a community (Forneris, 2020). Whether you have been a nurse educator for 2 years or 20-plus, know that this unique NLN Strategic Action Makerspace welcomes thinking, making, creating, and exploring the question: How do I become a better teacher? We look forward to engaging more as these ideas come to fruition at the NLN.


Bittner, N.P., & O’Connor, M. (2012). Focus on retention: Identifying barriers to nurse faculty satisfaction. Nursing Education Perspectives, 33(4), 251-254. 

Forneris, S.G. (2019, June 27). Makerspaces: If You Can Imagine It…You Can Make It. NLN Nursing EDge.

Forneris, S.G. (2021). Makerspace mindset at the NLN part 2. Nursing Education Perspectives, 42(2), 131. 10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000790

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