When you’re a nursing student, thinking about your finances seems almost like a pointless task. With the immediacy of paying for school and the almost universal need for student loans that you pay back after graduation, thoughts of your future financial plans stay where they are – way in the future.
Believe it or not, this is actually a great time to think about your future and your finances, which includes retirement but also might include big-ticket things like a car, a house, travel, or additional educational costs. When you start working right after graduation, you’ll want to develop good financial habits right from the outset. If you can begin planning for your future early, you’ll be much better prepared.
You may not be able to set aside money when you’re still taking courses and during clinicals, but you can learn how to make good financial choices.
Set a Budget
As a nursing student, get comfortable with the funds you have, the funds you earn, and the amounts you owe. Don’t guess at how much your food costs are each month—add them up so you know. Use an online budget app like Mint (it’s free!) to calculate that in with your rent or mortgage, any insurance costs, student loan payments, transportation, and costs for entertainment, pets, or clothes.
Balance that with what you take home each month and you’ll get a good idea of your cash flow. If you get comfortable doing that early on, you’ll have an easier time making sure you make solid, financially stable decisions in the future.
Learn Where to Save
When you have a budget, you’ll know what you have and don’t have. You can figure out if you can cut back on one thing to make some extra money for something you want. Eliminating a take-out lunch once a week and you can easily save another $50 to $70 a month. Add that to an emergency fund until you have enough to cover three to six months of expenses. Then start putting it in a retirement fund. You’ll never notice the difference.
Pay Your Loans
This one is simple, but can be difficult. If you have student loans pay them on time every single time they are due. Defaulting on your student loans or being late on payments can wreak havoc with your credit score. And you’ll need good credit to secure a car loan, a loan for a home, or even future student loans if you return to school. Don’t let a mistake limit your life that much.
Plan Your Next Steps
Set some financial goals. Do you want to save $1,000 this year? Do you want to commit to saving 15 percent of your income? Figure out how much that breaks down to save each week and then do that. Either have it automatically withdrawn and placed in a different account or fund or do it yourself each payday. Setting concrete goals complete with amounts and the steps you have to take to reach your goal is half the battle.
Start implementing steps toward setting good financial behaviors now and you’ll be thankful years down the road.
This week, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners is highlighting all the work nurse practitioners (NPs) do with National Nurse Practitioner Week.
The week kicks off today and runs through November 18 and honors the work NPs do both on the job and as ambassadors for the nursing profession.
Minority Nurse caught up with Dr. Scharmaine L. Baker, FNP, FAANP, FAAN, CEO at Advanced Clinical Consultants, to talk about the role of a nurse practitioner. After Hurricane Katrina, Baker’s New Orleans patient caseload swelled from 100 to 500 in three months. With a critical shortage of health care facilities and providers, Baker’s skills as an NP not only saved her patients, but also clearly showed how invaluable her thorough NP training is.
National Nurse Practitioner Week, says Baker, is a way to give nurse practitioners the recognition they often don’t receive. “National Nurse Practitioner Week gives us the positive spotlight that we deserve,” she says.
This kind of national attention to the nurse practitioner’s work shows the devotion nurses have to caring for a patient, and also helps clear up any misunderstandings about the role and how an NP works within a health care team. “Nurse practitioners don’t just prescribe a medicine and send you out of the door,” says Baker. “We take the time to listen to the patient stories about their children, spouses, pets, and job promotions. These stories often solve the complicated puzzle of making an accurate diagnosis. It’s called holistic care of the total man.”
When prospective nursing students are deciding on a career path, Baker urges them to consider a few things. Top in their minds should be the honest assessment of their commitment to making this career decision. Taking the time to complete the challenging NP studies isn’t easy, she says. “Once they have decided that this is indeed the right time to pursue an Advanced Practice Nursing degree,” she adds, “then the necessary preparations as far as letting family and friends know that they will be somewhat unavailable for the next three to four years because the schooling demands all of your time for successful completion.”
But when the degree completion and training are done, the potential for a lifelong career that challenges you, uses all your skills, and lets you connect with and help people is gratifying on many levels. As a nurse practitioner, you’ll be diagnosing, assessing, and treating medical conditions. You’ll also look at the whole patient. NPs take into account the interplay between a patient’s physical and emotional well-being as well as the environment they live in. By doing so, they can help treat every part of a patient’s condition.
“I get to hear the stories that make my patients happy or sad,” says Baker. “Then, I get to connect those stories to their physical state. They are always related. I enjoy providing health care on this advanced level. I get to take care of the whole patient.”
Baker also points out that while NPs continue to earn recognition and some states are allowing them to practice on their own, there is still work to be done. “The most challenging and frustrating part of advanced practice nursing is the many restrictive laws that prevent us from practicing to the full extent of our scope,” she says. “It’s downright ridiculous! I long for the day when all states will actively have full practice authority.”
Currently, nearly two dozen states allow nurses to have full practice authority where they practice without physician oversight. Baker continues to advocate for full practice authority among all nurse practitioners. She also urges NPs and the nursing profession to continue to honor the nurses who worked so hard to get all nurses where they are today.
“Many have fought for us to be where we are,” says Baker. “Every time we show up and provide stellar care, we make our founding nurses beam with joy. We must never forget their sacrifices.”
Celebrate National Nurse Practitioner Week this week and spread the word about these highly skilled professionals. Use #NPWeek to share photos and tags on your social media posts to help others see just what satisfaction a career as an NP can bring.
When young children and young adults don’t hear about nursing as a viable career choice or learn about how to pursue a nursing career, the world loses an untold number of excellent potential nurses.
Mona Clayton, MSN, RN and CEO of Nurses 2 Roc Pub, knows all too well how some dreams need a little nudge. She is making sure that will happen with a goal to reach out to 100,000 people worldwide to tell them that a nursing career might just be the best career for them.
As a kid growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Clayton didn’t have the encouragement she needed to even think of nursing as a career. “You could say nursing chose me, I didn’t choose nursing,” says Clayton. “I didn’t think about nursing as a career at all. I didn’t like blood, and I didn’t like math. And I never had anyone tell me I could do this.”
She didn’t have professional role models telling her that her fascination with health care and the medical dramas she watched on television might mean she had a passion worth pursuing. They could have told her she could overcome her queasiness about blood and that improving her math just meant she had to practice.
Clayton aims to be the inspiration and mentor for those who might want to follow the same path. With seminars in person and online, casual discussions, a blog, and a pure determination to have good people become good nurse, Clayton spreads her message.
Clayton’s path changed when her cousin became a nurse and when Clayton herself worked in a trauma unit while attending college. After forays into journalism, pharmacy, computer science, and business, Clayton went back to school for her nursing degree in her mid 30s. As an older single mom who was also a minority and didn’t consider herself great in math, Clayton says the unknown was scary. “I think the main barrier for many people is the mindset that they think nursing is an impossible venture,” she says.
In fact, Clayton says when she is running a seminar, the young adults she is speaking with invariably ask her the nuts and bolts of how she achieved her goals. They want to know how she applied to a nursing school and how she even knew which one to apply to. They ask how she was able to pay for classes and did she work and go to school simultaneously. They want the details on how she managed while being a single mom and how hard her classes were. They are all hungry for information on how to make their dream become reality.
Clayton admits the road for her wasn’t always smooth. Her daughter was active in lots of school activities, and Clayton relied on extended family to help fill in the gaps as she continued to work and go to school while raising her daughter. When the going got tough, Clayton says she just looked at her daughter. “She kept me going,” she says. “I wanted her to see the importance of education. I wanted her to see how I did it and then they think, ‘If she did it, I can do it, too.’”
And while Clayton’s message connects her with people worldwide, you’ll also find her talking to people in Target or at the gym. She talks to kids who are curious about nursing and older people who are thinking about going back to school for nursing. And she recruits men and women believing a balance of genders is necessary in the workplace.
“I could go and work as a nurse and not do this,” says Clayton, “but this is a passion and drive I have. It feels great when I see someone succeed.”
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, and nurses are in an excellent position to notice when patients might be suffering from a mental health condition.
Nurses have the knowledge and authority to offer patients the facts about mental health, and they can normalize conditions like depression or anxiety. They can convey the important fact that, like any other medical condition that needs to be treated properly, mental health conditions are a physical and chemical imbalance and not a character flaw.
Although the general attitude toward mental health conditions is gaining more mainstream discussion and acceptance, the attitudes vary greatly. Factors like location or family culture can either normalize depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder make it a forbidden topic. Knowing a little about how your patient sees mental health conditions can help you adapt your approach.
On World Mental Health Day, nurses worldwide can spread the word by offering access to online screening tools through places like Mental Health America or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. They can offer referrals to area mental health providers if appropriate. This year’s theme focuses on mental health in the workplace, so it’s also a good time to open up discussions in your workplace about paying attention to our own mental health and how it impacts job performance.
But nurses can also just talk about mental health issues in a nonjudgmental manner to put patients at ease. If someone is struggling with something like racing or unusual thoughts, severe anxiety in public places or about specific topics, or experiencing significant impacts to daily life because of sadness, they want to know they are not alone. Nurses can fill that role with care, compassion, and expertise. They are also there to offer hope that with treatment, the person can feel better and can begin to resume a life they are happier with.
Of course, some patients are reluctant to talk about their mental health directly, but they might bring it up in ways that are less obvious. Nurses can ask direct questions or they can listen for clues in conversations. What are your patients saying? Are they gaining or losing weight? Having trouble sleeping? Becoming more argumentative or less engaged with their family and community? Are they missing work or getting in trouble at work for being late or making errors? Are they drinking more or using recreational drugs?
It’s good to remind patients that a mental health condition doesn’t always require medication, although that is often a good option, and it isn’t always a lifelong condition. Other treatments like therapy, stress reduction, and healthy living basics like exercise, quality sleep, and a good diet also help lesson some symptoms. Sometimes problems are a result of a different condition or a side effect of a medication—factors many people don’t know. Getting to the root of the problems will help a patient find the right treatment plan.
The important message is that help is available, treatment works, and that first step can bring them enormous relief. Your positive attitude and compassion can make a big impression and can influence how people see their condition and think about treatment.
On World Mental Health Day, remain alert to what your patients are telling you. You may be able to help change their lives in a way you didn’t expect.
Emergency Nurses Week kicks off today and offers a reflection of the lifesaving efforts and skill of emergency nurses who are called on to deal with catastrophic conditions, both natural and human-created, with little or no notice.
Karen Wiley MSN, RN, CEN, and president of the Emergency Nurses Association, says recent events highlight the unpredictability of the job and the exceptional need for emergency nurses.
“I am most proud of the way our nurses have come together in the past several weeks,” she says. “With the devastation from multiple hurricanes and the unconscionable event in Las Vegas, we have seen countless acts of sacrifice, selflessness, and dedication in emergency care from our nurses. I am proud of my colleagues every day, but the effort I have seen through these tragedies is truly remarkable.”
Wiley says emergency nursing is a complex role that involves treating the physical reasons for the visit, but also careful and expert communication with the team and the patient, families, and loved ones. “Most people do not realize the diversity of work emergency nurses must perform besides treating physical injuries,” she says. “Patients enter emergency departments struggling with addiction, mental health issues, as victims of sex trafficking, and, all too often, are violent themselves.”
If nurses are considering moving into emergency nursing or are wondering if the path would be right for them, Wiley says it helps to consider the range of what nurses encounter on a given day. “Thinking quickly on your feet is an essential skill for emergency nurses,” she says. “Situations change in a moment in the emergency department and nurses must react effectively.”
In the midst of an environment where many things are happening simultaneously, emergency nurses are still in charge of the patient’s comprehensive needs. “Emergency nurses must keep patient advocacy foremost at all times,” says Wiley. “The care, safety, support, and education of patients is our primary focus and dominant concern during a shift in an emergency department.”
Because they will take care of patients with many different conditions and situations, emergency nurses have to stay current on the latest medical information, so they have to be willing and able to constantly reeducate themselves about new developments, treatments, and methodologies. Emergency nurses continuously hone their craft, says Wiley, and that means being able to multitask effectively, efficiently, and accurately in a high-stress situation.
Emergency nursing is physically taxing, but it can also be an emotional challenge as well. Because of the very nature of an emergency room, patients don’t always survive despite the heroic efforts to save them. “Emergency nurses need to be prepared for the death of patients while not letting emotions affect their care,” says Wiley. Many hospitals have supports for their emergency room teams, especially after a trauma event, but the day-to-day exposure to death is something emergency nurses must cope with for their own job performance and their own mental health.
In addition to the challenges of treating so many physical and mental health issues, emergency nurses have to be able to quickly decipher and assess patients’ needs and conditions. “Choosing which patients need the most immediate care is challenging because the number of factors that need to be taken into consideration,” says Wiley.
For some nurses, the emergency room is where they perform best. And the ability to make such deep connections during that time is powerful. “Caring for patients who are in the most vulnerable state of their lives is an absolute privilege and an honor,” says Wiley. “The ability to comfort the patients and their loved ones when they need it most is humbling.”