5 Tips for Making the Transition to Nursing School

5 Tips for Making the Transition to Nursing School

New student orientation at most colleges and universities starts within the next six weeks, and for new nursing students, the prospect is both exciting and daunting.

How can you make the transition to nursing school easier? Here are five tips.

1. Get to Know Your School

Follow your new school’s social channels. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn offer excellent insights into what your school is all about, and they’ll probably even share tips that will help you. Check out the campus maps online, and take a virtual tour, so you’ll know where all the buildings are, where you might grab a bite to eat, and where you’ll find your classes and the gym.

2. Learn About the Area

Your campus might seem like a bubble, but it probably is an integral part of the wider community. Whether your school is in an urban center or a rural outpost, find out about the neighborhood. What’s around the school? How are students helping out in the community? Are there places that seem safer than others? Look at the local Chamber of Commerce to find out about nearby attractions and things to do.

3. Find Our About Your Courses

Nursing often has one of the most structured curriculum plans in any school. With so many required courses, it’s good to have an idea of what you’ll need to graduate. The school’s course catalog (often found online) is an excellent resource. Here, you’ll find out about the faculty in your department, the required courses and credits for your degree, and the course descriptions. If you know this, you’ll have a good idea of what your college courses should look like, and you’ll be less likely to be surprised by any forgotten requirements.

4. Meet People

Host or go to a gathering of students in your area. Join a Facebook group for your class and any of the clubs you’re interested in. Talk to your roommate in one way or another. If you are close enough, take a trip to campus to walk around and talk with people. Once you get to campus, you’ll be glad to meet up with familiar people.

5. Get Excited

Yes, this is like stepping into the big unknown. But, it’s also the start of a journey that will take you to one of the most rewarding careers possible. You’ll have successes and failures, and you’ll learn different things from both. Start envisioning this new path and welcome the changes it will bring.

Location, Location, and Another Location: Working as a Travel Health Care Worker

Location, Location, and Another Location: Working as a Travel Health Care Worker

DeeQuiency M. Donerson is studying in nursing school, but unlike some students, he already knows what he wants to be after he becomes an RN: a travel nurse. Since May 2010, Donerson has been working as a Certified Surgical Technician with Trustaff, and he likes what he does so much that he now wants to take on more and become a nurse.

“Every contract is 13-week assignments. I am almost always offered an extension because of my knowledge of surgical procedures. The longest contract I have done was nine months in Miami, Florida, which was a great experience,” says Donerson. “I wanted to become a traveler to gain as much experience as possible of surgical procedures, doctors’ preferences, instrumentation, and sterile supplies.”

Before 2007, Donerson wasn’t in the health care field at all. In fact, he worked as manual laborer making minimum wage. At the time, he even had to live out of his car. He decided that he wanted to attend surgical technology school, but when he had to fill out the application and include his address, Donerson wrote in his license plate number. Luckily for him, college staff realized that he was homeless and arranged for him to live in a dorm for the rest of that school year.

When a Trustaff representative spoke to college students about becoming a traveling health care worker, Donerson was interested. After graduating and getting a year of experience, Donerson became a travel CST. His first assignment was in the Virgin Islands. After that, he traveled the country, working in Louisiana, California, North Dakota, and in several cities in Florida.

Donerson says that he loves working with his recruiter, Danny Laurence. “He basically knows exactly what I’m thinking before each contract and after,” says Donerson. He also recommends that nurses thinking of becoming travel nurses be on a first-name basis with their recruiters. “Not having a great recruiter will more than likely end in disaster for a contract,” he says.

Marygrace Colucci’s Nursing Journey from the Philippines to the U.S.

Marygrace Colucci’s Nursing Journey from the Philippines to the U.S.

Marygrace Colucci (center) along with her supervisor/nurse manager Louise Esposito (right) and Marianna Vazquez, CNO (left)

Imagine moving to the United States from the Philippines and building a nursing and military career. That’s what Marygrace Colucci, RN, BSN, MSN, did when she migrated to the U.S. in 1995. Today, Colucci is living her lifelong dream as a staff RN in the ophthalmology operating room at Northwell Health at Syosset Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York.

In May, Colucci was honored with the Zuckerberg Nursing Excellence Award during National Nurses Week. The award recognizes exceptional nurses at Northwell Health.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse,” Colucci says. “I have seven siblings, so my parents could only send me to a two-year midwifery program due to the financial constraint to support a four-year BSN program. I graduated at 18, passed the midwifery board but couldn’t get my license until I was 21 years old.  I started working as a midwife in the hospital with just a permit, and I remember having so much fun delivering babies, and assisting in C-section procedures.”

Colucci says that when she first arrived in the U.S., it was a huge culture shock. “I missed my family and friends. I was homesick, but eventually got over it,” she says. “I was afraid to talk to people because of the language barrier; not because I didn’t know how to speak the language, but more because I was shy of my English and my accent.”

Colucci was inspired by her cousin who served in the U.S. Army as a nurse. “He was sort of my role model, and that is why I joined the Army Reserve in 1998,” Colucci says. “Joining the Army helped me overcome most of the challenges I had to face back then such as the language barrier, being shy, and lacking self-confidence. The Army taught me how to face all kinds of adversity. I’d have to say the Army really turned me into the kind of person I am today.”

Another supportive influence for Colucci has been her husband. “When I graduated with my associate’s degree in nursing, he told me I should go back to school, which I intended to do anyway. I went on to finish my BSN, and he told me again that I should go for my master’s, which I intended on doing. But him pushing me to go further was really a good motivator.  And now that I’m done with my NP, he said go for your doctorate, which I’m still considering.”

Colucci says for now she is focusing on her military career. She hopes to be promoted to major in the future. “I also want to focus on helping soldiers from my unit, which I am currently commanding,” she says. “I try to motivate my soldiers and tell them that they can do so much with their skills, and that there are so many opportunities available if they’ll just work hard for everything that they want to achieve.”

“I also tell my fellow Filipino coworkers to advance their education by going back to school,” she says. “I told them that if I can do it, so can they. I’m not really smart; I just happen to be disciplined and really put a lot of time and effort into everything I set my mind on achieving.”

Colucci sees herself working in emergency medicine in the future. “I had a great time when I was doing my clinical at the urgent care centers. I told myself I will embark in that field if given the chance. I think emergency medicine is a very good and rewarding field to practice. I would like to be promoted to major in the next two years; and eventually to lieutenant colonel in the Army Nurse Corps.”

What Is Nursing Informatics?

What Is Nursing Informatics?

According to the HIMSS 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, nursing informaticists are in a growing field that offers a rewarding career move and one that also helps to advance the field of nursing. Nursing informaticists use their nursing backgrounds, cutting-edge technology, and all the data, communication, and information that is produced in the field to make a healthier world.

According to the American Medical Informatics Association, nurse informaticists are challenged with a wide set of responsibilities, most of which focus on the systems and technologies in which patient information, healthcare results, and research findings are used, stored, and connected. Survey respondents classified their jobs into three main categories: systems implementation, utilization and optimization, and systems development.

Some informaticists tasks include building regional and nationally connected data and communication systems, determining the best ways to ensure that research findings are accessible through practice, promoting information presentation and retrieval in a manner that supports safe patient care, and even defining healthcare policies.

According to the survey, nearly half of the respondents reported great career satisfaction earning salaries of more than $100,000. Because the field is progressing so rapidly, given the technological developments, nursing informaticists receive both on-the-job training and additional training. Forty-one percent of the respondents said they are participating in some kind of degree program to get additional training—including a formal degree program or a non-degree degree program or coursework.

Many nursing informaticists are registered nurses and then go on to earn a bachelor’s or master’s in nursing to gain expertise in the field. Some nursing informaticists might earn an advanced degree in an information technology area like computer science. For those looking to earn an advanced degree, scholarships are available through the American Nursing Informatics Association.

If you are interested in nurse informatics, certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center is also available and the survey results showed that about 51 percent of respondents indicated they would be pursuing some kind of certification and that they thought this additional education would have a positive impact on their careers.

If you’re a nurse who enjoys technology, check out this branch of nursing.

How to Juggle Working While Earning Your ASN

How to Juggle Working While Earning Your ASN

Many working adults dream of becoming a nurse. They want a nursing career but aren’t sure how to juggle working and the demands of nursing school.

If this is you, don’t give up on the idea of becoming a nurse. Completing an associate of science in nursing (ASN) degree is often a more flexible and less expensive option. ASN programs typically only take two to three years to complete at community colleges. Another benefit is that community college tuition is a fraction of the cost of a four-year university. Earning your ASN is a smart way to start a nursing career.

Here are some tips for juggling work with an ASN program:

1. Focus on Completing Your General Education Courses First

You will need to complete your general education classes before you start working on your nursing coursework. These general education requirements include classes such as composition and anatomy.

The good news is that these classes are often offered online or in person at numerous times during the day and evening hours which offers students maximum flexibility to complete them.

Focus on getting these courses complete and you’re much closer to your dream of nursing school.

2. Find a Flexible Job

Depending on the structure of your associates degree program, having a flexible job while you’re in school will offer you less stress in scheduling your classes and clinicals.

Some aspiring nurses manage to work a traditional day shift job and attend evening, weekend, and online classes.

Whatever your work situation, be sure to talk to your employer early in your nursing program to see if they are willing to work with your school and/or clinical schedule. You may be able to take a planned leave of absence or change your work hours to accommodate school.

3. Set Your Priorities

Once you’re in school you simply will not have as much time for other activities. If you have children, you will have to manage even more demands.

Let go of everything that isn’t a top priority including social and volunteer activities. The less you have on your plate while in nursing school, the more time you have to devote to family, work, and studying.

Working and going to nursing school takes a lot of hard work and dedication. But in the end, you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding nursing career.

What Is Your Career Fear?

What Is Your Career Fear?

One of the most dreaded job interview questions is this: “What is your biggest fear?” Like a deer caught in headlights, many job candidates don’t know how to answer such a question—should you admit your real fear or should you turn it into a “positive” and skim over it all?

Even if you aren’t job hunting right now, the question, “What is your biggest fear?” is an excellent way to assess your career hopes and plans. Figuring out your underlying dissatisfaction and what areas you are most concerned about can help jolt you into taking action to overcome your biggest concern.

What’s you career fear?

I am not getting anywhere.

After years of being in the same role, it’s easy to assume your chances for advancement are limited. If you are unhappy with your role, it’s time to rethink your career path. Do you want a supervisory role or are you looking for more responsibility in your job duties? Do you want to move from one area of nursing to another? Deciding where you want to go is often the first step in achieving your goal.
I am expendable.

Many nurses, at one time or another, feel like their jobs aren’t secure. They aren’t off base—layoffs happen and nurses are often the first target in a hospital staff reduction. They key is to make your presence well-known, well-established, and valuable to your unit and to your whole organization. Always do your best, and go above and beyond your job requirements. Read up on the latest research in your specialty so you’re current with cutting-edge developments. Learn to become the expert on new equipment in your unit. But don’t just do your job and go home. Join a committee within your organization and make an effort to help facilitate change or boost engagement for all employees.
I don’t have the qualifications I need for the job I want.

You can’t fake experience. If you need more qualifications to get the job you want, you have to start somewhere, and you might as well start now. But don’t assume you need another degree. Consider the role you want and see what other people in that role have for qualifications. Would more certification help you? What about a switch to experience in a different department or even another area of the country? Qualifications come in many forms, so decide where your need to boost yours and get started on it.

I could do better than this job, these benefits, this organization.

Feeling dissatisfied is a huge red flag that it’s time for a change. What is the root of your concern? Is your organization in financial or ethical trouble? Maybe it’s time to actively open up your own job search. Is your salary below that of other nurses with your education and experience? It might be, but consider all the other factors that play into your salary total and work-life balance. Would a salary boost require a much longer commute? Is your benefits package more generous than most? Being properly compensated for the job you do is essential, so make sure you consider all the factors surrounding your whole benefits/salary/work-life combination. If you are truly underpaid, it’s time to gather hard evidence and talk to your manager or human resources. And if that fails, a new organization might be your next step.
Confronting your biggest job fear isn’t a fun task, but it’s one that can get you out of a rut and on the road to a career you want.

How to Spot Mental Health Distress in Patients

How to Spot Mental Health Distress in Patients

Mental illness is a major health condition affecting millions of American families. With no regard to education, age, class, family, ethnicity, or gender, mental illness can impact anyone’s life and often has widespread effects.

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and helps spread the word about the higher risk of mental illness in minorities own lives and the real barriers minorities face to receiving timely, high-quality, and accessible care.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), rates of mental illness impact minority communities in greater numbers. Culturally, many minority communities have a greater stigma associated with mental illness, so people have a hard time speaking up or admitting they need help. If they do decide to get help, the barriers for finding high-quality, accessible, and affordable care can be insurmountable.

As a result, nurses might routinely see patients who have symptoms of mental illness but won’t address it. Most of these conditions are treatable with the right help, so it’s important to let patients know about available resources or even that what they are feeling is a true biological illness, not something that they can just get over or take care of on their own.

The American Psychiatric Association and the Mayo Clinic offer these indicators that might signal something more serious than a passing phase. Experiencing one or two of these symptoms isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, but if symptoms are interfering with someone’s ability to perform their normal functions, take care of themselves, work capably, or hold meaningful relationships, then they need to get help.

What are some signs and symptoms to look for?

  • Feeling sad, down, or hopeless
  • Excessive anger or an inability to cope with stress
  • Anxiety, feelings of guilt
  • Withdrawing from social activities, friends, family
  • An inability to keep up with grades or normal work quality
  • Sleeping too much or an inability to sleep
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Extreme mood changes – highs and lows that are beyond average
  • Increased or troublesome use of drugs and alcohol
  • Feelings of being disconnected or experiencing delusions
  • Thoughts of suicide

Many people experience sadness or mood changes throughout their lives. A bad day at work can make you grouchy, and family problems can make you sad and anxious. But lingering problems with these feelings and those that impact daily life need attention.

Be on the lookout for any of these symptoms in your patients and listen to the ways they might express them. If they are in danger of harming themselves or someone else, immediate help is necessary, so call 911 or get your emergency team to respond immediately.

Above all, reassure your patients that, like any other medical illness, mental illness is something that is treatable and nothing they are at fault for. A little compassion can make a huge impact.

 

Jackie Webb’s Journey to Success as a Family Nurse Practitioner

Jackie Webb’s Journey to Success as a Family Nurse Practitioner

Like many minority nurses, Jackie F. Webb, DNP, FNP-BC, RN, associate professor at Linfield College School of Nursing in Portland, Oregon, had to overcome many challenges on her career path to becoming a family nurse practitioner.

Webb is the daughter of immigrants to the United States and is a first-generation college graduate. Her parents worked hard to provide for their family and instilled the importance of going to college. It wasn’t until Webb got a job in a nursing home that she set her sights on becoming a nurse.

“I did not start out college knowing I wanted to be a nurse,” says Webb. “It was the experience of working in a nursing home and meeting an incredible nurse who exposed me to the challenges of nursing that convinced me to major in nursing. Looking back, I realize the time this nurse took to help me see the power and art of nursing, and her support is what gave me the belief I, too, could be a nurse.”

Webb initially thought she wanted to work as a critical care nurse, but soon realized she was most interested in preventing patients from ever needing a critical care unit.

“Working as a public health nurse opened my eyes to the challenges of seeing patients in their own homes, without fancy equipment but my stethoscope and a BP cuff, and my ability to really listen and take a thorough health history.”

This experience motivated Webb to go to graduate school and become a nurse practitioner where she learned how to manage chronic illnesses and how to incorporate cultural beliefs into the patient’s management plans. She has been a family nurse practitioner for more than 30 years.

Like many minority nurses, along the way Webb had several challenges to overcome.

“Not having role models, not having parents who knew how to navigate the world of college applications, finances, scholarships, etc. Additional challenges for me included not having good writing skills, not having a rich vocabulary, and not having experiences like so many of my friends.  My parents didn’t take vacations, they didn’t belong to book clubs, they didn’t have dinner parties nor did they have their brothers and sisters or any family member close by. They both had to work long hours to afford a roof over our head. The isolation of being a first-generation immigrant was at times difficult.”

Webb believes that there are ways for colleges and universities to help immigrant and first-generation college students overcome the unique challenges they face.

“Colleges and universities who work with immigrant students and/or first-generation college students need to know that these students are for the most part willing to work harder than any other student population,” says Webb. “For some they see how hard their parents work to just keep food on the table, they don’t take anything for granted. These students are grateful for any type of assistance and will overcome amazing barriers to obtain their college degrees. Many of these students end up inspiring other students and take on challenges many students are fearful to take. Many students value their college community and will take on various leadership roles.”

So what advice would Webb offer to minority nursing students today? “I would tell them to value their personal stories,” says Webb. “Value your history and that of your family. Be proud of the hard work your family has gone through to get to where you are now. The passion, the self-reliance, and support students have will get them very far.

Webb also encourages minority students to reach out for support. “For many students of color they are the first to attend college. This is an incredible journey they are undertaking and they cannot do it alone,” says Webb. “It is so important that they find a mentor or advisor so they can feel comfortable asking how to navigate this new journey. Use every available resource so you are able to be successful. Don’t be afraid, embarrassed, or feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I believe it is absolutely the reverse: asking for help is a definite sign of strength as it shows you are ready to do the work.”

July Is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

July Is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health issues affect millions of families in the United States, and families struggling with the issue often have a hard time finding the right care to help tehir loved ones.

This month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) focuses the spotlight on Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by talking about the discrepancies minorities dealing with mental health issues face and the complex web those who care about them must navigate to get help.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month highlights the struggle of minorities living with a highly treatable, but often stigmatized illness. Mental health is just as important as physical health to achieve a balanced, healthy life, and the Office of Minority Health notes that mental illness impacts minorities at a greater rate than whites.

Minorities who live with mental illness often face barriers to care that, throughout the nation, can often prevent them from getting tratment of any kind. Depending on the community in which they live, access to high-quality mental health care can be hard to find. With the best teaching hospitals and clinics often located in big cities and psychiatrists and mental health counselors scattered throughout regions, gaining access to help is tough. According to NAMI, language barriers, cultural bias, and resources that don’t fill the need for care also get in the way of people getting essential treatment.

Even in the best situations—if someone has access to care and the insurance to pay for it—some minorities find a rigid cultural stigma against mental health issues. The stigma can be so complex and overwhelming, that it’s enough to keep someone from getting the help they need. If someone has the determination to find proper care, continuing with it can be a lonely struggle, so good support and follow through is especially necessary.

As a nurse, you can help in a couple of ways. With your direct, hands-on caregiving of patients, you can help assess if the patient might have mental health issues underlying their other health concerns. Sometimes, it’s obvious. Erratic or harmful behavior is an obvious warning sign, but more subtle signs can easily be brushed aside: a patient who comes in routinely for aches and pains but nothing is physically wrong, a new mom who mentions her struggle to care for her newborn, the young man who says he can’t sleep for days and then sleeps for three days in a row, or an elderly patient who feels a sense of hopelessness and loneliness after a health change.

All these smaller signs are red flags that something isn’t right and that your patient may be struggling with some form of mental illness. Because there are so many different types of mental illness and so much variation in severity, a front-line nurse can bring in the mental health team for an assessment. They can continue to advocate for the patients to understand the issues they are facing, whether it is lack of care, inability to access care, a cultural belief in mental illness as a personal flaw or weakness, or family that is not supportive or understanding. Communicate what a kind of positive impact mental health treatment can have on their lives and well being.

Showing compassion for patients and a cultural understanding of why they may be reluctant to be diagnosed with a mental illness can have a lasting, positive impact on your patients as well. Let them know they are not alone and that your team can help them find help. They may still refuse, but an open attitude might bring them back.

Understanding the challenges of mental health care with minority populations is important. These complex issues can prevent someone with very treatable forms of things like depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder from growing into a worse problem. Earlier treatment makes a big difference, helps people live better lives, and can prevent a mild form of illness from developing into a more complex and harder-to-treat condition.

5 Steps to Squeeze More Time Out of the Day

5 Steps to Squeeze More Time Out of the Day

Does it ever seem like you just don’t have enough time in a day? Lots of us feel this way and it’s no wonder. With jobs, school, families, friends, community, and other obligations pressing at us, it seems like having a few extra minutes is a dream.

Maybe it’s not about needing more hours in a day, but using the hours you have in a more productive way. Using time management skills is important no matter how you spend your days, and it’s incredibly easy to lose time on the most mundane and routine things.

Time management is like managing a household budget. You have a certain amount of something and you need to be as economical as possible. You time is valuable, so you might as well find ways to use it that make you feel good. How can you squeeze more time out of your day? Time management helps you get and stay on track.

1. Figure Out How You Spend Your Time

For a whole week if you can (or even a few days if you can’t do a whole week) try to record how you spend your time. You have 24 hours each and every day. What are you doing with them? Use your phone, a notebook, even your desktop to try to track your time. What do you do when you get home from work? How much time do you spend on things you don’t really get value from? If you love your hour on Facebook every night, that’s valuable to you. If your hour on Facebook leaves you feeling like you wasted time, you probably should pay attention to that feeling. The next time you log in, set a timer for 10 minutes and then log off.

2. Analyze Your Hours

Look at the hours you have jotted down and try to figure out where you are losing time. Do you spend more time commuting than you realized? Did you have unexpected trips to the grocery store because you ran out of lettuce? Do you end up spending much more time than you ever realized waiting for your kids?

3. Figure Out What You Want to Change

You might feel like you don’t have time to cook, so you grab take out on the way home. But if you take a look at the extra time it takes to stop for dinner, you might find you can re-adjust your food prep and actually save yourself time (and money) in the long run. A rotisserie chicken and bagged salad takes minutes to turn into a filling and healthy dinner and you can pick it up during your normal grocery run. Are you picking up prescriptions for family members three times a week? Do you have no time to exercise because everything else gets in the way?

4. List Your Priorities

Time management experts often say that when you don’t have time for something, it’s just not a priority for you. And while that comment can feel sharp, it’s often true. When people are too busy to exercise, they are often just pushing their own needs to the bottom of the list. Very likely, if your partner, spouse, kids, or another family member asked you to do something that might chew up that time, you’d probably say yes. What’s important to you?

5. Set and Keep a Schedule

Planners work for a reason—they really help you organize your time and make more efficient use of what you have. Writing down what needs to get done each and every day is a great start, but to be especially efficient, write down when you will do it as well. Catching up on bills? Block off 30 minutes. Driving to work? Time it over several days, so you know your average. Where can you schedule a 30-minute walk or yoga session?
Understanding how you spend your time now helps you figure out where you are wasting time. That 45 minutes you spend waiting for your kids to come home from a friend’s house so you can take them to chess club is valuable time. You could easily lose hours a week in chunks of wasted time like that. If you could catch on bills while you are waiting or organize your mail pile, you’ll have freed up some time elsewhere to enjoy on things that are important to you.