Whether you are a recent graduate hitting the job market or an experienced nurse looking for something new, a polished resume is one of your best assets.
But how do you know exactly what makes a polished resume? Is it worth it to do it on your own or is it better to hire someone and have it professionally done?
There are a few ways to achieve the end goal of having a resume that fits you and that includes both your work history and your personality. While a resume needs to be clean and polished and, yes, fairly short, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
1. Do It Yourself
There’s no law saying you have to have someone else do your resume. Plenty of people write their own resumes and do them expertly enough that no one could tell it wasn’t professionally done. If you choose to do your own resume, make sure you take the time to look online at sample nursing resumes. Get an idea of what they should look like, sound like, and what you should include or leave off.
And it should go without saying—the more eyes on your resume the less chance there is of a spelling error or an incorrect word slipping though. Read your resume out loud to catch anything that could sound odd. Double check all your dates and make sure your titles are correct.
2. Visit Your School’s Career Counseling Office
If you’re a new nurse, your best option is to head straight over to your college’s career counseling center. Not only do they know what a good resume looks like, but they know what employers are looking for in new grads. They will help you figure out what extracurricular activities will help show your job preparation and which ones you should just leave off.
Even if you have been out of school for 20 years, you alma mater’s career counseling office will usually help you out without any cost. This is a huge benefit many people forget about, but one that’s very helpful. And nursing schools know nurses – not everyone gets it in the same way.
3. Pay a Pro to Do It
If you have a lengthy resume with lots of complicated or leadership positions, hiring a pro who is familiar with nursing resumes is a good idea. A pro will keep your resume short enough to keep it out of the automatic slush pile, but informative enough to include all the important details. They know the key words employers are looking for and will use them in the right places.
If you’re at a high level and going for a competitive role, hiring a pro can elevate your experience and increase your job prospects. And pros often keep resumes on file, so they can work with you through the years as your career changes.
No matter what method you choose to have your resume written, make sure it’s the best one for you. Pick the choice that’s most comfortable and effective.
Night shift nurses have long known their schedules can cause health problems, but a recently published study offers hope that the impact isn’t forever.
In April, “The Association Between Rotating Night Shift Work and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease Among Women,” confirmed the risk between heart disease and shift work, but noted when you stop night shift work, the risk for coronary heart disease decreases.
The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, evaluated the work and lifestyle habits of more than 189,000 healthy nurses who participated in the Nurses Health Studies. Lead by Celine Vetter, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School the study looked at their rotating night shift work in 1988 and 1989 and evaluated the findings with their body weight, physical activity, diet quality, and whether or not they smoked.
According to the report, the longer the nurses worked a rotating night shift, the higher the risk of coronary heart disease. Researchers noted up to an 18 percent increase over women who didn’t work a night shift if the shift work lasted more than 10 years. The nurses who reported the rotating shifts worked at least three night shifts over the course of a month in addition to other day and evening shifts.
In a video reporting her findings, Vetter noted one finding that was significant enough to warrant more studies. Even if nurses worked many years of rotating shift work, thereby upping their risk of disease, the findings showed that when the rotating shift work stopped, the risk started to decrease. The longer the time passed from when the night shift ended, the greater the decrease in risk.
The finding itself is worth looking into, says Vetter, to see if any other other factors could contribute to the decrease or not.
Overall, the findings show that rotating night shift work causes enough of a disruption to cause a small, but statistically significant, increase in coronary heart disease. And while there were nearly 11,000 cases of coronary heart disease recorded, that still means that 178,000 nurses didn’t have that correlation.
If you work a rotating night shift (and even if you don’t), it’s a good idea to take special care of yourself with heart-healthy habits. Get enough exercise for stress reduction, heart health, and weight control. Eat a heart-healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and keep the saturated fat to a minimum. Get enough rest (even if you have to fit in a nap or two in your crazy schedule) and don’t smoke. And be heartened that even as your risk is increased the longer your rotating shifts go on, that same risk also decreases during the years after you return to a regular schedule.
Sometimes the hardest part of being a student nurse isn’t the pressure or trying to learn an overwhelming amount of information all at once. When you’re a new nurse just starting out, the lack of basic familiarity with a working health care environment is daunting.
“There’s no way to learn until you are on the job,” says Liana Lo Chau, president of the Nursing Students’ Association at the University of Texas at Austin.
But Lo Chau says one of the biggest benefits in her student nursing career has been completing an externship. Like a clinical, an externship gives a nursing student real-world experience that can make the transition from nursing school to working nurse much easier.
“I was able to follow a nurse’s schedule even before my capstone,” Lo Chau says of her three-month externship at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “And I worked as a nurse but still had the support.”
Just getting that experience of knowing how a nurses’ station is set up, who to call in an emergency, seeing how nurses interact with patients, observing how the work flow operates, taking part in daily routines, and even how the medication process goes (even if you don’t handle the medications yourself) is an important step to just navigating the typical nursing day.
If you’re interested in an externship, spend some time in the coming months to research one that would be a good fit. Nursing students generally apply for these competitive placements in the second half of their first year, to participate in an externship during the summer between their two years of nursing school, says Lo Chau. Check with your school’s career services office for help finding an appropriate externship match for your interests.
An externship allows you to work in a hospital setting for two or three months while getting paid. You follow a preceptor for the duration, learning as you go. Some externships can be longer than the summer months and each one offers something slightly different.
In the end, however, nursing students gain experience they couldn’t get in another way.
But don’t count on just landing a great externship without some effort, no matter how fantastic your record is. Lo Chau says even the application process is tough and highly competitive. Her program accepted only 20 students nationwide. Other externships exist in the Fox Chase Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and in most states throughout the nation. There are a good amount available if you are interested, says Lo Chau, but consider each as a job application and interview process.
Generally the application process will include an application, essays, recommendations, and an interview. Your area of interest, work ethic, grade history, and activities will all be considered as part of your application as well.
In addition to the incredible opportunity for face-to-face interactions with patients and real-world experience with nursing tasks, an externship gives you a valuable record of a solid work history. The organization sees how you work and you also can judge if the fit would be a good one.
“You might even get an interview or a job offer right off the bat,” says Lo Chau.
Feeling underpaid, undervalued, and overworked? Nurses make up the largest single component of hospital staff. Even though nurses comprise the majority of staff personnel, adequate compensation remains at the top of the list of issues voiced by many nurses. With the extensive skill set and vast knowledge base that nurses hold, earning additional income doesn’t have to be hard. Earning additional income may provide you with the ability to do away with overtime, go part-time, or even achieve PRN status. This flexibility can provide you with the time to do more of what you love and spend more time with your family without sacrificing your income. Let’s explore five ways to boost your bank account.
1. Ask for What You Want
This seems easy, but you would be amazed at how many nurses don’t ask for anything (monetary) more than what they’re offered. The thought of asking for more money appears “unlady like” for some and “unprofessional” to others. But this way of thinking doesn’t have to be. If this sounds like you, start off by writing out a list of why you deserve to be paid more and memorize it. Be prepared to discuss what’s on your list boldly and confidently when you speak to your manager. Ask for what you want and most likely deserve. It’s up to you to make them see your value. Only you know what you are deserving of, no one else. Remember, if you don’t ask for it, how will anyone ever know that you want more?
2. Rental Property
Now before you go saying, “I don’t have a second or third home to rent out,” consider this: converting an extra storage space or a guest room into a nice room for a student or better yet a travel nurse! There are plenty of travel nurses, students, and business professionals who seek out temporary quarters and sublease from homeowners all the time. I know this from experience, because I’ve rented a room from a homeowner while on a travel assignment in Maryland. This option has proven time and time again to be a great source of additional income for singles, couples, and families alike. Do your due diligence as a renter. Complete full background checks and ask for references. By completing these two screening tools beforehand, it will help reduce your risks drastically. If these potential renters are who they say they are, a background and reference check won’t be a concern at all. Just make sure to have a thoroughly written out rental agreement.
3. Multi-Level Marketing
This is an EXCELLENT way to make money and have fun! I am amazed that more nurses don’t take advantage of this money avenue. A few nurses I have worked with in the past have done this with Tupperware, makeup, jewelry, and clothes. Most of these items are used by your coworkers and colleagues, so why not be their supplier? This income stream can also be used with vitamins, weight loss meals, hair products, etc. You get to decide. The best part of this option is the opportunity to meet other individuals who may assist you in new business ventures.
Who better to ask about nursing-based projects, apps, and clinical development than someone who holds a ton of experience in the profession? How wonderful would it be to get paid for your insight about the profession you’ve been a part of for “X” amount of years? A few months ago, the owner of a staffing company was looking to expand by adding nurses to his roster of professionals but had no idea where to start. A mutual friend gave him my contact number and 2 days later, I became a consultant for his business. Individuals who are focused on the growth and profit of their business will not hesitate to pay for your expertise. If paying you a few hundred dollars will make them thousands in return, smart business owners will quickly and happily invest in you. Position yourself as an expert with a vast amount of experience and knowledge so that others will seek you out or refer others to you.
The profession that never goes out of style. We as nurses do this every single shift we work, so why not be paid for it and teach on your own schedule? Become a BLS, ACLS, and/or PALS instructor, why not? Get certified. Focus on a specific group: maybe nursing agencies or travel nurses as your focus market. You can also reach out to rural schools and businesses to offer your teaching services. Take advantage of the fact that most places are requiring some basic knowledge of life support for employment. Make yourself a resource for these business and you are sure to always have clients. Teachers are always needed.
National Nurses Week is well underway, but there’s still time left to take advantage of some great events and get involved.
1. Learn with a Webinar
Today, the American Nurses Association is offering a free, live webinar, Culturally Congruent Care: Why Diversity Makes a Difference, at 1 p.m. (EDT). Speaker Marilyn Douglas, PhD, RN, FAAN, will talk about the value of understanding the cultural preferences, norms, traditions, and beliefs of your patient population. Understanding more about your patient leads to better care, stronger relationships and trust, better outcomes, and increased patient safety. The webinar will give you tips and tools you’ll need to implement culturally congruent care into your daily practice and will last an hour.
2. Take a Selfie
You can also join the ANA’s social media contest by posting, tweeting, and sharing pictures, quotes, or videos and using the hashtag #SafeNursesRock.
3. Join the Rally
Thursday, May 12, will bring nurses from all over the nation to Washington D.C., for the Rally for Nurse-to-Patient Ratios. The rally kicks off at 10 a.m. and will feature speakers and events. If you can’t make it to the rally, many states are offering local events and rallies as well like the May 11 vigil in Maine.
4. Celebrate Nursing
According to the ANA website, The American Holistic Nurses Association is also marking the National Day of Advocacy for Nurses on May 12, the last day of National Nurses Week, with a call for all nurses to pause at noon for a moment of reflection. The organization asks nurses to “join the American Holistic Nurses Association in a brief pause to celebrate the dedication and heart of nurses. It’s one small way to join in unity with nurses world-wide and relight the lamp.” The American Holistic Nurses Association is also hosting a free call, “Finding Your Resilience” on May 10 at 9 p.m. (EDT) and on May 11 at 11 a.m. (EDT).
5. Watch a Movie
The American Nurse, which premiered two years ago will be shown at theaters around the country this week. Check The American Nurse for times and dates of screenings. Invite a few of your nurse friends to take in this important film.
Walking into the nursing home at the Coatesville VA Medical Center, the sun was coming out from behind soft, white clouds. A large flock of Canadian geese rested on the dew-covered grounds near the nursing home.
Joe, the night nurse, had nothing new on morning report as both shifts exchanged information about the residents. No new illnesses, no high temperatures, or behavior changes.
Lights flashed at the nurses’ station—call bells, veterans waiting for someone to answer their request for help. I talked to several veterans to see what their needs were and walked into their rooms as they ate breakfast.
It is Mother’s Day Weekend, 2010, and there is not enough nursing staff on duty to assist and meet the needs of this busy dementia unit. Speaking to Mary, the RN in charge, she called our coordinator. He stated that there was no extra help or staff, and overtime money was not to be used per administration.
Pouring the medication for Team Two’s cart, I felt hurried and pressured by other staff needing assistance with dressing and serving residents their breakfast. Many trays were still left, as night shift could not get all their work completed due to their staff shortage.
My career and profession changed forever on May 9, 2010, when another LPN requested my assistance to transfer an obese veteran to his geri chair via a Hoyer Lift. I pushed him on the Hoyer Lift, but he was too heavy for us to transfer, and everyone else was busy or not around the floor.
By afternoon, Mary had added my name to the report form. She filled out an injury form and asked if I wanted to go to employee health. With pain going from my buttocks down my right leg, I thought rest would solve the problem and my shift was over. By midnight, I had placed a call to my primary doctor who worked for Ingleside Medical Associates. The on-call physician instructed me to ice the area and call first thing in the morning for an appointment.
Instead of waiting, my husband Chuck drove me to Chester County ER. I was worried and in a lot of pain. The ER doctor informed me from working with a Hoyer Lift the diagnosis was likely a herniated disc—he was sure as I was working as a nurse. He ordered the ER nurse to give me an injection of Demerol and assist Chuck to get my limp body in the car. Soon home in bed, I slept 7 hours.
The most dangerous profession for work injuries, nursing reported over 35,000 injuries to the Department of Labor in 2015. This is more injuries than construction workers or policemen. Nurses, the heart and soul of health care, and a disposable workforce.
I called NAGE, my union, and left a voicemail since it was the weekend. Every day, unions speak to hospital administrators on safety issues, unsafe working conditions from nursing storages, and old outdated equipment, but money rules the day. It is easier to pay Workers’ Comp than teach staff safety and install ceiling lifts. Later, I learned through my union that the Hoyer Lift was not to be on the floor, and immediately after my injury, ceiling lifts were in fact installed.
That week, Ingleside Medical Associates ordered PT, X-rays, and pain medication, but my doctor noted reflexes, not a serious injury, to the Department of Labor. After speaking to my insurance carrier, lying in a cylinder machine with headphones on listening to Tom Petty, the MRI confirmed a herniated disc, with nerve impingement. My ER physician’s diagnosis was 100% correct. He also informed me that many studies show health care workers are injured from Hoyer Lifts and disabled the rest of their careers.
Later in January 2011, I agreed to my first back surgery, as I could not sleep or bear the daily pain and involuntary spasms from my work injury. Doctor Aksu made a small incision at the base of my spine and the area was covered with a Band-Aid.
My sisters Gail and Holly, their husbands Tom and Bob, and my husband Chuck waited in the surgical waiting room for many hours. Eventually, my doctor requested that they go home as he was sure I would sleep overnight at Brandywine Hospital. I surprised him and the staff and awoke quickly after returning to my room from the OR.
Pressing my nurse call bell, she came into my room to take down my side rails since pressure made me have to void quickly from all the IV fluids given during my surgery. I surprised the staff as I put on my jeans and asked for Chuck because I wanted to go home. PT gave the OK after they observed me walking the hall and taking several steps up and down in front of them. Determined as supper was served, Chuck picked me up and I went home to bed!
Many weeks passed and many PT sessions completed, but the involuntary spasms would not cease in my right leg and foot. I returned to VA no longer in the role of nurse but as technician—making beds, serving snacks, and taking urine samples over to the lab across the street. Twenty years of service, and no flowers or cards were sent to my home address from administration.
I went through the stages of grief. First, denial—my nursing career would come back. Then, a lot of anger. I often cried at home and yelled at Chuck for no reason. Life became different. My appearance on the floor caused resentment for a male NA, as he stated I made the foot staff short.
Time went by, not knowing what to expect. I hired an attorney for Workers’ Comp as the VA never offered forms or explained any of this complicated system during my long rehab. I called NAGE since I was not having anything placed into my account from VA or the Department of Labor. I was payless!
The last position offered was in their call center. I accepted, though my involuntary spasms increased with long periods of inactivity. My restrictions sent by my surgeon were not carried out.
Calls were nonstop from veterans needing appointments, drug refills, the Veteran Advocate, etc. The call center staff was assigned to any department by need. Some days, the call center was myself and one other coworker. My spasms worsened, so I hired a neurologist for his opinion. He started me on Klonopin.
Awake at 3 a.m. with right leg spasms, my leg arched in excruciating pain and twisted. Chuck would run over to our dresser to give me a Klonopin pill hoping it would calm down my pain, and the spasms would cease.
Inflammation of nerves caused these unexpected events, and the call center was making my condition worse. I resigned from VA, never to have any workmans’ comp during my rehab or disability until I hired another attorney and went with my medical records before a judge for a hearing.
Life was different. No more hiking Hawk Mountain, no bending over to garden, as this was too strenuous at that time. But my favorite PT was a morning walk on a trail across from our Citadel Credit Union. A small stream often carried newly hatched fuzzy baby ducks. Spring is a favorite season of mine with baby ducks, fawns, and geese.
Before Spring 2015, I was ill and slumping as I walked and I was very tired. Dr. Aksu stated I needed a spinal fusion due to the deterioration of L5-S1, a recurrence of my work injury. After careful thought, I agreed and signed consent. One sunny morning in May 2015, Chuck drove me to Paoli Hospital.
Just the words spinal fusion sent chills down my spine!
On May 13th, everything was in order and I went for the spinal fusion. I was greeted by two nurses who instructed me to wash my body with warmed germ wipes, get into a gown and then the ER-type bed. Soon they hooked me to IV fluids and took my blood. Hours passed. Chuck took a walk.
Dr. Aksu said hello and I was off to the OR. I said a prayer, and the OR nurses introduced themselves, making me more comfortable. I had full confidence in Dr. Aksu. We have known him from years before when he operated on Chuck’s mom, Anne.
I awoke in a spacious bedroom and bath. Chuck gave me a goodbye kiss and my friend Peggy took off to drive home. Traffic was already thick.
I did not sleep until after midnight. The nurse came in, took vital signs, and gave me all medications as ordered. She also helped me order an open-faced turkey sandwich before the kitchen closed.
I rang the bell a lot during my operation, but their technicians and nurses were first-rate. I wrote their nurse manager a thank you card for all the excellent care I had.
I requested ice bags all night since that helped with the pain. Then breakfast came, oatmeal and coffee. Just as I started adjusting in bed, Mr. Perry came to check my incision, change the dressing, and discharge me.
I was delighted to leave and showered quickly. Chuck picked me up after lunch. I would have never imagined being disabled at 55, yet it happened.
Congress needs to pass across-the-board safety laws for health care workers, and the VA needs to pay money to their injured workforce. I used my annual leave and sick leave for my surgeries, which were never reclaimed because the VA had so many roadblocks.
If you aspire to be a nurse, be sure to get yourself a good disability plan and pay your premiums, as one fine day you may need that money. I loved serving veterans, but my treatment after the Hoyer Lift injury was awful. From one seasoned nurse to another, I urge you to research your potential employers before accepting a job.
Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, knows just how powerful a person’s story is. Known as “The Inspiration Nurse,” Cardillo is masterful at making the best of life’s curve balls.
For Cardillo, those insights came the hard way—through a grinding period of struggle in her own life that is the basis of her new book “Falling Together: How to Find Balance, Joy, and Meaningful Change When Your Life Seems to be Falling Apart.”
Cardillo recently spoke with Minority Nurse about how struggles can make you stronger and more compassionate, even when it seems like you’ll never get through it.
Q: How did the idea for “Falling Together” come about?
A: The idea originated a little over 20 years ago when my husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That was the same year I started my own business. I made the leap to self employment, and my husband was diagnosed with this devastating illness. We went through a very dark period in our lives, and it changed our lives dramatically. For 18 months we had a dark cloud hanging over us. We were shocked, stunned, confused, overwhelmed.
But after 18 months, I was looking out the window in the kitchen and realized that no matter what happened, the sun continues to rise and set. Life goes on. My family needed me and that was a turning point for me. It was like coming out of a thick fog. Even in our darkest moments, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You have to get through it and come out of it.
Q: Did you know this topic would touch a nerve for people?
A: I met so many nurses who told me stories of their challenges. We are all faced with challenges, some of us have them bigger than others. For some, challenges become the focal point, even to the exclusion of everything else. Others navigate their way through it and make something better from it.
Big challenges tell you what’s important and what isn’t. Something devastating happens and you realize nothing else matters except the people you love and how you live your life. Some people let it devastate and consume them and others not only survive, but thrive.
Q: It must be pretty tough to sort it out when you are in the middle of it.
A: It’s hard to imagine that your darkest moments can be an opportunity for your greatest growth. This took me 20 years to be able to gain this perspective. I also needed to become a writer in the process. I had a lot of work to do and to articulate and to write that as well. My mother calls me a late bloomer. The universe has its own time schedule.
Q: Do you have to go through it to experience it and then let it settle?
A: To write about it all, there had to be some time that passed so I could look at it objectively. When you are a more substantial person in a sense. I am a different person today than I was 20 years ago. I am wiser and more compassionate with myself and other people. There’s a chapter in my book devoted to finding my voice. I didn’t have the confidence, communication skills, and the world experience then. I went through personal growth that brought me to a place to complete this book.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges nurses tell you about?
A: They are so diverse, but illness is a big one. If your spouse is chronically ill or your parents or when a child is sick, that’s big. Most nurses have to continue to work in spite of that. Divorce or relationships breaking apart, whether you are married or not, is devastating to many people, and especially if you are left as a single parent with financial challenges.
Q: What else did you hear about?
A: Nurses who find themselves challenged career wise. Maybe they are not happy, they don’t know what to do to get to the next step. A lack of self care is a big part of that. So many of us are constantly putting our energy out and not replenishing that energy.
Burnout is just constantly spending your physical and emotional energy. I learned this the hard way. I had the presence of mind to step back and start taking care of myself. Self care isn’t just about laying on a massage table with cucumber slices on your eyes. It’s routine maintenance for the mind, body, and spirit.
Q: You mention insecurity and self-doubt are big roadblocks for women especially.
A: That paralyzing fear and huge self-doubt that holds you back? Many of us feel that way. We feel like we don’t have anything to offer. Nurses who want to start their own business or make changes but often feel fear. If you feel fear, you are challenging yourself and on the right track. But you don’t have to make a big change. It’s making small steps out of that comfort zone rut you are in. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. You don’t have to create a big plan. Just go online and look up three colleges or go to one meeting of a professional organization.
Q: Real change can be small?
A: Start making small decisions and then you can make bigger decisions. You have to start somewhere – that’s the secret. I tell nurses to go get business cards made for themselves. People feel important when they have a business card. You can present it when you are out in the world. I want nurses to understand we are all sharing in the same human experience.
Everybody has a story to tell and has a challenge and has a weight they carry. Confidence and courage will come. I hope the book is an inspiration to take action. That’s huge to me. That’s the bottom line. People say to me, ‘Your experiences are so similar to mine.’ Sometimes we just need someone else to put it into words and give voice to our experience to shift us from the powerless to the empowered.
We encourage readers to leave questions for Donna Cardillo to answer. Do you have something you’d like to ask her about struggle, challenges, and growth?
Every May, National Nurses Week brings an opportunity for nurses nationwide to unite, share their pride in their profession, and have their voices heard about any concerns. This year’s National Nurses Week theme, “Culture of Safety…It Starts With You” focuses on the safe practices that protect nurses and patients.
A grassroots nursing movement advocating for safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios is inviting all nurses to gather at the Rally for National Nurse-to-Patient Ratios in Washington, DC, on May 12. Other events will take place nationwide including state rallies in North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas.
“We want to generate more dialogue about the problem and for nurses around the country to be empowered and feel they are not alone in this struggle,” says Jalil Johnson, BSN, MS, RN, ANP-BC, PhD(C), national director of Show Me Your Stethoscope (SMYS), which is sponsoring the event in conjunction with Nurses for National Patient Ratios, A Voice for Nurses Now, Illinois Nurses Association, and HireNurses.com. “There is a nation of nurses facing this struggle.”
In addition to bringing nurses together to call attention to safe staffing, the rally will raise awareness and support for two pending federal legislation items: S. 864 (National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act) and H.R. 1602 (Nurse Staffing Standards for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act). According to SMYS, “These bills seek to establish a federal standard for safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in acute care hospitals, setting a maximum number of patients for which nurses would be allowed to care during a given shift.”
Johnson says standardizing safe nurse-to-patient ratios doesn’t mean focusing on one number. Each unit, each organization, and each assortment of patients needing varying levels of care makes it tougher to mandate a specific ratio that can be deemed safe. And there are huge disparities seen across the nation, says Johnson, as each state has very different struggles with health care. “We want to level the playing field,” he says. “Or at least start the conversation to level the playing field.”
Johnson hopes the rally will raise awareness and get this important issue on the radar of legislators who can implement nationwide change.
According to SMYS, several speakers are slated to address rally attendees including Andrew Lopez, RN, CEO of NurseFriendly; Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, executive director of The Truth About Nursing; and Janie Garner, RN, founder and executive director of SMYS.
Nurses who attend the rally or get involved in other ways can then share their stories long after the day is over. “We want to get the public involved,” Johnson says. “Whether you are a nurse, a patient, or anyone who is in a hospital setting, at some point in your life, you will feel the effects of this one way or another.”
As one of many groups working on safe staffing issues, Johnson says SMYS emphasizes that the focus is not on individual people or organizations. Getting safe ratio legislation implemented means standard safe ratios are in place at federal or state level which protects patient and nurse. Right now, California is the only state with mandatory safe staffing ratios.
“We are not against any hospital or any organization,” he says. “We just want institutions to follow the models known in science.” He refers to many studies that have shown the more patients a nurse has to care for, the less positive outcomes are and the less safe both nurses and patients are.
Nurses are often afraid to speak up about unsafe ratios for fear of retaliation. Despite the labor laws in place, Johnson says many nurses have this concern, making a common discussion that much more essential. “We want to empower nurses to think they can do something,” he says. “We have to raise the level of the discussion. This isn’t about your charge nurse or about your unit manager. They are working in a broken system.”
With the rally being a gathering point to launch the issue, Johnson says it’s only the beginning. State chapters are forming their own plans as many aren’t able to hold rallies on the same day as the national rally, so that gives nurses across the country many chances to get involved.
If you can’t head to the nation’s capital, Johnson says you can still get involved by showing up or connecting with your local chapters of SMYS for Change. You can participate in any of the media campaigns, he says, by following on Twitter, and sharing, liking, or tweeting about any articles written on the topic.
And to have the most impact, just start talking. The more you talk about the issue, the more likely you are to realize just how much this is on the minds of all nurses.
“It’s empowering to have a bunch of people who share your problem and are working on it,” says Johnson. “What we’ve started is not funded by major companies, but started by passionate, dedicated people. That’s what drives us. This will continue on.”
Johnson says the rally is a starting point for nurses, organizations, patients, and lawmakers nationwide.
“The rally will not make any legislation pass, but it will bring attention to the need for safe ratios,” says Johnson. “If we do this enough, we will get results. What happens on the nurse-patient basis affects everyone across the country.”
Many have spent time addressing the misuse of social media by health care professionals. True, there are dangers of using social media without a policy in place, but my guess is that there is no lack of policy at your facility. Please review your facilities’ policy before starting to engage in social media for professional use, even if the use is under your own name. In my opinion, the time spent on the dangers of social media use has not been equal to the time spent speaking to the value of social media for professional use. This is unfortunate, as many influencers are in this space waiting to hear from you! Additionally, there is a generation who uses this platform almost exclusively as their preferred communication tool. There are many members of the public who need the knowledge you have, but e-mail and phone are not the best way to reach them. I’d like to share how I have found Twitter to be useful for me.
How to Start
Signing up for a Twitter account is very easy. You do not have to use your real name. You can always change your username later; just choose something that could be used on a resume, as this platform will reflect you professional brand. Start with a review of the Twitter feed of a nurse or disease association that you would like to follow. Take a look at the type of content they produce or curate. You can even go behind the scenes and see who this association is following for their information. Be sure to look at who they respect enough to follow for valuable information—you can learn a lot from this alone. You may wish to follow similar people or companies since you will now be feeding on the same information as this huge association. However, try to be selective about who you follow as your news feed may get cluttered with personal stories of others, which will not help with professional growth. An alternative to this would be to create a list of people who produce valuable content so you can always refer to this list for a quick update from time to time.
Listen Before Speaking
Spend time listening to conversations first. Notice what these associations or other influencers of your field are sharing with the public in terms of their content and tone of voice they are using. Twitter is not a place to vent or engage in negativity. Doing so will quickly detract from the brand you are establishing on this platform. One way to find relevant conversations is to use this platform as a powerful search engine. If I search for a topic in Google, the results may have broken links, or the information may not be up-to-date. Twitter yields more specific, up-to-date results. Peer-reviewed journals are very easy to find here as well. You may even be able to interact in real time with the authors or publishers of the journals.
Twitter as a Ear to Even More Conversations
Take the term value-based care. It is interesting to take a quick glance on the latest on this developing topic. Once you sign into Twitter, in the upper-right hand corner, search “#valuebasedcare” and look at who is speaking to this issue as well as what other topics they have tweeted about. Do you feel you have something of value to add to the conversation? This is an open conversation so there is no need to wait to be invited to the table. Some people still feel as though they need a more formal invitation. For that, participate in a Tweet chat. Find a relevant conversation with the Healthcare Hashtag Project. Select a topic that will highlight your expertise and join in the conversation! You can easily build profitable professional relationships, establish thought leadership, and demonstrate expertise on this social media platform.
Say you are a nurse speaker and you are curious about a particular nursing conference. You can easily find the name of the conference, the hashtags for that conference, and start learning! Often, conversations around the conference hashtags carry on months after the conference is over. For example, search for #AONE, which was used for the American Organization of Nurse Executives conference. You can still interact with any of these tweets.
I invite you all to take a moment to stop looking for an invitation to join the conversation, pull up a chair, and share your value.
While student loan debt has become a real problem among American adults, a recent study from the Urban Institute shows that college debt falls disproportionately on borrowers of color. In fact, 42% of African Americans ages 25 to 55 carried student loan debt from 1989 to 2013, compared to just 28% of white adults.
Experts offer various explanations for this unfairness, including the fact that African Americans are more likely to attend for-profit schools—not to mention, the general wealth disparity that affects families of color.
The growing costs of college also play a role at a time when the return on a college degree has stagnated due to frozen wages and high costs of living. Add in the ridiculous financial costs of earning a graduate degree, and it’s easy to see how all borrowers—and especially borrowers of color—have gotten into this mess.
Real Answers for Nurses With Real Debt
On the flip side, there is some good news to report. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that registered nurses should see 16% growth in employment opportunities from 2014 to 2024. That surge should add 439,300 new jobs nationally over the course of a decade, which will make it easier for nurses, and especially minority nurses, to enter thriving careers that will make loan repayment possible.
Those looking for a way to escape their debts quickly will find plenty of ways out as well, although some repayment plans will take longer than others. If you’re looking for real ways to get out of student loan debt, consider these five options:
1. Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation and Forgiveness
Federal Perkins Loans were created as a meaningful aid option for low-income students. If you have Federal Perkins Loans to repay, you could potentially have 100% of your balances forgiven after working full-time as a nurse for at least five years. To qualify, you must apply through the school that disbursed the loans or through your student loan servicer.
2. NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment offers another option for nurses willing to meet certain criteria. This program is available to nurses who are willing to work at least 32 hours per week in a critical shortage facility. To qualify, you must register for the program and work full-time at a facility with a high level of need. After two years of working there, you can have up to 60% of your loans forgiven. Add on another year and you can have an additional 25% of your loans forgiven.
3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Commonly referred to as PSLF, this is yet another program geared at nurses who are willing to jump through a few hoops to get their loans forgiven. Through PSLF, nurses can earn total forgiveness of their Direct Loans after working full-time in a public service position and making consecutive, on-time payments for 10 years. To be eligible, you have to work at least 30 hours per week for a public service health agency.
4. State-Based Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
Plenty of states offer their own version of loan forgiveness for nurses, although the requirements and stipulations vary quite a lot between each program.
5. Student Loan Refinancing
While nurses would have to give up government student loan protections like income-driven repayment, forgiveness, deferment, and forbearance when they refinance federal loans with a private lender, the payoff for doing so can be huge. If your loans are currently at a high interest rate, you can potentially save thousands of dollars on interest and potentially pay your loans off faster by refinancing into a new loan with better terms and rates. Of course, it’s crucial to run the numbers and weigh the pros and cons of this option before you dive in.
The Bottom Line
As a nurse, you’re able to help people overcome some of the biggest struggles of their lives. But, as a student borrower, you’re on your own.
With nearly $1.3 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt, it’s possible that most people you know are struggling with this issue. The key to finding a way out is to research as many programs and plans as you can until you find one that makes sense for your situation.