Keondra Rustan, RN, MSN, PhD(c), visiting assistant professor at Linfield College in Portland, OR, has overcome many challenges in her decade-long career as a nurse and nurse educator. Raised in a single-parent home with limited resources, she discovered how she could channel her interest in science into a nursing career by reaching out to mentors along the way.
Today, she shares her story and offers advice to other minority nursing students and nurses who may face similar challenges in their education and careers.
How long have you been in the nursing field and what has been your career history until now?
I have been a nurse for nine and a half years. I started out working in cardiac health care in Virginia. I did cardiac stepdown, some cath lab work, and I floated to some cardiac ICUs. I then went to the ICU where I learned a great deal and developed some professionalism and leadership traits. I then went on to become an assistant manager of an ICU and IMCU. I finished my master’s degree and became a professor at a private college where I rediscovered simulation and developed a great love for it. I became the simulation lab coordinator and for a time was the interim director of the LPN program, and went on to become the assistant director of the LPN program so that I could make more time for my doctoral schooling.
I am currently working in the dissertation phase of my doctoral program and enjoying my work at Linfield College as a visiting assistant professor working in simulation as lead faculty.
What inspired you to enter the nursing profession?
At first I didn’t want to be a nurse. I went through all of my primary schooling without having the decision of wanting to be a nurse. I wanted to be a scientist at first like those scientists in Jurassic Park.
Later on in high school I decided that I wanted to be a scientist that could help cure diseases and study microbes. However, I lost my grandmother when I was in high school and some of the care that she received wasn’t the best and lacked empathy. I decided that I wanted to help people more directly and show them that they aren’t just a room number but a thriving person who was deserving of care. I wanted to be a person who made a difference in the lives of others.
As nurses we often aren’t remembered individually; but if a patient has less exacerbations and starts feeling better because of your care and the education that you provided, it is very rewarding.
What inspired you to become a nurse educator?
I discovered that I liked teaching by precepting new nurses and nursing students. I enjoyed seeing the potential in them. I loved teaching them how to do things based on evidence and why it was so important for it to be done that way. I wanted to show them how to provide holistic care to patients and help them grow into future leaders.
I also enjoyed telling them stories so they could directly apply the teachings to their practice. Most importantly, I wanted them to have things I did not have prior to becoming a nurse: resources and a mentor. I wanted to apply these principles on a broader and larger scale so I went into the field of nurse education.
I would say the first year or so I was not very good at it. Or at least I did not feel as though I was a good teacher. I did not have a mentor or anyone to show me the ropes so I just taught them the way I was thought, which did not work.
What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
In my career my biggest challenges have come from lack of resources and lack of mentors. I grew up in a low-income single parent home with no vehicle. We did not have the funding or access to resources to get informed about career programs while in high school or even most scholarships. I wasn’t aggressive enough in thinking of my future and did not have enough drive when I was younger to seek those resources.
Once I decided to become a nurse, I didn’t really know how to become one, what nurses actually did, and what type of nurse I wanted to be (even when I graduated I still did not know that part). I had a lot of ideas, but I did not know how to bring them into fruition.
I overcame the lack of resources and lack of mentoring by joining organizations (good old-fashion Google search) based on my interests. When I was obtaining my BSN I got accepted into Sigma Theta Tau (the nursing honor society). Going to those conferences really opened a lot of doors for me. I am so grateful for the aid of the nurses and educators that I have met throughout my nursing career. They were able to point me into a lot of great directions. I am still growing and have a great deal more that I want to accomplish.
What challenges do you see minority nursing students face and what is your advice for them?
I see lack of resources as a big one and lack of mentors. Minority students (and I include males in this) have a high risk of falling through the cracks in nursing school. There seems to be a reluctance to seek aid when dealing with difficulties. It is hard to get over, because typically it is culturally ingrained.
My advice is to seek help right away when you are having trouble. If your school does not assign faculty mentors, seek out an instructor that you feel you can connect with. Shadow a nurse if you are not experienced with the duties of a nurse, so you have an idea of if it is right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; if you do not understand, seek help (think of the patient’s safety).
Most nursing schools have scholarships, open labs, writing labs, and tutors available for their students; make use of these resources and give yourself support. View any setback as a learning opportunity and grow from the experience. Never stop learning even after you are licensed and working on the floor. Google search some nursing organizations (you can even join some as a student for a cheaper price) and they can lead you down some interesting paths. Also, once you obtain your knowledge, pass it on. You never know who you will be helping with your expertise and experience.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I see myself with at least 10 articles published and maybe a book, of course having obtained my PhD. I want to still be educating nursing students and maybe have obtained my NP. I want to continue to learn and grow each day to become the best educator that I can be. I want to do more in community and be a greater help to those in need.
Having a strong mentor and academic advisor can make a huge difference in the lives of undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Being that mentor is what motivates Ronald Hickman, PhD, RN, ACNP-BC, FNAP, FAAN, associate professor of nursing at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.
Hickman has been honored with two esteemed awards for student mentorship at Case Western Reserve University: the John S. Diekhoff Award for Excellence in Graduate Mentoring, which is presented to four full-time faculty members who make exemplary contributions to the education and development of graduate students; and the J. Bruce Jackson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring, which celebrates faculty and staff who have guided a student in their academic and career paths; fostered the student’s long-term personal development; challenged the student to reflect, explore, and grow as an individual; and supported and/or facilitated the student’s goals and life choices.
“Mentoring has been a cornerstone approach to making a difference in the lives of undergraduate and graduate nursing students,” says Hickman. “The receipt of two of the university’s top honors for mentoring undergraduate and graduate students is a testament to my commitment to making sure that I pay it forward.”
Hickman says the mentorship he received across his undergraduate and graduate studies has been invaluable. “My mentors shared their lived experiences and lessons learned to help me avoid pitfalls and inspire me toward a career in academe. These honors highlight my commitment to mentoring and acknowledge the impact of effective mentorship on the lives of emerging leaders in nursing practice and research.”
However, nursing was not Hickman’s original career plan. “As an undergraduate student, I majored in biological sciences with the intention to attend medical school after graduation.”
He was not admitted to medical school, but upon reflection about potential career paths he decided to pursue nursing because it aligned with his personal philosophy of health. “Although nursing was not my first choice for a career, it was the right choice for me,” he says.
Hickman acknowledges that pursing a nursing career can be challenging for minorities.
“Many minority nurses are the first in their families to attend college and are standouts in their communities,” he says. “When entering the nursing profession, the academic preparation is challenging and, in most instances, the diversity of nursing faculty is often not representative. This can create situations where minority nurses do not wish to speak up and seek help when needed. Whether you are pursuing a nursing degree or transitioning to a new role in nursing, do not suffer in silence. Asking for assistance often facilitates your success and delivery of safe nursing care.”
Another key to success that Hickman recommends for minority nursing students is to find a strong mentor and strongly consider pursing a doctoral degree in nursing.
Hickman is truly paying it forward. “As a nurse educator, I am inspired daily by helping students develop as competent nurse clinicians and scientists,” he says. “Helping others achieve their goals is an invaluable and enduring experience for most educators. The opportunity to inspire and challenge future nurse leaders is a priceless reward.”
Hickman sees himself in a senior leadership position in a school or college of nursing in the future. “My aspiration to secure a senior leadership position aligns with my commitment to help an organization and its’ faculty achieve their goals and impact the health of Americans.”
Each year, National Nurses Week brings celebrations across the United States. But within that week is an important reminder of the work that nurses do across the globe, under varying conditions, with dramatically different equipment, but with the same steely determination to protect the health of the people they care for.
This year, International Nurses’ Day is celebrated on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale, as many know, is considered an early healthcare innovator who founded modern nursing practices and helped shape nursing to such an extent that her influence remains to this day. Nightingale’s passion for aiding the ill and injured and keeping nursing practices focused on sanitation helped saves lives of those in her care and countless lives today.
The International Council of Nurses (ICN) sponsors the day and has designated this year’s theme as “Nurses: A Voice to Lead, Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Nurses around the world can participate and unite their nursing voices by using the hashtags #VoiceToLead and #IND2017 in their social media posts.
The SDGs are a collection of more than 17 goals that impact nurses and the care they provide. The health inequities experienced by people around the world result from a mix of factors, but all impact the sustainable development issues facing nurses today. The issues range from ending poverty (that’s goal number one) to improving health and education and fighting climate change.
In honor of International Nurses’ Day, which debuted in 1965, the ICN is providing case studies from nurses across the globe—for instance there’s the story about addressing COPD in China to reducing the HIV stigma in Zambia.
For nurses who are interested in finding out more or adding their voice to the international nursing community, a Resources and Evidence toolkit is available for download.
According to the International Council of Nurses website, the organization “is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.”
Get ready to kick off National Nurses Week! This annual event to recognize the compassionate and critical work nurses perform and to celebrate the profession begins tomorrow, May 6 and lasts until May 12.
The week provides time to honor the role of nurses in their own lives and in the collective national landscape.
This year’s theme: Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit reflects the American Nurses Association’s designation of 2017 as the Year of the Healthy Nurse. The theme points to the delicate and essential equilibrium that nurses must find to successfully thrive in such a distinctly unique profession.
National Nurses Week is marked throughout the nation in all kinds of settings—from healthcare settings to nursing schools.
Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing Dean Linda Norman says the week offers a chance to celebrate nurses and to also take a look at where the profession is going.
Vanderbilt, which has both a medical center and a nursing school, has events including a blessing of the hands and a state of nursing address by the chief nursing officer. There are awards to recognize outstanding nurses and a dean’s diversity lecture that will examine how the nursing profession as a whole can meet the needs of a diverse population.
At the nursing school, where more than 900 students take classes, there will be several versions of birthday parties for Florence Nightingale whose birthday is marked every May 12.
“We are having an ice cream social for the students just to say, ‘We’re glad you’ve chosen nursing and this is our way of celebrating nurses,’” says Norman.
Here are a few ideas to celebrate National Nurses Week either with colleagues, family, friends, or by yourself:
Have a party
Nurses deserve to have someone else take care of them, so having a reception at work or meeting for lunch with your nurse friends offers time to stop and celebrate.
If you supervise other nurses, be sure to thank them for all they do. They are the front lines of patient care and perform superhuman feats each day.
Spread the word about the ANA’s free webinar “A Nurse’s Guide to Preventing Compassion Fatigue, Moral Distress, and Burnout” on May 10 at 1 pm EDT (registration closes on May 9 at 7 pm EDT).
Between May 12 and May 17, you may also view the free webinar recording of “Empathy 101: How to Care for Yourself While Emotionally Supporting Others,” offered by Nurse.com at http://ce.nurse.com/course/Web332 . The webinar features Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN.
As Norman says, the week also offers a time for nurses to consider the journey that brought them to where they are. Norman says she is frequently reminded of her own journey.
“It is a time for us to reflect on the choice we made back when we were deciding on our profession,” she says. “To be able to try to meet the needs of others—that’s a privilege. To teach others how to do that—that’s an even bigger privilege.”
Women represent nearly 80% of the healthcare workforce, and they represent 77% of hospital employees. Also, 26% of hospital and health system CEOs were women in 2014. Statistics show the number of women in healthcare is rising, but there are still challenges. One of the most widely talked about challenge is gender inequality, including the lack of women in leadership positions. While gender inequality is important, this issue is not why women in healthcare are an endangered species.
Women in the healthcare industry are just as likely (if not more) to suffer from anxiety, stress, depression and other mental and emotional issues. Like most healthcare workers, women who are physicians, registered nurses, home health aides and more enter the field with a passion to help others. But if you fall into these categories, how many times have you neglected your own needs? Shouldn’t you treat yourself with the same care as a patient?
While the term endangered is normally used in reference to animals, you’re surrounded by just as many threats as a leopard in the wild. For decades, women in healthcare have suffered from stress, fatigue, strain due to schedule, insufficiency in internal training, and injuries from physical tasks. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, female physicians die by suicide at a 400 percent higher rate than women in other professions. One article posed the question “who takes care of the caregivers?”
The answer is YOU!
There are some issues in healthcare that is a work in process, but you have the power to positively influence your well-being today. Your patients need you. Your family needs you. And, you need you. So, treat yourself with proper rest, prayer, stress management techniques, supportive relationships, and be the first thing on your to-do list by adhering to your discovery checklist.
Top 5 Tips for Graduate school
So, you are thinking about completing your Master’s degree. You may be just graduating with your bachelor’s, established in your career, seeking career advancement, or an overall career change. You should commend yourself wherever you currently are in your professional journey. Graduate school is essential for career progression and as daunting as the challenge may be it is feasible and worthwhile. However, there are certain things that I wish I had known previously to enrolling in my first graduate courses that would have saved me a ton of grief on this grad school journey.
Learn the APA Manual
Do you briefly remember being introduced to this in your undergraduate English and Research classes? You know, the blue book that you couldn’t wait to toss as soon as you completed those courses! Well, don’t get too excited and toss that manual out just yet. The APA manual will be your bible at the graduate level. It is best to not only familiarize yourself with it but read it cover to cover. In all seriousness, there will be no mercy for APA formatting issues at the graduate level, and failure to comply will hinder your ability to graduate. Let’s be honest; graduate school is very expensive so do not lose points over APA errors and get your bang for your bucks when it’s time to cash in on that top G.P.A.
Grad school will push your writing capabilities to the maximum. When I first started, I went in under the false pretenses that I was a decent writer. After all, my highest scores were always in English and Language Arts. However, never underestimate the power of proofreading your document, or having someone else review it. It is important to remember that you are not supposed to be writing as if you are talking in scholarly writing. Read every single thing you submit out loud at least two times before turning it in. You will be surprised at some errors you will find in your documents once you hear it out loud. I swear by Owlet Purdue, Grammarly, and PERRLA to assist with the completion of my papers.
One of the biggest mistakes that I made during my Grad school journey was “taking a break”. Apparently, life happens to everybody, but if you can help it, you should stay on the course to graduate on time. While taking a leave of absence is certainly an option, there are some universities have a time limit on the amount of time you can spend on the completion of your master’s degree. Taking a leave of absence sounds a nice break until you return and you are under even more pressure to complete your degree. Stay on track and graduate on time. Put yourself out of grad school misery. Try not to prolong it.
My zodiac sign of a Libra makes finding balance very high on my priority list. Regardless of your sign, it is essential to find a way to balance everything you have going on in life. Many of us are career focused, have spouses or partners, children, and community obligations. There are going to be some times that you will simply have to say no to others as well as avoid taking on too many additional duties. You have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Do not feel guilty about taking a step back or going on a much need hiatus to keep everything together. Remember that this is temporary, and there will always be opportunities to restock your plate once you have graduated.
Cost vs. Reputation
This has been an ongoing debate for such a long time. I will give you my honest opinion and say that it is best to go for value in regards to selecting a school to attend. There is absolutely nothing wrong with investing yourself, but please do not break the bank along the way. Try your very best to avoid debt, save up, and develop a reasonable budget that you can use to finance your educational goals. If you are shelling out a ton of money, ensure that the institution has a reputation that fits your tuition bill. Student loan debt is a serious problem. Remember that you will need to pay that money back, and if this degree does not make a high paying job seem promising to you it may be necessary to scale back. Remember, grad school isn’t cheap!
Wrapping it All Up
I hope that you avoid the pitfalls that I incurred during my grad school journey and that these tips will help ease you in your transition and prepare you for entry into grad school. A graduate degree is totally obtainable; it’s just a different academic dynamic. I’ll see you on the other side!