Student nurses don’t need anyone to tell them their lives are busy. With school, work, families, and a personal life, many student nurses are juggling more than most people. Tamar Rodney, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC, CNE | PhD-c, is a Geneva Foundation/Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholar 2016-2018 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and is no exception.

To celebrate today’s observation of National Student Nurses Day, Rodney gave some insight to what life is like for a graduate student in nursing school. As a PhD candidate in nursing, she has been through the rigors of nursing school for a while. What she knows is that her dedication and the time spent on her education is going to bring her to the place she wants to be. Along the way, says Rodney, the journey itself is pretty amazing.

I love being a nurse, and having the opportunity to make someone’s day or life better,” she says. “I felt drawn to nursing because I admired my memories of childhood reactions to nurses. Their presence meant someone was here to help. I have always carried that image with me of bringing a sense of comfort, security, and a sense of care to someone else.”

Rodney knew going for her PhD would be hard work, but she says her patients were her inspiration and continue to be the motivation to learning as much as she can. “My journey to pursue a PhD was influenced by the day-to-day care of my patients,” she says. “I saw problems that were not addressed and felt like having concrete research would be a good way to start being able to answer those questions.”

And while continuing her education is far from easy, it has brought her a level of satisfaction and of personal and professional growth. “Graduate school is as challenging as I thought it would be,” she says, “but I also got the opportunity to think independently and explore questions that I was interested in. I could finally expand my thinking about ways to provide better care for my patients. I also saw the direct link and importance of collaborating with other healthcare providers and disseminating research for implementation at the bedside.” Eventually, she says, she would like to combine the teaching, research, and practice areas of nursing into one career.

Rodney completed her LPN and RN at Dickinson State University in Dickinson ND, and she started out her career as an LPN working in a nursing home. “I loved it,” she says, “and felt like I would get a new history lesson every day I went to work.” From there, she worked in inpatient psychiatry, primarily to learn more about mental health and how better to approach treatment and diagnosis. It was during that time that she began her MSN program at the University of Vermont.

Discovering a new passion for mental health, Rodney took advantage of certification and gained her psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certification. “I recently completed my PhD studies at The Johns Hopkins University, exploring biomarkers for PTSD in military personnel and veterans with traumatic brain injuries.” All of her studies are helping her get closer to where she wants. “My ultimate goal is to change the way we approach diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders,” she says.

Like nursing practice, a nursing career isn’t done in a vacuum. Joining a professional organization (Rodney belongs to the Graduate Nursing Student Academy) is a way to network and share resources with other student nurses. “Having completed my program I now have a large network of other young professionals with whom I can collaborate and have as supportive resources,” say Rodney.

And graduate school itself offers opportunities for growth that are unexpected, because you are finding the answers but also beginning to ask the deeper questions. “Graduate work in nursing is a unique way to advance one’s personal understanding of nursing practice, an opportunity to deliver the best care possible and advance nursing research and practice,” she says. “You can explore those questions that you have an interest in and explore innovative ways to answer it.”

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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