Navigating the Road to Nursing Leadership

Navigating the Road to Nursing Leadership

Leadership—it’s the Holy Grail that’s stressed in business and health care administration. But how can you get there? And how do you know if nursing leadership is even right for you?

“Not everyone has the skills, desire, or disposition to be an administrative leader,” says Laura S. Scott, PCC, CPC, ELI-MP, CPDFA, president and founder of 180 Coaching, an executive coaching and leadership training provider based in Tampa, Florida. “I recommend that my clients go to a trusted supervisor and ask, ‘Where do you see me going as a professional and leader?’ and then just listen. You might be surprised at what you hear. If you have a role in mind, ask that trusted supervisor if they think you would be a good fit for that role and ask, ‘Why or why not?’”

Use caution when thinking about getting into leadership. “Don’t rush into what isn’t easily seen as an opportunity,” says Alisha Cornell, DNP, MSN, RN, a clinical consultant with Relias, a health care talent and performance solutions company. To decide whether a leadership role is right for them and what they want get out of it, Cornell says that self-exploration is necessary. “How did the nurses identify that they even wanted to be nurses? My recommendations are to stick to the original design. Whatever got you to nursing school and whatever helped to push you out of there, that’s your personalized equation.”

If you’re not sure if you want to be a leader, Romeatrius Nicole Moss, DNP, RN, APHN-BC, founder and CEO of Black Nurses Rock, says, “First, it is determined by the specialty you enjoy, followed by what you can contribute. Leadership starts now, as a staff nurse.” She suggests you ask yourself these questions:

  • Do people often come to you for help, advice?
  • Do you offer suggestions at meetings?
  • Are you the go-to person for issues on the unit before elevation to leadership?
  • Are you available, outgoing, approachable?

“If you are the unit leader, charge nurse, etc., these positions are set up to move you to the [higher] levels when opportunities arise,” explains Moss. “So be ready.”

If you know that you aspire to a leadership position, then move ahead. If you don’t or you try a leadership role and don’t like it, that’s okay. “If you don’t like nursing leadership, you can always go back to patient care,” says Thomas Uzuegbunem, BSN, RN, an RN administrative supervisor as well as the editor of the nursing leadership blog, NurseMoneyTalk.com. “Some nurses can get enough leadership fulfillment by being on a board. Others find that it’s not enough, and they want to move into nursing leadership as a career.”

Make sure that after self-reflection, you are the one making the decision to move into a leadership position. “Nurses who are seen as good caregivers are often promoted. While patient care is extremely important, being able to care for a patient does not mean that a nurse can care for a team of peers,” explains Bill Prasad, LPC, LCDC, CTC, a licensed professional counselor who has also worked as a hospital director and a leadership coach. “A nurse must understand that moving to a leadership role means you are moving from a focus on health care to a focus on organizational health.”

If that doesn’t fit in your life goals, there’s no shame in not pursuing leadership or moving into management. Yanick D. Joseph, RN, MPA, MSN, EdD, an assistant professor of nursing at Montclair State University in New Jersey sums it up: “Not everyone is destined to lead or to be an administrator,” she says.

Skills and Characteristics Needed for Nursing Leadership

“Leaders are born, but there are no born leaders,” says Prasad. “Becoming an effective leader takes training and education. Without this, you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Communication, flexibility, and organizational skills are the most important skills that Moss believes nurses wanting to move to leadership need to have. “Leaders should have the skills that allow them to be calm in stressful situations such as in crisis, emergencies, schedule management, and more,” she says. Nurses also need the “ability to work with different personalities and change leadership styles based on the staff member. Nurses should understand this even while working with their teams: you cannot use the same leadership style on everyone. Some people do better with taskers and checklists, while others need a little supervision to flourish.”

Moss says that leaders must be relatable and personable. “Allow your staff to see you get your hands dirty. Be the expert on the unit/department and show the team your skills and that you can handle the unit if need be. Start IVs, jump in on a code, participate while letting your team lead.”

One other characteristic Moss believes is imperative for nurses who want to lead is to be calm when challenged or with disagreements. “It is important to understand differences of opinion and to negotiate the best options. It’s even more important when dealing with difficult staff, family, etc. to not get emotional and to always be open-minded.” She admits that this was tough for her when she began to lead. “I had to understand the different personalities, politics, and overall strategic plan, and how they all come into play with decision making. Once you get this, your life will become less stressful,” she explains.

Scott agrees that good communication skills are crucial. “Effective communication and opening the channels for two-way feedback is very important. Also important is knowing what keeps these staff and providers on board and engaged so that you can give them what they need to stay motivated and fulfilled,” says Scott.

When communicating with others, Cornell says to keep this in mind: “Nurses are well-versed in the scientific methods of providing care from an academic perspective, but relating to ourselves, learning to listen for the conversation instead of solving a problem, and not reacting spontaneously are all critical skills of a strong leader.”

Nurses also need to be patient and have courage. “These characteristics are important because the normal job responsibilities of the nurse require quick thinking and paying attention to details. However, being a great leader requires the brain to slow down and digest the information in order to resolve a problem or at least know where to look to resolve it,” says Cornell.

Nurse leaders, Uzuegbunem says, must have an ability to accept diversity and understand technology. “Nurse leaders must be able to embrace diversity and adapt to those cultural differences of the nurses they lead as well as the patients the nurses take care of,” says Uzuegbunem. “Technology is having more of an influence in health care. From electronic medical records to the equipment nurses use. [Leaders] need to be able to adapt to these technological changes.”

Educational Necessities

While our sources have different opinions on how much education leaders need, one thing is certain: if you want to hold a leadership position, you must keep learning all the time.

“Nurses need to obtain additional education, certifications, and always continue to have a thirst for knowledge,” says Cornell. “A nurse leader should have, at minimum, a master’s degree in a focused area of nursing.” While she says other advanced degrees are helpful, one focused specifically on nursing “drives the objectives of nurse leadership and the shared experiences of nurse leaders. At the advanced leadership level—which includes directors and CNOs, they should have a doctorate. The terminal degree is a collaborative journey of nursing experience and leadership needed to facilitate a structured systems approach to patient care and organization of nursing teams.”

“A nurse aspiring a position in leadership should attain the highest level above what the unit or department requires,” suggests Moss. “Managing nurses who have higher credentials could lead to resentment or turnover as the staff nurse doesn’t see progression at the top. A unit should be led by the expert, in my opinion, the go-to person. This person should obtain the needed certification, education, and training to support this.”

Scott reminds nurses to check to see if the facility you work for provides funding for earning advanced education. “Many hospital groups will offer tuition reimbursement to qualified candidates, so you don’t have to go into deep debt to get this education,” she says.

Uzuegbunem believes that there’s no set educational path to leadership. “Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get different answers. Some will say that nurses should have at least a BSN before being able to get into leadership. I don’t. I also don’t think a certification is needed. All that’s required is a desire to lead others and a willingness to serve those you lead,” he argues.

Money, Money, Money

Besides the other skills, characteristics, and education that prospective leaders need, there’s another that many don’t consider—financial knowledge. Jane C. Kaye, MBA, president of HealthCare Finance Advisors, states that nurses in supervisory positions in all types of health care facilities need to have some financial skills. “The financial health of health care organizations depends on how well nurse leaders manage staff and supply costs. For example, salaries are the single largest expense line in any health care facility, and nurses represent the largest share of salaries. Similarly, nurses lead large departments such as surgical services, where supply costs are very high. If salary and supply costs are not managed, the sheer size of these spending areas can jeopardize the financial health of the health care entity,” explains Kaye.

According to Kaye, the types of financial skills nurse leaders need include: management of full-time equivalent staff, management of supplies, expense variance analysis techniques, knowledge of budgets, an understanding of operating statistics, and an understanding charge capture techniques so that all services performed are included on the patients’ bills.

For nurses who don’t have good math and finance skills, Kaye suggests that they find a trusted colleague in finance to help them understand financial concepts. “They should never be afraid to ask questions,” she says.

Attending webinars, seminars, and workshops on finance may also help.

Prep Work

A good way to prepare for a nursing leadership role, says Scott, is by taking on leadership roles outside of work. For those who want to become more confident speakers and grow in leadership presence, she recommends looking into Toastmasters, a national organization with chapters across the U.S. that help members learn to give great speeches.

Cornell says that networking is a must but can begin way before nurses are even considering leadership roles. “Knowing colleagues in the industry is always a plus, and it helps to learn what other nurses are doing. Volunteering for committees and sitting on boards are all great experiences, and nurse leaders should participate in these activities,” says Cornell. She cautions that doing this should be fine. If it’s not what the nurse is aligned with liking or doing then s/he will lose interest fast.

“Becoming part of committees and boards allows you to gain the experience and confidence you need to speak out on your opinions, work with different personalities, and see your strengths and weaknesses,” says Moss. “It can really show you what type of leader you naturally are.”

To prepare for taking a leadership role, Joseph suggests the following: reading professional journals, attending seminars, networking, joining LinkedIn, researching the role you want, reaching out to professional organizations for best practices, speaking to a mentor or someone who has made the transition, being proactive and enthusiastic about learning the intricacies of the new role, and being visible.

No matter what, being true to yourself is most important. “Being a leader is challenging, arduous, demanding, trying, and hard,” says Joseph. “But the joy of doing what you are born to do and have a passion to accomplish is indescribable.”

5 Tips to Prepare for a Promotion

5 Tips to Prepare for a Promotion

If you want a promotion, you need to be ready for one. As you move through each step of your nursing career, change is the one constant companion. Your job will change, your patients change, technology and evidence-based practice will change. Being ready for those fluctuations is the best way to have a successful career.

If you plan for change and actually take steps to make sure you’re prepared to move your career in the direction you want, your choices will be more on target.

Because promotions are the way to increase your pay, assume more responsibility, and move you toward your career goals, you have to be an active participant in the process. Waiting for a promotion doesn’t always mean it’s going to come your way—even if you deserve it.

Here are some ways to actively plan for having a chance at getting that promotion.

Position Yourself for Leadership

Whether you want a promotion that is an advancement or a lateral move that gives you new skills, making sure your superiors know you’re open to something new is your first step. This one is important—don’t assume people know what you want.

Take on Responsibility

Seek out ways to take on more responsibility at work. If you don’t see anything obvious, find it. Ask your supervisor if you can help in a different area or ask what’s needed to advance in your organization. Become knowledgeable about a specific practice so that people on your team begin to rely on you for that task.

Get Certified

Getting certification shows the leaders in your organization that you’re serious about being the best nurse you can be. The time and effort it takes to get certified isn’t just a minor thing, so the work you’re putting in is for your own professional development. Becoming certified is a clear signal that you want to remain at the top of your nursing specialization and that you’ll take steps to achieve that goal.

Become Prominent in the Community

Join a professional organization and become an active member. You won’t gain anything by just joining—you really have to become involved. Lead a committee or speak at a conference. Offer to mentor a new nurse or seek out a mentor for yourself. Actively connect with the available networks and become someone who has something to offer, not just to seek out something.

Document Your Success

Keep track of your successes so when it’s time for your next review and potential promotion, you will have it all available. It’s easy to forget what you have done or when you were praised for a job well done, so keeping track of it all means nothing will slip through the cracks. You want to come to your review prepared to tell your story of how well the year went, where you want to go, and in what ways you’ll continue to work to make your efforts worthwhile to your organization.

With some strategic goals and actions on your part, you’ll be ready when the next opportunity comes up.

How to Retain Nurses in a Shortage Epidemic

How to Retain Nurses in a Shortage Epidemic

Employment projections are estimating that Registered Nurse (RN) needs will continue to grow rapidly—at the same time a shortage in nurses is expected. Due to this shortage, it is critical for health care organizations to implement a firm training program, have direct leadership relationships, and target minority populations. Doing this will assist in filling RN openings and help create an organization that truly invests and cares for their nurses, which will positively impact retention.

Nursing school enrollment is not advancing fast enough to meet the RN demand, and with nurse baby boomers aging there will be fewer nurses available as the health care sector continues to grow. For example, in the Orlando, Florida region specifically, there are over 1,600 current RN job openings available, with 191 direct employers competing to fill those open positions. Simply put, there are not enough nurses to fill all those critical needs in the market. This shortage is impacting the current nurses’ job satisfaction, increasing their stress, and even driving some nurses to leave the profession.

Without nurses we cannot run our health care organizations, which is why having a process in place to train and support them is essential. To invest, you must have a proper training program to support the nurse and ensure they are demonstrating safe quality care to patients. Certain organizations, such as AdventHealth, implement this in their Graduate Nurse Residency Program in the Orlando region. The first two weeks of the program are focused strictly on modules, simulations, and computer training. During that time the new nurse goes through a three-day simulation lab to provide hands-on learning before they even enter the department. The following months are focused on individual preceptor training. The nurse is partnered with an experienced nurse for a certain amount of duration (8-16 weeks depending on the acuity of the unit) to train the new nurse and will be with them every single shift side by side so they have the resources and training to be successful. After the focused preceptor training, the new nurse continues to be provided educational courses and simulations as needed. This shows the nurse that the company is investing in their future.

Proper training programs and support for nurse staff is essential for the nurse to feel like they have more opportunity, and desire to stay and grow as part of the organization. With the shortage of nurses, you need to ensure the nurses that you do have feel supported and uplifted to reach their full potential. Providing this training will provide a higher percentage of nurses to feel valued enough to want to stay in that organization and to have the desire to give back full circle to the organization that invested in their learning and education.

Leadership involvement is also a direct way for organizations to increase retention. If a nurse is feeling overworked, they need to at least feel appreciated for all they do. Open communication is critical for retention—and to really understand where your employees are coming from. Nurse leaders need to uphold regular one-on-one meetings and gain a professional relationship with their employees to understand their struggles. During this meeting it is also important for the leader to ask intuitive questions, so they are aware of the things that motivates their nurse employees to continue being a nurse every day to help others. Remind them why they started this career, so even through the negative days they resort back to the positive reasons why they started their nursing career.

In today’s recruitment efforts, the candidate pool of nursing talent is getting smaller since nursing schools can’t accommodate the applicants. Even though the schools can’t accommodate the volume of applicants, the nursing programs still need to ensure their selection process is fair in diversity selection as well. Health care organizations also need to focus on out of the box recruitment efforts targeting different populations—specifically, minority nurses. Health care in the United States is seeing a high influx of minority patients. When the number of minority patients increase, so does the demand for minority nurses to care for those patients. It is very important for the team of nurses at an organization to be well-rounded and diversified to care for patients from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

Implementing training programs, leadership engagement, and targeting minority nurse nurses will not only help with recruitment and retention, but also project longevity amongst nurse employees. Nurses need to feel wanted and valued. Nursing is one of the toughest jobs, but when an employer makes them feel respected, appreciated, and gives them the proper tools to be successful, they will be more likely to continue to stay within an organization that supports them wholeheartedly. Every organization needs to focus on these areas to be able to retain their nursing staff and provide the utmost care to their patients every day.

Confronting the Imposter Phenomenon as a Minority Nurse

Confronting the Imposter Phenomenon as a Minority Nurse

As an academic nurse researcher from an underrepresented minority background, for years, I was plagued by a certain phenomenon: specifically, the imposter phenomenon. In 1978, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes coined this term to describe the internal experience of “intellectual phoniness” that is prevalent in high-achieving women who, despite their academic and professional triumph, feel that they aren’t smart enough, that they have somehow deceived others to view them as successful, and that they will soon be exposed as frauds.

Of course, this phenomenon isn’t limited to women: a 2011 review article published by Jaruwan Sakulku and James Alexander suggests that 70% of all individuals experience imposter phenomenon at some points in their lives. However, in my article, I focus on how I myself experienced the imposter phenomenon as a woman with African roots within Western academia. More importantly, I share my experience to express how detrimental the imposter phenomenon is to educators in academia. Today, I feel obligated to share my story with my students through my teaching and mentoring.

What are the attributes of the imposter phenomenon? From the definition of the term, I identified at least three destructive factors that contributed to my personal experience of it: namely, self-doubt, negative self-statements, and socialization as an African female.

An individual who sports self-doubt lacks confidence in her own capabilities and thus relies upon others to assess her accomplishments, failures, and reality. Naturally, self-doubt fuels negative self-statements that this individual utters about herself and eventually comes to believe about herself. And her negative self-statements will ultimately reinforce what her society and culture demands of women. If this individual is African like me, she will be haunted by her society’s belief that women are a weaker sex, that they should not be heard but only seen, that they are given things and will never truly earn them, and that they are meant to be taken care of by men and other authority figures in their lives.

So, how did this series of negative reasoning come to plague me? It was several weeks after starting my new position as a Sickle Cell Scholar through a grant funded by the National Institutes of Health. A staff colleague was trying to get my attention as I walked through a hallway to my office and she whispered, “Dr. Ezenwa.” I cringed and quickly turned my head around to figure out who she was addressing. Of course, it was me. We were the only two people in that space. I thought, “Wow. Dr. Ezenwa, my foot!”

As soon as this astonishment faded, I went into my office and was arrested by a severe panic at the thought of my “lies” being discovered. My body felt hot, my heart clapped with a chaotic chorus of groans, and my stomach fluttered like a butterfly rain forest. Pearls of cold sweat dripped from my palms. I felt like a deceiver, a trickster. An imposter.

Slowly, my self-doubt magnified and my anxiety about achieving success intensified. I began to question myself: Did I learn enough in my PhD program to be an independent researcher? Do I know enough to teach at the undergraduate, graduate, and PhD levels? What was I going to tell my students? What if I ruin their lives and academic careers because I teach them the wrong things and extinguish their drive for continuous learning and growth? Will they even understand a word I say to them through my African accent?

These self-doubts naturally morphed into destructive self-statements: I am not good enough. I am not smart enough. I am not worthy. Then, perhaps most devastatingly, these destructive self-statements made me feel boxed in and limited by multiple historical and social orientations forced upon women, even though I had escaped them long ago.

As an African immigrant in Western academia, I worked hard to break through multiple levels of convention. I broke through many societies’ beliefs that the proper place for a woman is at home and her role is to bear children, cook meals, and clean up messes. I broke through the pressure of growing up poor and earning the opportunity to reach greater heights without any real road map or directions. I broke through to success as a black woman who American society believes is lesser than her white counterparts thus deserves less in life. I, as an immigrant, broke through the culture shock of living and working in America and always sought peaceful resolutions to clashes in culture.

But under the spell of self-doubt and negative self-talk, I began to think that even the actuality that I’d broken out of these social constructions was all a big lie. These feelings only magnified and manifested as psychological and cognitive obstacles that cornered me into mental blocks. I soon lacked the confidence I needed to effectively teach and conduct research, as well as to see myself as successful and accomplished.

Now, I first learned about the concept of the imposter phenomenon many years ago during my graduate program. Back then, I brushed the idea aside as silly. How could individuals who paid with blood and sweat to accomplish their goals diminish their accomplishments? But after spiraling into such depths upon simply being called by my appropriate doctorate title, I realized that I was not above this sort of destructive thinking. I had to take control of this phenomenon if I was going to effectively and full-heartedly serve my students, my institutions, and, most importantly, myself.

So, how did I cope with the imposter phenomenon? There are three major strategies that I endorse and have taught my students: self-accountability, accountability with a trusted partner, and continuous self-love.

First, self-accountability: I began by recognizing that I am accountable to myself to be the best I can be in all my life’s endeavors. I am accountable for the outcomes of my actions and inactions, as well as my failures and successes. Once I accepted this fact, I engaged in bone-deep self-reflection about the imposter phenomenon that I had allowed to take up residence in me. I asked myself, “Why do you think you’re not bright enough? Why do you think you’ve fooled anyone who believes otherwise? Why do you think you’re not good enough, that you’re unworthy?”

I wrote down my thoughts on a piece of paper and waited a few days to return to it. When I saw all the questions and my initial answers written out, other realizations came to mind. I, for instance, suddenly understood that the imposter phenomenon had been creeping up on me my entire life. Growing up, everyone had told me that I was “so smart” and openly assumed that I would become a medical doctor. I had always been afraid that I might not live up to this idea of intellectual perfection that my family and friends held about me, and, even after I became an academic doctor, I felt that I was not the genius everyone believed that I was.

When I had excavated my mind of these recognitions and purged any negative ideas that imprisoned my capabilities, I reached out to my accountability partner for a meeting. I shared with her the result of my self-reflection honestly and openly and, in turn, she worked with me on enhancing my confidence. My accountability partner assisted me in three important areas: changing my mindset, developing a strategic plan of action to combat the imposter phenomenon, and constantly checking in to see if the plan was on track.

To shift my mindset, my accountability partner coached me to see the opposite side of my negative thoughts. For example, if I doubted that I was not smart enough to have accomplished the current goals in my life, she empowered me to believe that my current achievements were not handed to me for free like Halloween candy. Instead, I had to earn them through a combination of my intelligence, efforts, and wise leveraging of available resources. She assured me that I already had a long record of accomplishments, and there was no reason for that trend to stop so long as I was willing to challenge myself and do the work required.

Once this mindset shift was underway, my accountability partner helped me develop specific, time-bound goals and strategies to succeed in my current endeavors. Finally, we set a timeline with consistent, scheduled follow-up meetings to assess my progress. During these follow-ups, we reevaluated my goals and strategies, as well as adjusted my timeline as necessary.

The third and final strategy I used to combat the imposter phenomenon was practicing continuous self-love. As a woman, both in African and American society, I was socialized to care for everyone else before thinking of myself. Consequently, I was petrified to upend the status quo and focus on myself for once in my entire life; after all, I had equated self-love with selfishness.

So, to successfully exercise self-love, I had to be intentional. I worked tirelessly to reprimand myself every time I felt guilty for focusing on my needs over other obligations. I reminded myself that, when I am overflowing with love for myself, I will have enough energy to achieve my goals and dreams and also healthily give to my family, career, academics, and finances. I made sure I celebrated my successes, both big and small. Every night in front of the mirror, I stood and told myself how deserving I was of all the accomplishments I worked so hard to earn.

So, with all three strategies combined, did I beat the imposter phenomenon? That I am still a professor and a researcher in one of America’s top ten public universities is a testament to how I conquered self-doubt and negative self-statements and how I refused to allow my ancestral background and cultural identity to confine me from living in my highest potential. That I was recently inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing is evidence that my research on health disparities in pain management in patients with sickle cell disease or cancer made a difference in peoples’ lives locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. That I am now an entrepreneur is a manifestation of my mindset that now asserts, “You are good enough. You are smart enough. You are worthy.” So, yes, these strategies worked!

The imposter phenomenon is a monster, and the struggle to overcome it is real. Successful women have systematically been robbed of important opportunities because of our own self-doubts, negative self-statements, and our giving into social orientations that seek to confine us. But there is hope and there is help. The strategies I mentioned here, as well as with professional help from psychotherapists, can move us toward controlling the phenomenon and casting it out of our lives.

The question is, are we willing to confront the imposter monster in ourselves? Are we willing to tear down limiting beliefs about academic success, professional success, business success, financial success, and whatever else we desire? Are we willing to free ourselves from the bondage of history, cultural codes, and oppressive gender roles? Are we willing to look in the mirror and say “I am good enough, I am smart enough, I am worthy?” Are we willing to do the hard work to love and respect ourselves?

And, finally, are we willing to do the work now? Not next year, next month, next week, or tomorrow. Now.

Are you willing to take the challenge?

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

—Maya Angelo, “And Still I Rise”

UW Nurse Camp Offers Support to Underrepresented HS Students

UW Nurse Camp Offers Support to Underrepresented HS Students

When Carolyn A. Chow, MA, currently an HR recruiter and inclusion program lead at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, was the director of admissions and student diversity at the University of Washington (UW), she co-founded their successful UW Nurse Camp, which still continues today.

“For schools and colleges who want to make a longitudinal difference in the future of nursing and health equity, a program like UW Nurse Camp is a win-win for high schoolers, current nursing students who are mentored to be leaders, and nurses who want to make a difference in the lives of the high schoolers who shadow them,” says Chow. “Costs to run the program are completely covered by community donations.”

Chow took time to answer our questions about the camp.

You co-founded the UW Nurse Camp in 2009 while on staff. Why did you start it? Had you been thinking about it for a while?

We had a very dedicated team of student leaders who wanted to create a group that was for building community and mentorship opportunities among students of color in the nursing program. In 2007, we sat down to talk about ways we could do that. So, UW Nurse Camp became a way we could have underrepresented students have professional mentors, be mentors to fellow students and high schoolers, build community through a specific year-long project, and to provide a pipeline of “first in their family to go to college” as well as underrepresented-in-nursing applicants who would get support from UW School of Nursing through the program. It took two years of fundraising in the community and organizing before we launched the camp in summer 2009 with 24 campers. In 2018, the camp expanded to hosting 36 campers.

What is nurse camp, exactly? How long does it last and who attends?

UW Nurse Camp is a five-day, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. day camp. This year’s camp is July 15-19, 2019. UW Nurse Camp accepts applications from February 1 to April 15. High school sophomores and juniors who are underrepresented and/or first in their family to go to college are encouraged to apply. While most applicants are from Washington state, the camp has also had campers from California, Oregon, Maryland, and Illinois.

UW Nurse Camp is run completely by staff, nursing students, and community volunteers. Former campers who became UW BSN students are mentored to be UW Nurse Camp Leads, where they run the program so they can “give back” by sharing their success stories and serving as inspiration to future campers.

What do the high school students learn at UW Nurse Camp? 

The curriculum for UW Nurse Camp is designed to introduce high schoolers to the profession of nursing and everything it has to offer as a meaningful career. We focus on what a powerful difference diverse high school students can make in the promoting health equity. The sessions are taught and supervised by current and diverse UW Nursing students, alumni, staff, faculty, and community members. Campers also shadow nurses taking care of real patients and their families at the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC).

From the UW Nurse Camp website:

  • Shadowing nurses at UWMC in various hospital units
  • Completing CPR certification and HIPAA training
  • Learning:
    • about infection control and proper hand washing techniques
    • how to take blood pressure and vitals
    • how to prepare for college and getting into nursing school
    • in the School of Nursing learning and simulation lab and UW Medicine’s WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare (WISH) Lab
  • Participating in nursing “speed rounds,” where you will meet and talk with nurses working in all areas of health care, including forensics, public health, emergency and research
  • Touring the UW Seattle campus

Why is it important to have this? What does it bring to the students that they may not get otherwise?

UW Nurse Camp is so important for students at all levels. Campers have access to a program that supports and teaches them about nursing and college educational opportunities. They get ongoing mentorship throughout camp and then continued support beyond from UW nursing students and alumni who are professional nurses. They meet diverse nurses in all different areas of nursing. In addition, they are continually advised by admissions staff on how to apply successfully to the UW BSN program and ways to prepare themselves to be competitive nursing applicants.

Current UW students are mentored with UW Nurse Camp as a leadership program. As UW Nurse Camp Leads, the students volunteer their time and efforts through the entire academic year to plan the UW Nurse Camp experience, including engaging in professional communication with camp speakers and instructors. They are mentored by School of Nursing staff in advising and youth program risk management. Additionally, the nursing students conduct the UW Nurse Camp admissions process.

Would you like to see this branch out and be something that other nursing schools offer? Why?

Absolutely. This is an incredibly successful program that supports underrepresented and first in their family to go college high schoolers in their journey to become professional nurses. They get to see diverse nursing students and professional nurses in action. The students also have inspiration and validation that they can make it through the nursing admissions process, and they gain networking contacts to support them throughout their process of graduating from high school, getting volunteer opportunities, completing prerequisites, and applying to college and nursing school.

Do most students who attend end up going into nursing? How do you think that UW Nurse Camp influences them?

According to a survey of former UW Nurse Campers, 50% of attendees pursued or are pursuing nursing. Another 30% pursue other health care careers. Finally, 20% opt for non-health-related majors. UW Nurse Camp influences them because as high schoolers they get access to professional nurses and clinical situations at the UWMC as well as support from UW nursing students, staff, and faculty. They gain access to role models in nursing who are committed to helping them to succeed in the profession. UW Nurse Camp demystifies the journey to becoming a nurse.

Interested in learning more about UW Nurse Camp? Visit here.

National Nursing Assistants Week Spotlights an Essential Role

National Nursing Assistants Week Spotlights an Essential Role

The National Network of Career Nursing Assistants marks the 42nd year of celebrating National Nursing Assistant Week from June 13-20. As lifelong caregivers, nursing assistants are a vital cog in the wheel of complete and attentive nursing care. They provide the hands-on, routine care for many patients, particularly those in long-term care facilities.

As part of the nursing team, nursing assistants often rely on their experience and the expertise of their colleagues to help patients in the ways that work best for them. Based on their long-term knowledge and interaction with patients, they are able to discern the slight nuances in providing one-on-one care to each patient.

Nursing assistants learn how different patients can be moved most comfortably and what foods can be digested most easily, for instance. They understand the emotional triggers for patients and the topics or situations that bring calm or comfort. They understand how to encourage patients in the ways they will respond to best. All of this important information is passed on to the entire medical team to help put together the best care plan.

In addition to the hands-on care, nursing assistants often provide essential and cherished companionship for patients. Because they interact with them so frequently, they become an important social aspect in the day-to-day care activities. They listen for vital clues to how a patient is feeling and can provide reassurance for typical issues or raise the alarm when something seems off or unusual. It’s often those smaller changes that can be a tip-off for a larger problem brewing.

With such frequent check-ins, nursing assistants advocate for their patients and have an important voice on the the care team. Nursing assistants who are in the same facility for a long time or who are career nursing assistant are also a source of stability for patients in times when everything else can be changing. A familiar face is welcome and reassuring.

As the national population continues to see the Baby Boomer population age and also live longer, the need for nursing assistants is growing. According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, another 700,000 jobs will need to be filled to meet the demand over the next 25 years. And nursing assistants can work in a variety of settings, from nursing homes to emergency departments to hospice care.

National Nursing Assistants Week is an excellent time to recognize the role nursing assistants play in your care team’s work. From physicians to patients, they fill a critical need.

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