With their state-of-the-art medical technologies and outstanding nursing programs, the United States has long been one of the most desirable destinations for international nursing students to enroll. As an international nursing student studying in the U.S., you’ll have the opportunity to receive a top-notch education that provides hands-on experience under the guidance of world-class nurse faculty members.
But before you can begin learning from leading experts in the field, there are a few important things that all international nursing students should know. Below, you can find out the crucial skills you need before enrolling in a U.S. nursing school, and how to set yourself up for career success.
1. Strong English skills are a must.
One of the most frequently asked questions of any international nursing student is, “Do I need to have good English to succeed in my program?” To put it simply: Yes, you need to have a good grasp of the English language to enroll in a U.S. nursing school.
Most nursing school programs will require you to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to ensure that you understand the language well enough to complete the coursework. This is true whether you’re a first-year nursing student or an experienced RN enrolling in graduate-level studies in the United States.
2. You need to complete prerequisite coursework first.
Before you can apply to nursing schools in the United States, you need to show proof that you have completed the necessary prerequisites for the program. International nursing students must fulfill these prerequisites in order to obtain an F-1 visa, which allows you to take up foreign residence in the United States for the duration of your program.
Once you’re accepted into a nursing program, your school admissions office will issue you an I-20 application form. The next step is to fill out this form and take it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, where you will pay a fee to submit your application for a student visa.
3. Take advantage of scholarships and financial aid programs.
Even for in-state students, the cost of nursing school in the U.S. can be steep. In-state nursing students can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000-$8,000 per year, depending on the type of education, location and the type of school (i.e., public vs. private).
As an international nursing student, you can expect to pay more than an in-state American student. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of housing, food, and all the basic nursing supplies you’ll need for nursing school. To help ease the financial strain, be sure to apply for financial aid and scholarships that are available to international nursing students. You can find out which financial aid opportunities are available to you by getting in touch with the admissions office of any nursing school you’re considering.
4. Buy everything you need in advance.
Studying in the United States for the first time can be overwhelming. With so much to take in, it’s easy to forget all the supplies you need before your first day.
Depending on when you arrive, you’ll want to figure out which medical supplies for nursing students in advance and order them sooner rather than later. This includes at least a few sets of scrubs, a good pair of slip resistant shoes and compression socks, note-taking supplies, a stethoscope, and a clipboard, just to name a few.
5. Study groups are key to your success.
Though you may prefer to study solo, don’t immediately dismiss the idea of joining a study group. As an international student, being part of a study group can make all the difference in your success. Studying in a group can help you retain more information from class, improve your test scores, and provide you with moral support from your fellow classmates. Additionally, working with a group builds teamwork and social skills, which are highly valued in the field of nursing.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Nursing school is challenging even for those who are accustomed to U.S. teaching styles. If you’re struggling to keep up with the coursework or to understand a certain concept, don’t hesitate to reach out to your nurse educators. After all, they were once nursing students as well and have been in your shoes.
Though they may not know the exact challenges of being an international nursing student, they can help make your life a lot easier in several ways. Be sure to make use of their office hours and let them know what you’re struggling with. They may post their lecture slides online to help you study or work with you one-on-one to help you better understand the lesson.
7. Get comfortable with NCLEX-style testing.
Don’t wait to begin preparing for the NCLEX test. Instead, start studying for it while you’re enrolled in nursing school. This challenging test—which is required to become a nurse in the United States—can throw many students off with its different styles of questions. The format ranges from multiple-choice, order response, calculation questions, and select-all-that-apply questions, which can take some getting used to.
Fortunately, there are ways for international nursing students to prepare for the NCLEX test early. In addition to challenging yourself with a daily NCLEX-style question, you can also invest in practice resources offered by Kaplan, NRSNG and UWorld.
Being an international nursing student can be challenging. On top of social and cultural barriers, you’re also faced with undergoing a rigorous program that will put your skills to the test. Don’t let this dissuade you from pursuing your dream of studying nursing in the United States. By keeping the above things in mind, you can ace your nursing school program and go on to become a successful nurse.
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
- 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.
What better time than National Nurses Day to call out important leaders within nursing? And as a platform for minority nurses, Minority Nurse wants to pay special attention when a minority nurse advances to a leadership role.
Lindsey Harris, DNP, FNP-BC, was recently elected to president of the Alabama State Board of Nursing and will be the first African-American nurse to lead the board in its 125-year history.
The significance of the election isn’t lost on Harris. “This makes me feel I am living my passion,” she says. “It makes me a little nervous, too. I have big shoes to fill.”
Harris says she finds a nursing career a definite calling. “I chose nursing because I always had a passion for helping others,” she says. “Being a nurse is one way I can help others when they are in a vulnerable time of need.”
But Harris also sees education as a big part of a nurse’s role and looks forward to having a bigger voice in the nursing industry to help spread the word about education. Because nurses teach patients and the general population about their health, about taking care of themselves or loved ones, and about prevention, their practice encompasses more than just a specific illness or injury.
“It is every aspect,” says Harris. “It’s about the physical, emotional, and spiritual.” And Harris says her own decisions have been led in part by her own faith and spirituality. “For me, I just feel God has put me on this earth to do something bigger than myself,” she says.
And for Harris, one of her biggest drives and skills is being what she calls a “connector.” When a student needs a preceptor, she can scan her network and help connect people. When a patient needs an appointment with a specialist but isn’t sure where to go, Harris can get that all moving.
And being elected the first African-American nurse president of the organization makes her feel good. “It’s important being an example for African-American women and showing them they can do this,” she says. “They can be leaders.” Harris plans to use the platform to help bring nurses in the state together to unite their voices. “We have 100,000 nurses in Alabama,” she says. And many varied nursing associations represent these nurses including the Birmingham Black Nurses Association and Central Alabama Nurse Practitioners Association, both of which Harris is also a member of. “Imagine if we all came together and had one voice,” she says. “We could make real decisions about moving nursing forward.”
Some of the more pressing issues Harris sees is the mounting healthcare crisis that intensifies with each hospital or facility closing. “Access to healthcare is significantly decreased,” she says, noting some people have to travel for hours to reach a facility when the closest one to their location closes.
As a minority nurse, Harris found joining professional organizations to be an excellent way to connect with other like-minded nurses and to make a difference. As for the Alabama State Board of Nursing, Harris says they can make an enormous impact on nursing legislation and policy. “We are the voice of nursing,” she says. Increasing the membership numbers is one of Harris’s goals as is building strong connections within the nursing community and reaching out to the organizations that touch on nursing issues and patient care.
“Nurses are dealing with so much more,” says Harris. “The good thing is there are new advances and opportunities for growth within nursing. They can do anything and can work in hospitals, schools, factories … there are so many opportunities for nurses. And it’s so rewarding when a patient says to you, ‘I can tell you really love what you are doing.’”
Let’s rewind back to the summer of 2014. I
was in the midst of my senior year of nursing school taking classes, working,
and doing my best to survive the New York City summertime heat. While working
on an assignment one evening, my mother called me to say that my uncle had been
in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. He was put onto a ventilator and had to
endure an extensive hospital stay. This news was incredibly upsetting and
unexpected. I have always been close with my uncle and couldn’t help but feel
I pushed on through my classes and day-to-day routine, but I noticed that I was suddenly sleeping more, eating less, and often feeling unfocused and unmotivated. I chalked it up to stress from school and work, especially since it was my last year and I was expected to graduate that upcoming spring. Reaching out for help was a fleeting thought, and I firmly decided that I could handle these feelings on my own.
Turns out, I was wrong. Feeling down, unmotivated, and overwhelmed consumed me. I received a C minus in one of my summer classes, which coupled with a C minus that I had received earlier in my nursing school career. For a while everything felt so slow, but suddenly it was as if I were thrown into a time-lapse getting caught up with reality. I frantically reached out to my academic advisor who monotonously told me that if I was struggling with a personal issue I should have spoken up sooner and that two C minuses are not acceptable in the program, but I could speak with my professor directly about the grade. There was hope. Except there wasn’t, because my professor would not budge on the matter. With that being said, I was kicked out of nursing school the fall of my senior year.
My recently furnished dorm room had to be dismantled—clothing back in suitcases, photos taken off the walls. I had to say goodbye to my roommates who were confused and concerned. I had to say goodbye to my friends of four years. The reality that I would not be graduating after years of hard work crushed me.
I experienced panic like never before. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t feel anything but my lungs constricting. I felt like I was going to explode. A counselor diagnosed me with both panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
I moved back home and tried to figure out what to do next in a frenzied state. No nursing school would accept someone who was dismissed for poor academic performance. The panic attacks only got worse. I was having them at least three times per day. Most people would have given up at this point and settled for less, but I had always known that nursing is the only career I wanted for myself. I would not settle, no matter how much I was hurting, no matter how impossible things seemed.
I began seeing a regular therapist in an effort to get my life back on track. Things seemed to be improving. During the winter of 2015, about four months after my dismissal, I was driving home from a therapy session down a road I’ve known my whole life. Suddenly, a car pulled out in front of me, taking me off-guard. I slammed on my breaks, but it was too late. I smashed into the car head on. My insides were screaming panic, but I couldn’t move. Bystanders got out of their cars to help, but my doors were locked and could not be opened. People were asking me through my window if I could move my legs and I didn’t know if I could. I heard sirens and thought to myself, “I have to be dreaming.” Paramedics had to cut through the top of my car, hoist me out, and strap me to a board that was put into the ambulance. More panic.
Though I questioned my faith during that time, I thankfully left the hospital banged up and bruised, but not detrimentally damaged. I sustained a treatable back injury. After my recovery, I applied for a job at an urgent care clinic because I wanted to maintain medical practice in my life. I thought it would help, both with my practice as a future medical care provider as well as my emotional state. I was happy to get the position, but that meant having to drive again. During that period of time, my drives to work consisted of multiple instances of having to pull over and having countless panic attacks. But I got there. I kept up with both my therapy sessions for the anxiety and physical therapy for my back.
That spring, I attended the graduation ceremony of the friends I was forced to leave behind. I can’t begin to describe how happy I felt for them. At the same time, I worried that they would end up leaving me behind. I felt that in a way, they already were. I felt awkward being with them in public because I didn’t want people from outer circles asking questions that I was too embarrassed to answer. I didn’t know how to fit in anymore with my best friends. This caused panic that I cannot forget.
Rather than closing in on myself, I mustered up the courage to apply back to the same nursing school that I was dismissed from for entrance the upcoming fall semester. I was asked back for an interview, which I graciously accepted and prepared for rigorously. On the day of my interview, I walked into a familiar building unable to control my shaking body. As I sat across from my old professors, I was asked what will be different this time around, should they allow me back. I told them the truth. I spoke about my journey dealing with anxiety and ways that I am now able to manage it, though it goes without saying that it is challenging. I highlighted my relentless drive to be a nurse, and that if the past year wasn’t enough to stop me, then nothing ever could. I was accepted back into the program; my faith was slowly being restored.
I was taking classes with students who had known each other their entire nursing school careers. I also struggled to grasp the material at first, being that I was rusty from having to take time off. I felt disoriented and like an outsider, but I didn’t let that distract me from achieving greatness. I made the dean’s list at the university that only a year ago had told me that I wasn’t good enough. I eventually made friends with my classmates and strengthened the relationships with my old friends.
That May, I graduated proudly. All my friends and family were there to support me. Panic took the backseat.
After passing the NCLEX, I worked in a couple of different clinics and health systems gaining invaluable experience. Despite my fear of rejection, I applied and was accepted into a master’s program for midwifery. I now happily work at a fertility clinic and am excited to graduate the midwifery program stronger than ever. I have discovered my interests within the nursing field, which include researching the United States’ shockingly high maternal mortality rates and normalizing breastfeeding, especially among women of color.
Now, I have been invited to become a member
of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Once more, I
have to ask myself whether I’m dreaming, only this time it’s under completely
different circumstances. I won’t lie, a sense of underlying anxiety persists
within me, but I can now recognize that I have valuable coping mechanisms that
I have learned through therapy, a group of friends and family members who are
my rocks, and a sense of proudness and empowerment in what I have accomplished
that cannot be taken away. I am eager to make my mark on the field of nursing.
I can’t wait for what will come next.
Workplace culture can be a hard-to-define concept, but it nevertheless affects every minute of your working life. Culture encompasses elements such as business values, management styles, physical environment, and even dress codes. Each hospital has its own unique culture that you’ll have to adapt to whenever you start a new job. Here are eight tips to help nurses acclimate to a new workplace culture:
1. Pay attention during orientation.
At the start of each new job, you’ll probably have to attend some kind of orientation or training for new hires before you can grab your nursing bag and start seeing patients. Even if there’s not a presentation that explicitly describes the culture and values of your new employer, you should have a good grasp of what is expected by the end of orientation. While culture has many layers that go far beneath the surface—each nursing unit has its own individual way of doing things, for example—wrapping your mind around the facility’s overall culture will give you a good framework for figuring out what does and doesn’t trickle down into your unit.
2. Observe how others behave.
Especially during your first days on the job, keep a sharp eye out for your coworkers’ behavior and watch how they interact with each other and supervisors. Do they engage in small talk as they walk together, or is everyone all business, all the time? Are they warm and friendly with the nursing unit manager, or do they hang back and treat them with deference? While some of this will depend on the personalities of your individual coworkers, observing this behavior will give you examples to fall back on as you start to build relationships at your new workplace.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
However, sometimes you won’t be able to glean everything you need to know from observation alone. Maybe your coworkers act totally different with two different supervisors, or one person in your unit hardly talks to anyone else unless necessary for unknown reasons. When it feels natural, you can ask your coworkers for more details in a non-nosy way. This also goes for procedures and other non-people related matters. If the unit does things differently than you’re used to, don’t hesitate to clarify what the preferred process is. Better that you ask for clarification ahead of time than try to puzzle your way through and mess things up.
4. Try to withhold judgment and assumptions.
Every workplace, including hospitals and other facilities, have their quirks. Especially if you’ve worked in several other facilities before, these idiosyncrasies might seem annoying and downright strange—but there’s often a reason for them. Instead of dismissing these quirks outright or grumbling about them, try to withhold judgment at the beginning and seek out underlying reasons. Maybe that unsociable coworker is dealing with a sick parent or child, or the “high strung” supervisor is under a lot of pressure from higher-ups. Even the most off-the-wall behavior often has an explanation if you look deeply enough.
5. Don’t constantly compare things to your old job.
Speaking of comparing your new job to your old one, don’t do it–at least not out loud. It’s super annoying to have a coworker who won’t shut up about how great their old employer was and how they did everything much better than their new facility. This behavior is not just bad for unit morale, it also won’t do you any favors as you try to build relationships with your new nursing coworkers. Just like your mom used to tell you when you were a kid: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it all.
6. Be judicious with vertical relationships.
Whether you’re a supervisor or a director report, vertical relationships can make or break your work experience. If you’re a supervisor, the performance of your team depends on your nurses. On the flip side, your supervisor holds great influence over your career as a nurse. Whatever position you will be in, try to figure out supervisor-direct report expectations early on in your new job. In an ideal world, your new employer will encourage close, supportive relationships between supervisors and nurses, but this isn’t always the case. The earlier you figure out the lay of the land, the sooner you’ll be able to start mapping out a plan for your career and your team.
7. Acknowledge your mistakes.
No matter how careful you are, you’re bound to make some slip-ups at any new job. When you do make a mistake, own up to it rather than trying to hide it and ask for pointers on how to do things better next time. See each mistake as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow as both a nurse and an employee. Apologize if necessary, and try to find humor in the situation when appropriate. Your coworkers will appreciate that you don’t take yourself too seriously. There’s no use crying over spilled milk or stained scrubs, so if the mistake is small in the scheme of things, try not to dwell on it and focus on moving forward.
8. Educate rather than accuse.
Sometimes, you’ll be on the receiving end of a mistake rather than the instigator. Maybe a new coworker calls you by the wrong name, or makes assumptions about you based on your appearance. While this isn’t okay, try not to assume the worst and jump to conclusions about ulterior motives. If you can, gently but firmly correct the other person while offering them an out like so: “I know names can be tough to remember sometimes, but just so you know my name is actually _____.” You won’t earn any points for being combative from the start, so do your best to be gracious and understanding when you start a new job, even if you want to be anything but.
Starting a new job can feel like entering a black box, but if you keep your ears and eyes open, you’ll quickly pick up on expectations and values. Follow these eight tips to help you adjust to a new work culture as you ease into your new nursing position.
On January 1, 2019, Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, became president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the first man ever to hold the position. As a minority nurse trailblazer with more than 30 years of clinical and leadership experience, he was well equipped to break one of the remaining glass ceilings in nursing.
Grant, who holds a PhD in nursing, headed North Carolina’s nationally renowned Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where he started as a staff nurse in 1982. He has deep roots in the area, having earned his bachelor’s from North Carolina Central University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from UNC-Greensboro.
An internationally recognized expert on burn care and fire safety, Grant was presented with a Nurse of the Year Award in 2002 by former President George W. Bush for his work treating burn victims from the World Trade Center site of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Grant won the election by an overwhelming majority of votes from his colleagues after having served as vice president of the ANA and being an active member for decades. The organization has served nurses for 122 years, and now represents more than four million registered nurses nationwide.
Grant intends for his appointment to help unravel stereotypes about men in nursing. He plans to use his term to address some of the most pressing issues in the field, such as a looming nursing shortage that more inclusionary educational recruiting practices could alleviate.
We interviewed Dr. Ernest Grant to learn more about his historic election as ANA president and what the future holds for the association under his leadership.
ANA President Ernest Grant
Photo credit: Max Englund/UNC Health Care
What are your top priorities as far as encouraging more diversity in nursing?
Increasing gender and ethnic diversity in nursing is one of my top priorities. A nursing shortage is expected as the general population is aging, and experienced baby boomer nurses are retiring. (Projections are that 500,000 seasoned RN’s will retire by 2022, and 1.1 million new nurses will be required to replace them.) There are ways we can avoid this [predicated shortage], which include recruiting more men into nursing and increasing diversity across the profession.
How will you encourage greater diversity in the nursing profession?
There should be more people of different backgrounds entering the profession so that it reflects society. One way to achieve this is through better access to scholarships and other educational and community resources. People of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds must know what’s available—that there are federal loans geared to nurses, for instance.
A nursing assistant may not be aware that taking courses at a community college is possible or that an employer may offer tuition assistance. But the stumbling block is not always money; it could be having young children or home responsibilities. Online training or resources in the community that pay for child care would be the solution then.
What would encourage more men to pursue the nursing profession?
Men are joining the profession. Seeing someone who resembles them in the health care system has helped empower them to become nurses. Promoting images of men in nursing needs to begin early, starting at the grade school level and letting boys see men who are nurses. “Here’s somebody who I can identify with,” they will think. Then at the high school level, it gets reemphasized by a guidance counselor or health occupation program. In those programs, they can get certified as a nursing associate, and obtain more exposure to nursing.
Currently, 9 to 13 percent of nurses are men, but when I started it was much less. (Probably it was only 3 to 4 percent.) Several things are contributing to the increased interest, including increased representation in advertising and the media. Another is men who served as medics in the military but then unfortunately don’t [immediately] qualify for any nursing jobs. There are some accelerated nursing courses nationwide for former medics. In my state, they can choose nursing school, PA school, or medical school—all are good options for our military folks.
How did you get interested in nursing and decide to make it your career?
I grew up in a very poor community, as the youngest of seven, and my father died young. It took a village. Everyone knew everybody and people made sure you studied and didn’t misbehave. They said they knew I was going to successful.
When I got into nursing—I started as an LPN—I intended to go on to medical school. I got exposed to men in nursing and was fortunate enough to have multiple mentors to go to for advice. These are still my mentors. Thanks to Dr. Gene Tranbarger and others, who paved the pathway for me. When I started my studies in the mid-70’s and early 80’s, there were many stereotypes about men in nursing, but you don’t hear them as much anymore.
People know: Men are just as capable of providing care as women. You can be masculine and still care. I’m 6’6” and very large, so a lot of people may think “this guy is going to hurt me” but I’m really a gentle giant. They would soon realize that and ask for me as their nurse.
How has being a racial minority impacted your career as a nurse?
It has impacted my career, especially in the early years. (I grew up during time when segregation was ending.) Once in a while, you may meet someone who doesn’t want you to care for them because of your sex or color or both. Now it doesn’t happen as often. You have to prove yourself to be just as competent of a nurse as your white counterpart.
Have there been other minority nurse presidents in ANA’s history?
Yes, ANA has had two African American presidents, Barbara Nichols (served 1978-1982) and Beverly Malone (served 1996-2000).
I would like to be judged by my capabilities, not by my race or gender. My leadership skills are what got me here. I’ve worked very hard to win the respect of my colleagues. Men ran before for ANA president but faced a lot of obstacles. I’m looking forward to this challenge and endeavor.
What do you want MinorityNurse.com readers to know?
Consider joining ANA and your state nurses association if you’re not already a member. As you begin your career, I want to encourage you to be more politically savvy at the legislative level. You need to be more aware of how decisions in the house or senate may hurt your ability to practice to your full license and educational level. Or it may limit your ability to treat patients—if they can’t get to us to access care [due to political efforts to replace or end the ACA]. If we’re not smart enough to advocate for our patients, then we’re doing a disservice to them.
Get out there and attend town hall meetings that your representatives are having, and volunteer to serve on their committees as a health care expert. Who else out there is more of a health care expert than a nurse? I would challenge all nurses to be more politically astute about how decisions at the state and national level affect the nursing profession.