Student Nurses’ Day: Meet Azariah Torain

Student Nurses’ Day: Meet Azariah Torain

Current student nurses have had an academic path that has been influenced in all ways by a global pandemic. This year, Minority Nurse celebrates National Student Nurse Day (honored every year on May 8) by learning more about Azariah Torain, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh. Torain also is involved in the National Student Nurses’ Association where she is the 2022-2023 Imprint Editor and chair of the Image of Nursing Committee.

What made you decide to go to nursing school

Nursing school was a clear choice for me. I wanted to go into a career path where I could both challenge myself and positively impact another person’s life. I knew that nursing school would offer me the flexibility to switch my specialty if I ever got bored with what I was doing. I am very indecisive so I appreciate this option.

Do you know what nursing specialty you would like to go into?

The specialty I think I would enjoy the most would likely be the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Taking care of the worlds’ smallest patients would be so rewarding but also an extremely challenging role. This could change tomorrow though. I am set on my end goal of going back to school and eventually becoming involved in executive leadership in some form.

What excites you most about the nursing industry? 

What excites me the most about nursing is the fact that it is an industry full of innovative people. We are fast-paced and our practice is always shifting and evolving based on evidence-based practice. The amount of career paths are endless and so is the potential for growth.

What has been your biggest surprise as a student nurse?

My biggest surprise as a student nurse was definitely how quickly we are learning new things, especially this past semester. We would learn a skill in lab one week and the next we would have a competency evaluation and we are completing the skill from memory. Soon after that we are doing the skill on actual patients. My confidence in my ability has increased significantly as the year has gone by, but never too confident to ask for help.

Has the pandemic changed your path, outlook, or educational plans at all? 

The pandemic has shined a light on so many previously overlooked job opportunities in nursing. The prevalence of travel nursing and telehealth have me considering new possibilities! Being a freshman in 2020 was not fun, and I didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to. With this school year a bit tamer, I have gotten to participate in so much more, and I truly feel like I’m getting the full nursing student experience.

Do you have mentors or supporters? 

My parents are easily my number-one supporters, I had a skateboarding incident and broke my front tooth in half three days before my white coat ceremony. My mom somehow was able to find someone to fix it just in time. Even from hours away she still saves the day.

How do you envision your nursing educational and career paths? 

I envision the two being very closely intertwined. As I advance in my education I will hopefully advance through my career. I plan on getting a Masters’ in Business Administration and possibly a doctorate level nursing degree in executive leadership.

What would you say to others considering who are thinking of becoming student nurses?

I would encourage anyone looking into nursing to make sure that they are at a stable place in life before enrolling in school. Nursing school can be done and it can be extremely rewarding but it is also incredibly taxing. I welcome anyone to join the nursing profession and if you are thinking of nursing school, you should be active and join a professional organization like NSNA.

Five Unusual Nursing Jobs: Is One of Them Right for You?

Five Unusual Nursing Jobs: Is One of Them Right for You?

One of the best things about nursing is that there is a rewarding job for everyone. While some professionals prefer to care for patients inside a hospital, others do their work while spending time outdoors, educating people or traveling the globe. No matter your personality or your working style, you can start an exciting career as soon as you get your registered nurse (RN) license. The following unique nursing jobs may require casual jogger scrub pants or a stylish, formal lab coat. Whatever you wear or how you like to contribute to others, one of these fresh and interesting roles is sure to suit you.

1. Forensic Nurse

If you have an investigative mind and like to advocate for your patients, forensic nursing may be right for you. These experienced RNs help to treat patients who are survivors of assault or abuse. They also collect evidence and may be asked to testify in some court cases. While it takes some training to become a forensic nurse, the field is growing. Nurses can also expect to earn between $59,000 and $89,000 per year.

Forensic nursing is always a rewarding challenge. Professionals with critical thinking skills, compassion and an understanding of the criminal justice system are encouraged to apply. While you will develop relationships with survivors, families and law enforcement, you will also make a difference in helping victims through a traumatic experience. Forensic nurses may work in hospitals, community centers and even in medical examiner offices.

Some of the biggest benefits of becoming a professional in the forensics field include a more flexible shift schedule, additional RN skills and a good salary. To become a forensic nurse, you will need at least an RN license and a BSN. Some roles will require you to obtain a certification as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). There is even a SANE-P designation for caring for child and adolescent patients. Even if it is not a requirement at your current job, the SANE certification from the International Association of Forensic Nurses is invaluable to your career.

2. Occupational Nurse

Also referred to as employee health nurses, occupational nurses have a unique role outside of the hospital room. These experienced RNs work in factories, chemical plants and companies of all sizes to recognize and prevent damaging effects from hazardous exposures in the workplace. They may also be hired to treat workers’ illnesses and injuries and partner with other professionals at their company to analyze company medical benefits. Some work for private organizations, while others are hired by the government as contractors or consultants.

As an occupational nurse, you can expect to earn a higher annual salary with the more experience you have. According to PayScale, most nurses can be expected to bring in an average of $71,883 per year, while some of the highest-paid employee health nurses in the country make around $96,000. Some nurses can earn overtime pay, while others are on a fixed salary. Check with the organizations and employers in your area for specifics.

To become a nurse in this interesting field, you will need an RN license and at least two years of nursing experience. Some careers will require you to become certified as an occupational health nurse before you apply, while others will let you earn your certification in the first year on the job. The COHN or COHN-S exams take a few hours to complete. You must also submit an exam fee and recertify your license every five years. If you are committed to the effort it takes to make a difference as an occupational nurse, you will benefit the companies and employees that you work with.

3. Cruise Ship/Resort Nurse

A cruise ship nurse, resort nurse or yacht nurse gets to care for patients, all while working in relaxing or picturesque environments. Some are employed as registered nurses (RNs) in an onboard walk-in clinic, while others are authorized to provide higher-level care in a state-of-the-art medical facility. A resort nurse’s duties vary and may include everything from treating cuts and scrapes to prescribing medication.

While the nurse should have years of experience managing emergencies and triage, some common daily responsibilities include providing first aid and educating guests on how to care for medical conditions. They may also be in charge of education courses and care for onboard employees. Experienced nurses at sea could be hired to provide the company with expert information on how to deal with medical data and healthcare services.

If you would like to travel the world as a cruise ship or resort nurse, you will need an active RN license. Professionals with bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees are even more attractive applicants for worldwide resorts, cruise lines and luxury yacht companies. Start by browsing jobs in the city or home port of your choice. Be sure to apply for your passport as you begin the interviewing process. You may be headed to a gorgeous international location before you know it.

4. Nurse Informaticist

Nursing informatics is a field of study that combines the fields of information science, communication and computer science. By gathering and analyzing data, nurse informaticists help hospitals and clinic administrators improve the flow of communication and information within their facilities. Other job responsibilities include interpreting and communicating data that will help to increase a clinic’s efficiency, promote excellent patient care and cut unnecessary costs.

To become a nurse informaticist, you will need an RN license, experience with patients and a BSN. Experienced RNs may find a job if they have an additional bachelor’s degree in healthcare or information technology. To be successful in this role, you should be analytical, with robust technical skills and an interest in solving problems. If you are willing to study and earn additional degrees or certifications, nursing informatics is sure to interest you and challenge you throughout your career.

This recent survey of nurse informaticists revealed that over half of them have a postgraduate degree. With all of the experience and specialty skills that nurse informaticists have, it is no surprise that they make a good living. According to the salary professionals at ZipRecruiter, this type of nurse makes an average of over $102,000 per year. While you will love what you do, you will also know you are contributing to the improvement of your hospital and the enhancement of patient care. This is what makes being a nurse informaticist so rewarding.

5. Travel Nurse

Well, travel nursing can’t really be described as “unusual” now, but have you thought about it? Do you thrive on fresh experiences? Going to new places and meeting new people? Does the idea of being an ad hoc nurse while “living out of a suitcase” sound… sort of exciting? If this sounds like you, travel nursing is both a fulfilling and lucrative career. The traveling nurse is in high demand, so you will need to be a well-qualified RN with years of experience caring for patients or have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If this sounds like you, it is time to bolster your resume and explore a new location.

You will need a minimum of 12-18 months of bedside experience in an advanced care clinic or hospital, as well as a willingness to fill staffing shortages in facilities that need you. You should also be comfortable with living in a different location every few months. Since some healthcare specialties are in more demand than others, recruiters may need you faster if you are experienced in high-demand nursing roles such as dialysis or emergency room (ER) care.

While flexibility is key, you will be able to spend your off-time exploring somewhere new. You may also be able to schedule your time in your old hometown or a favorite vacation spot. Another benefit is compensation. Travel nursing salaries are competitive and often include housing credits or travel stipends. Talk to a travel nursing recruiter about which openings are available in your area. It is also possible to search online for travel nursing jobs that are open in larger hospital systems.

Discover an Exciting Nursing Career

Once you get your RN license and gain valuable skills, there will be a variety of job roles available to you. This list of unique jobs will help you to think about which career in the nursing field will suit you. If necessary, you can also begin to obtain the necessary education and certification to land your dream job. The field of nursing is ever-changing, which means you will always have an exciting career, along with a meaningful purpose.

Cultivating a Culture of Success in an Undergraduate Nursing Program: Meeting Students Where They Are

Cultivating a Culture of Success in an Undergraduate Nursing Program: Meeting Students Where They Are

Achieving a 100% pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) was a goal that seemed impossible, especially in 2021.  Nursing schools were in the midst of a national pandemic and learning how to teach nursing in both face-to-face and virtual settings.  If past performance rates on the NCLEX-RN were an indication of things to come, the University of West Alabama Division of Nursing (DON) could have expected a disastrous 2021 year. In 2013, the program’s NCLEX-RN pass rate fell to 74%. While it rebounded during 2014-2017 (82.4, 85, 88, and 81.6%, respectively), the nursing faculty realized there was a pattern in NCLEX-RN rates that directly correlated to their student population. Scores declined again in 2018 (77.3%).

Multi-Pronged Approach

A multi-pronged approach had to be used to help the UWA DON prepare its students for success, not only during a pandemic, but post-pandemic. In 2013, one nursing faculty member was enrolled in a doctor of education program, while the other six faculty held a Master’s degree in nursing. A focus on faculty development for young faculty was crucial, but faculty development in education was also beneficial to those who lacked the tools to understand curriculum development, test-item development, and test-taking strategies. Currently, six faculty members hold doctorate degrees with an emphasis in nursing education, while one is enrolled in a doctoral program. As faculty members were earning degrees, they were learning to use research practices and methodologies to understand and predict the habits of their students.

Located in the Blackbelt region of west Alabama, the University of West Alabama serves some of the poorest counties in the nation. Students come from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, adding a layer of complexity to a curriculum fraught with rigor and time constraints.

Students are expected to attend class, skills labs, simulation labs, and clinical labs Monday through Friday. For those who have to work to make ends meet, have children or older relatives to care for, or who are ill-equipped for the study and time demands of a nursing curriculum, the first and second semester of the nursing program may prove too much to endure. To determine student learning needs and implement initiatives to support progression and graduation from the nursing program, the faculty assessed the needs of the program’s student population and diagnosed the issues hindering progression, program completion, and passing the NCLEX-RN. They could then plan interventions that would lead to better student outcomes, implement the plan promptly, and evaluate the plan for areas of strength, weakness, and opportunities.

Program Assessment

Program assessment was key to the process. Students were having difficulty in the third semester of the nursing program. Retention of content appeared to be an issue for the fourth-semester nursing students. Foundational principles of basic care and comfort were troublesome, as were the dreaded multiple-answer questions, also known as “select all that apply” (SATA). Students in the first and second semesters appeared to have trouble understanding what the question was asking them to determine. It was evident that reading comprehension was an issue for some students.

For others, a review of ACT scores on file revealed students were not very good standardized test-takers and needed intentional practice to improve test-taking skills, not merely testing for content knowledge. If a student was repeating the nursing program, they were less likely to pass the NCLEX-RN exam on the first attempt than students who completed the program in five semesters. Finally, students needed help with goal-setting, time-management, and study skills that would allow them to progress and graduate on time. With this information on board, it was time to implement strategies to help the associate in science nursing students reach their full potential and successfully graduate from the nursing program while preparing them to successfully pass the national licensure exam.

The nursing program functions from a multi-tiered approach to engage students and monitor progress throughout the semester. Each approach is needed to provide a comprehensive and inclusive model to facilitate a culture of success in the nursing program.

Faculty-Student Mentoring

A faculty-student mentoring program was important to understand the academic and non-academic challenges that nursing students would face as individuals. Individualized action plans could be created for each student to assist in program progression. The faculty-student mentoring program requires all students entering the nursing program to be assigned to a faculty mentor. Students meet with their mentors two weeks into the semester and at regular intervals during the semester to monitor academic progress and discuss issues that may deter progression or strategies that will foster success.

Retention and Progression Methodologies

Once students have been admitted to the nursing program, student progression and retention become the focal point. Students enter the program with a multitude of life affairs – children, work, bills that need to be paid.

For these reasons and others, the nursing curriculum was infused with ways to integrate positive study habits, reiterate test-taking skills, and repeat information deemed “need-to-know.” While Faculty-Student Mentors introduce students to these habits and reinforce them as necessary, a Retention Specialist (RS) would be assigned to students who were at-risk of failing the nursing program due to class performance. Student grades were monitored closely and referrals were made to the RS when needed. Some students are assigned to a RS at the outset of the nursing program and are required to meet with the RS before the first exam to review the importance of class attendance, note-taking, study habits, and test-taking strategies.

The use of repetition throughout the program has proven to be very useful. Students are encouraged to use practice test items to prepare for examinations. Students are also encouraged to create peer study groups of no more than four students to study before the exam. Students need to understand that nursing content is to be learned and not memorized for test purposes only. Convincing students to change their study habits and teaching them how to study plays an important role in progression.

NCLEX-RN Preparation

Students who graduated from the nursing program were not always successful at passing their licensure examination on the first attempt. For some, a second attempt was needed. Finding a solution to prevent this second attempt was important to the nursing program due to the financial burden that it can place on graduates, and the real and perceived negative burden placed on nursing programs by accrediting bodies. The first-time pass rate continues to be a program outcome standard that nursing programs are measured by, in spite of the increased test anxiety seen in students today.

In 2019, the Division of Nursing found a game-changer to its preparation for licensure. The introduction of UWorld NCLEX-RN QBank as a means to create practice exams for the licensure exam was one of the most significant changes made in improving licensure scores. Initially, faculty implemented the prep system without a policy to guide student behavior. Minimal gains were noted. With the introduction of a formal policy on UWorld QBank, the nursing program’s graduates were able to earn a 100% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-RN in 2021. The UWorld policy is housed in the NS 204: Advanced Adult Health and Critical Care course taken in the final semester. Students must complete a minimum of 2000 questions in the UWorld QBank and achieve a minimum score of 65% correctly answered questions. To achieve this goal, most students have to answer in excess of 3,000 questions.

In addition to prepping, students also needed to understand the time-sensitive nature of learned content and test-taking strategies. The nursing program fully believes that its graduates are prepared to care for patients as advanced beginners as bedside nurses. But there is an awareness that test-taking behaviors and learned content will begin to fade over time. As graduates begin to practice, their new behavior will replace learned behavior. The second critical step to licensure prep for our students was testing in a timely manner. Nursing graduates were encouraged to take the NCLEX-RN by June 15th, a date that generally falls six weeks post-graduation. Students have had their NCLEX-RN review, they have completed the prep question set as stated in the course syllabus, and they have completed a predictor on NCLEX performance. The six weeks give them more time to prepare if needed, but most are ready to take the exam when a test date is available.

Financial Support

In 2020, the Division of Nursing was awarded a grant through Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Project EARN (Educating Alabama’s Rural Nurses), in the amount of $2.4 million, is dedicated exclusively to scholarships. Nursing programs add costs to college students with the purchase of uniforms, assessment tools, NCLEX preparation, and travel to and from clinical sites. Many UWA students are nontraditional and/or from disadvantaged backgrounds. Alleviating the financial stress of getting a college degree has allowed students to focus on studying and graduation.

For the UWA DON, a multifaceted approach to program progression and completion has always been necessary.  The mystery lay in passing the NCLEX-RN on the first attempt. The addition of a prep tool for licensure has proven to be a game-changer for nursing students. As 2022 nursing students gear up for the licensure exam, the policy is in place and UWA nursing faculty are anxious to learn if they have found the key to NCLEX success for their program.

 

 

Vivienne McDaniel Ensures Inclusion in Nursing Simulation

Vivienne McDaniel Ensures Inclusion in Nursing Simulation

As technology continues to change healthcare practices, patient care simulation is transforming nursing education.

Vivienne Pierce McDaniel DNP, MSN, RN, works as the diversity equity, and inclusion consultant for Sentinel U® where she ensures that all simulation products create a lifelike healthcare environment that is sound and inclusive.

“Sentinel U® values nurses, and healthcare outcomes depend on how well prepared nurses are to address the social determinants of health and to provide equitable care across the continuum of care,” McDaniel says. “Sentinel U® is committed to healthcare equity through their products, and they are created to expose the learner to a diverse set of patients.”

As part of growing nursing advances and trends, simulations are used to help nurses experience various situations and individuals they could encounter during their nursing practice. Ensuring the products represent accurate and realistic diversity of all forms helps nurses gain essential skills. Whether a nurse practices in a highly diverse community or in a more homogeneous community, simulation provides needed guidance.

Because they can train with simulation products, nurses don’t have to learn on the fly when they are presented with a situation they have never encountered before. “It allows nursing students and novice nurses to increase their critical thinking and develop sound clinical judgment in an environment that is risk free,” says McDaniel. Because the simulations are realistic but tech-based, nurses can make mistakes without the risk of any harm.

For nurse educators, simulations that represent all kinds of diversity–from race and ethnicity to mobility or religious beliefs–offer a robust pedagogy for teaching diversity and inclusion concepts as they apply directly to nursing, she says. Nurses become aware of any implicit bias they may have–to an accent or condition a patient has. They also become aware of the subtle ways their implicit biases may impact the care they give inadvertently such as through terminology they use or an assumption they hold.

McDaniel’s commitment to ensuring equity in healthcare drives her to assess each simulation meticulously. Recently, she spent time reaching out to a leader of an indigenous tribe to make sure the simulation she was reviewing was accurate. She also wanted to learn more to understand how Sentinel U® could fine-tune it even more. Those details make a difference to nurses, patients, and residents of long-term care facilities. “People from underrepresented and underserved populations are going to be the first to notice that there’s bias and a lack of cultural competence and sensitivity,” she says.

When nurses train using all kinds of simulation scenarios, they help close a chasm that McDaniel sees in achieving health equity. Nurses who invest time in simulation will gain enough knowledge and practical experience to be positioned to achieve that with their patients. “To me it’s pivotal,” says McDaniel. “Simulation healthcare-based interventions help them achieve that. To achieve diversity, you must first foster an environment that’s inclusive and equitable.”

Vivienne McDaniel with US Representative John Lewis

Vivienne McDaniel with the late US Representative John Lewis

McDaniel’s work as a nurse is her second career; she became a nurse in her 40s. A family-based commitment to civil rights runs throughout her work–she is family of Rev. Curtis Harris, civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, AL (her mother is a first cousin). “He put it in my head that we have to represent those who are underrepresented and serve those who are underserved,” she says. “That played a huge role in what I do.” And she knows that each nurse bring a set of lived experiences to their work.

Her own experiences are based in part on growing up in a rural setting. McDaniel recalls watching airplanes fly overhead and wanting to be on them one day. When she was able to travel, she used the opportunity to immerse herself into the communities and cultures around the globe to learn from them. “That all prepared me for what I was going to do later,” she says.

Each nurse, she says, brings a history that enriches patient care. “My favorite thing is diversity of thought,” she says. “What experience will that person bring to the bedside.” Simulation work adds to a nurse’s body of experience to broaden their understanding of inclusive patient care. “We must address all these topics because they might be encountered in a nursing practice,” she says. “Simulations are realistic and they will encounter characters and experience environments that some nursing students might never otherwise be exposed to.”

The Nursing Program Admissions Gauntlet

The Nursing Program Admissions Gauntlet

To address health inequities in the United States, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Institute of Medicine recommend increased representation of Black and other underserved populations in the health professions. Black nurses are more likely to work in underserved communities, but due to multiple barriers in our current admissions processes, Black students’ have limited access to RN education.

The majority of U.S. Registered Nurse (RN) graduates train in associate and bachelor’s degree programs. They apply first to the academic institution, complete prerequisite courses, and apply to the nursing program one or more years later. However, in a study of almost 2,500 pre-nursing students, only 44 of 252 Black students submitted a nursing application, with the majority withdrawing after freshman-level anatomy and physiology.

I have 28 years of experience as a professional nurse and 17 years in academia, yet my 3.3 high school grade point average (GPA) and 1,100 SAT score would have precluded my admission to most nursing programs. I was able to enter the field through an alternate pathway, the accelerated Master’s entry program in nursing at UC San Francisco, a program for students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields. Without this pathway and the use of holistic admissions review (HAR), I would not be a RN today.

HAR is one strategy to increase admission of Black students because it features the balanced use of academic metrics (e.g, GPA and standardized test scores), personal characteristics, and experiences in admissions selection. This is critical because academic metrics are significantly influenced by racial bias and economic privilege. According to a 2014 survey, a majority of dental (93%), medical (91%), and pharmacy (78%) programs embraced HAR in their admissions policies. However, only 47% of nursing programs used HAR. In 2021, 50% of nursing programs still relied exclusively on academic criteria for admissions. Several misconceptions sustain the admissions status quo in nursing education.

Misconception 1: “Black students are not interested in nursing.”

Reality: Thirty-two percent of nursing assistants and 23% of licensed vocational nurses are Black, far exceeding the representation in the general population (13%). Highly selective admissions criteria in colleges and universities could disqualify interested applicants before or during the admissions process. Black students, who are more likely to be educated in segregated and underfunded schools, might be overlooked in admissions screening due to lower test scores and grades. Additionally, health and liability insurance requirements can deter students who lack financial resources.

Misconception 2: “GPA and test score ranking is the most fair and efficient way to make admissions decisions.”

Reality: Academic metric-driven admissions are the fastest method, but not the most equitable. Compared to White and higher-income applicants, Black students’ perceived and actual performance is negatively affected by grading bias (elementary and higher education), disproportionate school suspension rates, arrests, and limited tutoring and test preparation access. In addition, they typically work more than their counterparts leaving less time for studying and test preparation.

Misconception 3: “Academic support services must be established before admitting Black students.”

Reality: The admission of Black students is not equivalent to admitting unqualified students. Programs that implemented HAR reported unchanged or increased GPAs, graduation, and licensure pass rates. However, Black students could benefit from university services such as summer bridge, academic advising, counseling, and financial aid programs to address non-academic stressors (because income is a predictor of nursing program success). Nursing programs can also work to promote a sense of belonging and engagement to boost performance without increasing resource demands.

Misconception 4: “Students admitted using lowered admission standards will fail licensure exams.”

Reality: The admission of qualified Black students is not equivalent to lowered admission standards. More Black students might qualify for admission if programs used HAR for the selection process. Graduation and licensure pass rates are associated with science GPA and standardized nursing tests (TEAS), but not overall GPA (most common). Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that a student with a 3.5 GPA and a 58 test score is less likely to succeed than one with a 4.0 and 85.

Misconception 5: It is illegal to consider race in admissions.

Reality: Since the 1996 ban on Affirmative Action, academic institutions successfully defended their use of race as a mission-aligned component of admissions policies in 3 Supreme Court cases. HAR is one of few evidence-based approaches to increase student diversity in health professional education programs.

Without targeted efforts to increase Black student enrollment, highly selective admissions policies will continue to present access barriers for qualified students in nursing. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Association of American Medical Colleges published guides for HAR implementation, yet, the majority of nursing programs rely solely on academic metric criteria for admissions even though qualified Black students are disadvantaged by them. The original purpose of GPA and standardized test use in U.S. higher education was to segregate White American students from immigrants and Black students. Their use in 2022 as a standard of admissions policy continues to restrict Black student access to nursing education, as evidenced by the fact that 74% of the RN workforce, health care’s largest sector, identify as White. In order to facilitate diverse workforce development that enhances health and education equity, exclusionary college admissions policies must be replaced with HAR.

Tips for Prospective Students Applying to Nursing School

Tips for Prospective Students Applying to Nursing School

Going to school while working full-time as a nurse and raising a four-year-old with her husband isn’t easy, so Ashley Willie knew she wanted an online nursing program with supportive instructors and a flexible schedule.

Penn State DNP student Ashley Willie, MSN.

DNP student Ashley Willie, MSN.

Willie, who is pursuing a doctorate in nursing online through Penn State World Campus, where she also received a master’s in nursing, said she wanted professors who were inclusive and available to meet with students.

“I wanted instructors who were interested in their students’ personal and career goals as well as their educational goals,” she said.

In addition, she said, “I was looking for a program that didn’t require me to be online at a certain time. I wanted more freedom and autonomy.”

Willie said prospective nursing students should look at what kind of financial support and resources are available for minority students, as well as what past and current students and instructors have to say about the program. And of course, they should check the matriculation rate and accreditation of a school, she said.

 

Financial support: putting your money where your mouth is

Sheldon Fields, the inaugural associate dean for equity and inclusion at the Penn State Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing, agreed that prospective students should look at what kind of financial resources an institution commits to multicultural students.

Sheldon Fields, PhD, RN, CRNP, FNP-BC, AACRN, FNAP, FAANP, FAAN.

Sheldon Fields, PhD, RN, CRNP, FNP-BC, AACRN, FNAP, FAANP, FAAN. Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion, Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing.

“To put their money where their mouths are, schools need to be committing resources — sponsoring lecture series, offering scholarships, resources specifically focused on supporting multicultural students,” he said.

Fields, who has been a nurse for 30 years, said schools should have a clear stance on diversity, equity and inclusion that is reflected in their mission statement and their strategic plan, which should be available online, and should also teach diversity, equity and inclusion issues as part of their undergraduate and graduate curricula.

If there are no multicultural nursing student groups and the topic appears to be ignored, “It’s a big red flag,” Fields said. “A multicultural student is not going to find support for who they are, for the unique perspectives and talents that they bring, and the needs they have.”

Fields urged prospective students to look carefully at a school’s nursing faculty.

“It’s one thing to say you want a diverse faculty; it’s another to actually make it happen,” he said.

Denita Wright Watson, associate director of equity, inclusion, and advocacy for the Penn State World Campus Student Affairs office, urged students to seek out institutions that focus on addressing health care disparities, inequities, and bias in health care and that are focused not only on attracting diverse talent, but also retaining it. Schools should go beyond lip service to invest in students’ academic and professional success, she said, by providing professional development opportunities and other career services, as well as supporting students’ personal well-being through mental health support, student identity groups and DEI–related programs.

 

Ask questions

Denita Wright Watson, MLD.

Denita Wright Watson, MLD, Assoc. Director of Equity, Inclusion, & Advocacy for Student Affairs. Penn State World Campus.

Students should ask, “What support is out there for me, beyond academic support?” Wright Watson said. “What support is there to aid in my growth as a person?”

Prospective students should “scour and scour” a school’s website not only for their mission and values statements, but also to see what service projects the institution is involved in and what kind of speakers and events are offered, Wright Watson said.

“Google should be their best friends,” she said. “Just ask questions: Why should I pick this university? Why should I pick this program? What are they doing to meet the needs of underserved students and communities?”

Fields added: “Ask them, ‘What did you learn in a program about diversity, equity and inclusion?’ If they tell you nothing — run the other way.”

 

Feeling valued

Willie agreed that it’s important to look for an institution that recognizes health care inequities and equips students with tools to help reduce health care disparities, seeking to improve health care outcomes at both the individual and the population levels. An example of that is teaching students methods of recognizing vulnerable populations and using evidence-based tactics to improve health care literacy and health and wellness, she said.

All her professors at Penn State have valued both her cultural and professional background and make time to meet with individual students to discuss their goals and aspirations, Willie said.

“For me this is very important because not only do I feel valued individually, I feel like the instructors are invested in my success as a woman of color.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about earning a nursing degree or certificate online.

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