Common Barriers for Nursing Students & How to Overcome Them

Common Barriers for Nursing Students & How to Overcome Them

Nursing can be one of the most rewarding professions available to people today. Few other positions offer practitioners the ability to help people so directly and make such a large impact in their quality of life. It’s no wonder that nurses are some of the most trusted and highly thought-of professionals in our world today and have been for much of our lives.

Though nursing offers a lot of opportunity to help those in need, actually becoming a nurse can be challenging and filled with barriers that make entry into the profession quite difficult. Many aspiring nurses find themselves struggling with at least one of these barriers to entry.

Fortunately, there are ways to prepare, avoid, and fight these barriers at every curve in the road. It takes preparation and verve, but becoming a nurse is completely attainable for those with the drive to make it happen.

Financial Barriers

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that many young aspiring nurses face is getting their finances in order. Student loan rates in the United States today are out of control, and nursing school is no exception. The average nurse will leave nursing school with upwards of $20,000 in debt. This amount doesn’t necessarily cover the debt acquired in any other associate’s or bachelor’s degree program prior to entering nursing school either.

Student loan debt is a significant challenge that a significant portion of the younger generation is facing. Few things can be done to resolve the larger issue without government regulation or debt relief programs, but there are some actions you can take individually. These include measures such as saving money before nursing school to avoid taking loans, working a part-time job, paying down interest while still in school, and refinancing loans for a lower interest rate.

Educational Barriers

Beyond financial barriers, there are still lingering educational barriers that could prevent aspiring nurses from attaining their goals. For instance, getting into a quality nursing school can be a real challenge. Even after getting into school, balancing rigorous coursework, homework, studying, and clinicals can be difficult, especially if you are already dealing with financial barriers that may require you to have a part-time job.

Time management is the best way to get around this barrier. Work on setting up your study schedule and sticking to it. Your days may feel full, but you should still build in time for breaks, exercise, and fun activities that will keep you from burning out. For better or worse, there still may be a time or two when you need to stay up all night — there are good (moderate doses of caffeine, exercise), and bad (energy drinks) ways to go about doing this, so be sure to take some steps to be successful.

Physical Barriers

Once you’re starting clinicals you may quickly realize that there is a lot more to helping people than originally advertised. There are long days, demanding patients, complicated treatments, and lots of stress. Many nurses will start to experience caregiver burnout, which is the feeling of being unable to care for yourself after caring for others all day.

Nursing is not an easy job and many people start to burn out relatively quickly if they don’t have a great work-life balance. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of workplace stressors that nurses bring home. This being the case, job stress leads to a high divorce rate for nurses.

The key here is to find some way to make time for yourself every day. Go for a walk on your breaks, exercise before work, read on the subway — do whatever it is that you need to do to relax and feel like you’ve had a little bit of “me” time. It goes a long way when the going gets tough.

Minority Barriers

Being a minority in the health care system isn’t necessarily easy either. Racism is still a lingering problem in health care in general. Though nursing as a profession has made many leaps and bounds, other specialties have not necessarily kept up. Chances are minority nurses will work in an environment where leadership isn’t necessarily representative of the country’s racial makeup.

Conquering these barriers takes organization and forcing greater attention to be brought to a lack of representation in the workplace. Policy change isn’t always easy to come by and many critiques have been made about policies that make it more challenging for minority students to succeed. Ultimately, greater pressure on leaders to implement reasonable changes is what is needed to continue to push the needle towards greater equality and representation in the workplace.

There are a lot of real barriers that work to prevent some aspiring nurses from achieving their goals. The barriers range from finance and education ones to physical workplace demands and social structure barriers. There is no easy way to solve all of these problems but making a plan, making time for yourself, and making people realize a need for a change is a good start.

9 Tips for Nursing Students Taking Online Classes

9 Tips for Nursing Students Taking Online Classes

Whether your classes were newly moved online due to coronavirus, or you’ve been enrolled in an online class from the get-go, nursing students all over the world have suddenly found themselves taking classes remotely. To help with the adjustment, here are our nine top tips for acing your online nursing classes.

1. Don’t assume online is easier.

Just because you can wear sweatpants, it doesn’t mean that online classes are a walk in the park. Plus, if you dress the part and wear your nursing scrubs, you’ll get into the nursing mindset. Some people make the mistake of assuming they can coast through an online class, believing that it will be easier than an in-person class. While online classes are certainly different from in-person ones, they’re not easier, just hard in a different way. Believing that you can slack off in your online classes purely because they are online will quickly lead to a failing grade. Taking it seriously from the beginning is the best recipe for success.

2. Get the equipment you need to succeed.

No, we’re not talking about clinical supplies. Take stock of what technology you currently have and what you might need to invest in. You’ll most likely need a reliable computer and other tools such as an external monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard as well. Test your internet connection and make sure that it can handle steaming lectures, video calls, and other high capacity tasks—the last thing you want is your internet cutting out in the middle of a quiz. If your internet isn’t up to the task, you might need to upgrade your plan or get a new router.

3. Embrace the possibilities of technology.

Online classes may be new and exciting territory for many people. They offer many fantastic possibilities for interactive learning that simply aren’t possible inside a physical classroom. In fact, many in-person classes still assign work that must be done online prior to class because the interactivity element of online programs can’t be reproduced. Online classes also allow you to connect with a much broader range of people from many different geographic areas, expanding your nursing network.

4. Participate digitally.

The words “class participation” probably conjure up images of raising your hand in class and speaking out loud to the group. While participation is definitely a part of online classes, it takes a different form. Usually, it means group forums where students host discussions on specific topics. It’s not the same as talking in person, but this format can actually be advantageous for quiet people who hate having to come up with comments on the fly. Due to the asynchronous nature of these message boards, you can read the discussion, take time to think it over, and post your comment when you’re ready.

5. Create a work from home space.

Even if you like to work from coffee shops or libraries, odds are that you’ll end up completing at least some of your classwork from home. If at all possible, try to create a work from home area outside your bedroom (you don’t want to associate schoolwork with your sleeping space). If that’s not possible, then at least set up a desk and chair so you’re not working from your bed. Try to place it near a window so you can take advantage of natural light. Be sure to set up some additional lamps, too, in case you end up working a lot at night.

6. Manage your time well.

Time management is one of the trickiest things for students to master during an online course, especially if the classes are pre-recorded and can be watched on-demand. Some people are distracted very easily, especially when working at home. They have every intention of watching that anatomy lecture and then end up spending an hour cleaning the house and folding laundry. Set aside blocks of time to work on your online classes and mark them off in your calendar, just like you would with an in-person class. Let your roommates or family know that you’re in school and ask them not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency.

7. Aim to turn your assignments in early.

Speaking of time management, turning in assignments early can help a lot with that. For in-person classes, you have to wait for the appointed day to turn in a physical paper. That’s not as much of a consideration for online classes. It’s a good idea to set a goal for yourself to turn in each assignment 1-2 days in advance. Even if you fall behind, which will happen eventually, you’ll still have that cushion built in so your assignment won’t truly be late.

8. Back up your work.

You should be doing this regardless of whether your nursing school classes are online or in person, but it’s doubly important for digital classes. Each week, if not each day, back up your work to an external hard drive as well as a cloud storage service such as Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive. If you must fill out quizzes or essays online, consider writing it in a separate document and then paste it into the field so you don’t lose your work if the submission doesn’t go through.

9. Ask for help.

Just because you’re physically alone in your house while you watch lectures doesn’t mean that you don’t have resources available to help. Your instructors should be able to help you via email, phone, or even video chat, and you also have your classmates to lean on. You might want to consider forming an online study group that meets regularly during Zoom calls to keep each other accountable. Don’t forget to explore any other resources offered for your classes, such as digital libraries.

Whether you’re taking online nursing classes by choice or not, digital courses are a new reality for today’s nursing students. Follow these nine strategies to knock your online nursing classes out of the park.

Moving to All Online Studies? Tips for Nursing Students

Moving to All Online Studies? Tips for Nursing Students

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take an enormous toll on human health across the globe, its impact is felt significantly in other industries as well. Higher education has been upended with most institutions sending nursing students home to complete the rest of the year online.

If you’re a nursing student, the impact is being felt even more keenly. Clinicals have been canceled while hospitals and healthcare facilities grapple with an overwhelming number of severely ill patients. But many nursing students will still be able to continue on as best as possible by completing the academic courses they have.

If you’re a nursing student who’s now trying to finish the rest of the year by taking all your courses online, it all might feel nearly impossible. Remember you’re not alone. Your peers and even many of your professors are trying to manage this new normal.

Wondering how you’ll manage the rest of the year as an online student? Here are a few tips:

Commit to a Class Schedule

Even if your online classes don’t require a specific meeting time, block out your schedule as if they do. Scheduling time when you log in or do the work or meet with a study group will give your days and weeks structure. Write it in your schedule and plan your days around those fixed times.

Ask for Help

If you find the online format is challenging or you’re struggling without the face-to-face contact, reach out to your professors or to your school. Asking for help early will ensure that you aren’t falling behind. They might offer different perspectives to nursing students on how to work in this new format.

Stick to a Routine

You’ve probably heard this, but keeping to a regular daily routine will keep you focused. Get out of bed at the same time every day and set aside time for specific free-time activities—exercise, reading, watching TV, hobbies, or video chatting with friends and family. Try to go to bed at a regular time as well. Carving out blocks for your work and your leisure helps you set boundaries so you don’t find you’re spending too much time or not enough time on either.

Take Care of Yourself

These times are stressful, chaotic, scary, and unsettling. Accept that you aren’t going to continue on with life as you know it. Plan to make adjustments. Try to eat nutritious food and get sleep at regular intervals. If you tend to eat three meals a day, keep doing that. If you prefer to spread out your eating, eat smaller meals, but at similar times every day. Again, the routine can help you feel like you have a schedule and give you structure. If stress is interfering with your  daily functioning, reach out for help either with a therapist (many are offering telehealth appointments) or a close confidant or member of your faith community.

Keep Focused on the Future

Remember why you started nursing school and keep that end goal in mind every day. Remembering your goal, and working toward it, will give you purpose and help ground you in the day-to-day business of living your life. This virus is changing the world as we know it, and it will not always be as troubling as it is now.

Good luck, nursing students—you’ve got this.

How Nursing Students Can Manage Midterm Stress

How Nursing Students Can Manage Midterm Stress

If you’re a nursing student, this time of year generally brings a schedule full of midterm exams and projects. Many students say this time of year is the toughest for studying. The weather is still chilly, and everyone’s ready for something, anything, than what they have to get done.

Being a nursing student is stressful and pretty busy in general. You’ve got a lot of work to do, a limited amount of time, and haven’t shaken off the winter hibernation mode yet. If that sounds familiar, here are a few ideas to help you power through this tough time.

Block It Out

The news is full of upsetting events. Coronavirus. Politics. Climate change. Influenza. If you have a fear or an anxiety, there’s probably something about it in the news. You’ve got work to do and world events are overly distracting—but you also can’t just pretend it’s not happening. Set aside specific times to check in with daily events. Don’t scroll through on your phone every hour. Resist the urge to check the news on TV when you’re making dinner or eating with friends. Being in control over the way you consume the information will make it less distracting and leave you time to focus.

Find Your Study Sweet Spot

You might find studying in the library is not the best location for you. Maybe you prefer studying in the gym with the rest of your gym buddies or your team. Maybe a coffee shop is for you or a lounge in your school’s campus center. Or maybe your best study spot is a comfy corner in an academic building. Wherever you can focus on your work and get the most done is the place for you to go during midterms. Find that place and set yourself up with snacks, a water bottle or some coffee, and get your work cranked out.

Time to Relax Isn’t Wasted Time

Endless studying is actually going to work against you. Your brain needs to take breaks to help it process what you are learning and what you are trying to get done. The key is to plan it into your day. A couple of hours of cramming deserve to be followed by a short walk with a friend or some time listening to your favorite podcast or watching funny cat videos. Plan a dinner in which your only company isn’t just a textbook. Connect with your family, friends, or pets. Take time to eat. Watch a movie. You’ll actually give your brain a much needed rest so it, and you, can perform best.

Pay Attention to Self-Care

You probably are going to skimp on sleep during midterms. There’s a lot to get done and only so many hours in the day. But try to keep as much to a schedule as you can. Fit in short naps during the day if you’re really dragging—they will refresh you. In this time of flu and colds, be sure to wash your hands frequently with soap and water—even when you feel like you’re washing your hands all the time. Stay hydrated with lots of liquids (water is always best) or even fruits and veggies like watermelon and cucumbers. Get outside when you can because sunshine and fresh air are refreshing to tired bodies.

Get Help

If you feel overwhelmed by the academics or the life overload, get help. Tutors, student success centers, study groups, or even reliable online help can give you a better understanding of work that you’re having difficulty with. Many schools offer counseling centers where trained therapists can help you manage the stress and anxiety many nursing students feel during midterms (or at any other time as well). The help is out there and taking advantage of it can help you through this tough spot.

Remember, midterms will be over soon enough and you’ll be on to the next great challenge that nursing school brings. This is part of the road to a career that will be rewarding to you and will make a huge impact on humanity. Good luck—you’ve got this!

 

Recognizing Critical Care Transport Nurses on February 18

Recognizing Critical Care Transport Nurses on February 18

Critical care transport nurses work to keep patients stable and healthy while they are being moved, and every February 18, their work is honored. The day recognizes how critical their work is to the healthcare organization.

Critical care transport nurses work in diverse and constantly changing conditions. They might be Med-Flighting a critically injured patient from a car accident or they may be moving an ill elderly patient from a nursing home to a medical facility. Those two fairly typical scenarios show just how prepared critical care transport nurses must be for whatever situation a day at work brings.

Founded nearly 40 years ago, the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA) is the professional organization for nurses in the field and sponsors this recognition day. According to the ASTNA, this career path is one that relies on skills build from a solid foundation of education and practice around nursing and trauma care.

The ASTNA offers the following education and experience requirement guidelines to become a critical care transport nurse:

  • Registered nurse standing in the state you’ll practice in
  • Two to three years of critical care/emergency experience or applicable acute care nursing environment
  • BCLS – Basic Cardiac Life Support
  • ACLS – Advanced Cardiac Life Support Certificate
  • PALS – Pediatric Advanced Life Support Certificate
  • NRP – Neonatal Resuscitation Program
  • A nationally recognized trauma program such as TPATC (Transport Nurse Advanced Trauma Course (TPATC), BTLS (Basic Trauma Life Support), PHTLS (Pre-hospital Trauma Life Support), TNCC (Trauma Nurse Core Curriculum)
  • Certifications such as Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN), Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) may be required within six months to one year of hire
  • Some states may require nurses to have EMT-B or EMT-P (Paramedic) certification.

These requirements show the broad knowledge critical care transport nurses must have as they can be called on to use each skill at any given moment. They could be treating patients who range in age from newborn to centenarians. Their trauma skills need to be current and precise, and they also have to develop the ability to provide critical care in a moving vehicle or in flight. That means critical care transport nurses need to be able to react with exceptional speed and in with a calm and controlled manner.

If you’re a student nurse thinking of this role, know you’ll need to have an agility to simultaneously assess

  • the situation (a neighborhood with a mom who is in labor to a dangerous industrial accident site)
  • the patient (taking into account the location could be a home, highway, medical facility, office building, forest, or even a battlefield for military nurses)
  • the conditions (normal, blizzard, hurricane, flooding)
  • the transport vehicle (ambulance, helicopter, medical transport plane)

The work is exciting and satisfying for nurses who are willing and able to work in many layers of changing conditions. Critical care transport nurses often bring a sense of calm and relief to a patient who understands someone is now there to help them, provide care, and bring them to safety.

Critical care transport nurses deserve the recognition they get today – thank a critical care transport nurse in your life!

 

Three Skills to Master in Your First Year of Nursing

Three Skills to Master in Your First Year of Nursing

With medical errors making national headlines, it is no secret that both training and experience are integral to success as a new nurse. Almost all nurses enter the field with a college degree, but recent research shows that novices make a large percentage of the errors caused by nurses. To avoid mistakes and build a strong foundation for your nursing career, here are three essential skills to prioritize during your first year as a nurse.

1) Developing Strong Instincts for Patient Safety 

Patient safety is one of your primary responsibilities as a nurse. Safe medication administration is an imperative skill to master in your first year. You are the final check between the prescribing provider and the administration of a medication to the patient. If something feels “off”—maybe the dose seems too high based on doses you have given before or the medication doesn’t seem to fit your assessment of the patient—take a timeout and ensure the prescription is accurate. Mistakes happen even in computer-driven processes, whether a decimal point is missed, a duplicate therapy is accidentally prescribed, or a medication is placed in the wrong slot of a medication dispenser. Before giving any medication, ask yourself, “Are all of the correct pieces in place for me to give this medicine right now?”

Learning to safely calculate medication dosages goes far beyond a textbook. Learning tools like UWorld’s Clinical Med Math allow students to practice and perform dosage calculations without the risk of patient harm if they make a mistake. This tool is meant to be a hands-on resource to help students study for drug calculation exams during school, but it also provides fantastic experience to prepare you for real-world nursing.

Another major safety concern is patient falls. Precautions here may include rounding on older patients more frequently or enabling a bed alarm for high-fall risk patients. You should also utilize a mental checklist every time you walk into a patient’s room, such as:

  • Is the floor clear, especially the path to the bathroom?
  • Can the patient reach the call light?
  • Is the bed in the lowest position?

Adding these seemingly small things together develops a strong instinct for safety so when you enter a room, you automatically sense if something is out of place.

2) Forming Clinical Judgment

Your first year as a nurse builds clinical judgment on the foundation of all the knowledge you acquired in school. The ability to recognize potential or current complications that could cause harm is a strong asset to cultivate. This skill involves understanding the pathophysiology behind different disease processes and identifying the signs of improvement or decline. From there, the priority is determining the most important action you can take in the moment to ensure the best outcome for your patient. A textbook cannot teach you how to anticipate patient needs or develop clinical reasoning. You develop clinical judgment by applying your classroom knowledge to the actual patients in front of you.

As you refine your ability to assess patients and interpret clinical data, you reach the point where you can look at a patient and know something is not right—the monitors might look fine, but your assessment and instincts say otherwise. This is an important part of clinical judgment, and it is your job to dig deeper and advocate for your patients. Of course, this critical thinking must occur while also keeping up with scheduled medications at the same time that you are admitting a new patient and discharging another. Developing clinical judgment to juggle these moving pieces takes time.

3) Mastering Time Management

 Time management is another key skill to learn in your first year of nursing. You should be able to look at your whole shift and plan a timeline based on medication schedules, planned procedures, and provider rounds. If all four of your patients have medications due at the same time, how do you organize your time so everyone receives their medications within an appropriate window? Many nurses have their own system of handwritten notes that they keep in their pocket to help organize their day. Asking to see your preceptor’s note system is a great way to get ideas during your clinical rotations in school or during the internship at your new job.

Structuring your day in the most efficient way possible helps develop a “clustered care” mindset where you complete a few tasks together so you don’t leave a room, only to return 15 minutes later. These organizational choices help you accomplish tasks in a seamless, resourceful way. The skill of effectively planning an entire shift comes with time. Do not be afraid to ask questions and learn from other nurses. Pay attention to colleagues who seem particularly organized and solicit their advice—even the smallest tip or trick can make your nursing practice stronger!