The annual celebration of Student Nurses Day recognizes the hard work and ambition of nurses who are pursuing additional education to help them be the best nurses possible.

Student nurses today face an entirely different world than nurses entering school many years ago did. The global pandemic changed the face of nursing in ways that will take years to understand. Because of their valuable skills and knowledge, student nurses found themselves providing patient care even before they had a degree in hand. And while it was trial by fire for many, student nurses learned skills that will carry through their career lifespan.

As a whole, the nursing industry is constantly changing and evolving, and students are frequently drawn to the profession for those reasons. They enjoy the fast pace and the continual opportunities for lifelong learning. They also see a career where they can make a difference in individual patient’s lives and in their communities. And with rapid developments in medical science, nurses are constantly assessing their skills to improve and provide the best patient care.

And even if their careers haven’t officially begun, student nurses can take steps while in school to ensure optimum career readiness.

Join a Professional Organization

Whether it’s the campus chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association or a nationwide association like the American Nurses Association, it’s never too early to join a professional organization. Membership helps you learn about the profession and brings you together with other like-minded nurses–everything from the National Black Nurses Association, Inc. or the Association of Pediatric Oncology Nurses to the American Nursing Informatics Association.

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Get Experiential Experience

Clinicals give nursing students a broad understanding of different areas of nursing. Through different rotations, they might get glimpses into everything from obstetrics to pediatrics. But if student nurses find a particular interest in one specialty, pursuing more opportunities in that area will help develop additional skills. Gaining more exposure to particular specialties will also help student nurses determine what they like about that area of nursing and if they want to move their career in that direction. Shadow a nurse in a particular area of interest, ask for an informational interview, or volunteer time in a unit if allowed.

Network Everywhere

As student nurses begin to seek additional career opportunities, networking is essential. Nurses are frequently recruited through word of mouth and personal connections, so networking is an important job skill. Professional organizations are a great place to network with other nurses who are both novice and experienced. Connections with fellow student nurses and faculty, colleagues at clinicals, and peers at conferences can provide an excellent entry into a job or role you didn’t know existed.

Show Up

Be the nurse who asks to go to conferences or who is willing to offer a presentation or sit on a panel. Volunteer at a vaccine clinic or a blood drive. Bring together other student nurses to speak at a local high school and tell younger students about nursing and nursing school. Speak up and do the work needed to get your presence known. You’ll gain experience, but you’ll also help educate others or fill a need in the community.

Nursing students shoulder a heavy workload and any other steps they can take now will help them in the future. Celebrate all student nurses do this week!

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