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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
With more than 52,000 nurse anesthetists and student nurse anesthetists, the career is thriving and attractive for several reasons. Many nurse anesthetists say the patient interaction they have is unsurpassed. They are with patients before, during, and after surgery, so there’s a necessary trust that is quickly established with the skill and care of the nurse.
Why is the AANA particularly aware of the health and wellness among student nurses looking to enter or actively studying in this field?
Student nurses are the future of the profession, and it is important to cultivate and prepare for a long and healthy career. Students who aspire to enter into nurse anesthesia programs must be healthy mentally and physically. They must have healthy outlets for stress relief, and healthy lifestyle habits that will support them throughout our educational programs.
Nurse anesthesia education programs are required by their accreditation standards to provide education content on wellness and substance use disorder. The AANA actively encourages members, students, as well as educational programs to engage whenever possible in healthy behaviors, whether that includes physical activity or simply reducing stress by encouraging individuals to take time for their loved ones or to engage in an activity they love.
The AANA is committed to providing resources and information about ways to become involved in establishing a healthy lifestyle and even offers fun runs, wellness tutorials and a massage therapy area at many of their conferences.
How does establishing good health and wellness practices now help a student nurse become better? And how will taking care of oneself now carry over once they graduate and are several years into a CRNA career?
Nursing has unique stressors like dealing with patient care situations that require critical thinking, fast decision making, and autonomy is tough. If the student nurse does not have the ability to cope with these situations autonomously, it is very difficult to care for patients. Maintaining both mental and physical health and wellness are at the foundation of successful practice.
Developing healthy lifestyle habits early, helps students handle stress more effectively, set clear goals, and develop a clear plan to achieve them. They also assist students with discipline, good study habits, prepare for clinical experiences properly, and self-evaluate objectively. It also helps to establish diet and exercise plans that can be adjusted as one transitions to practice, to avoid elimination of healthy habits out of inconvenience.
Maintaining a school-life balance is also important to develop a support system and find time for small, pleasant breaks to gives a fresh perspective and recharge. Establishing healthy behaviors and habits early is vital to long-term health, wellness, and maintenance of a successful career.
Do you have any advice for student nurses about considering this field and being aware of any challenges unique to this branch of nursing?
For student nurses considering the field of nurse anesthesia, awareness about the depth and breadth of study is valuable, but is important to be well, so that an individual will have the endurance to graduate. A strong support system and personal discipline are necessary to allow for healthy stress relief and appropriate professional conduct. Anesthesia remains the field with the highest incidence of drug abuse and unhealthy coping behaviors, due to high stress and access.
Think about what you do when stressed. Review your lifestyle habits: exercise, eating, alcohol use, and other substance use. Some prospective students may want to employ a lifestyle coach who can look at a person individually and help one to develop positive lifestyle habits that will set one up for success in graduate school and a stressful career. Good study habits, a healthy respect for one’s self and career, use of study resources, and strong, supportive relationships will be required to succeed and thrive in this field.
Nursing students are well versed on the importance of good quality sleep. After all, they study body mechanics and know that no body can function at its best without proper rest.
But if you’re a sleep deprived nursing student, you’ll probably look at those same statistics and laugh. You know a typical nursing student is probably short on sleep to some extent and sees no real alternative.
But not getting enough sleep is serious business and even impacts patient safety. Here are a few statistics that might make you think again before you pull another all-nighter.
Sleep Makes You and Your Patients Safer
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), not getting enough sleep can hinder your decision-making process and slow your reaction times. That means sleep deprived nursing students who have to make a snap decision about a patient, compute fast medication math, assess vitals, or even react to a patient stumbling, won’t be operating at peak performance. That puts your, your colleagues, and your patients in a dangerous position.
Sleep Makes You a Better Nursing Student
If your brain isn’t properly rested, it’s just not going to remember everything it needs to. That’s why you can still fail a test that you crammed all night for. Your brain and your body just can’t plow past the lack of sleep and perform well. You won’t remember the facts you’re trying to memorize and you won’t comprehend trickier concepts.
Sleep Makes You Nicer
Ever gone for a few days of less and less sleep? How’s your mood when that happens? If you notice a marked turn toward grouchiness when you’re tired, imagine what being chronically short of sleep would do to your outlook. The NHBLI asserts that not sleeping enough can lead to irritability and a difficulty reading others’ social clues. Since a nurse depends on positive and successful interactions between people, this one is especially troublesome. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says there’s a complex relationship between stress, anxiety, and sleep. Stress and anxiety can cause sleep problems, but the reverse is also true. Sleep problems can lead to anxiety and stress.
Sleep Makes You Healthier
Sleep helps your body process the day and that’s when a lot of your muscles repair themselves and your hormones regulate. That’s why rest is so important after injury. But a typically active day of a nursing student can add up to lots of little fixes your body needs to make while you’re sleeping. If it can’t repair, you could be looking at long-term issues like weight gain, chronic pain, and even diabetes.
Your body needs enough good-quality rest to perform properly. You might think you can sail through the week on four hours sleep each night, but studies show your body is paying for it in ways you might not notice right away. So do yourself a favor and consider those extra hours of sleep as necessary insurance for your health.
Nursing students anticipate going into a nursing clinical where they can finally begin to take all their book knowledge and apply it in real situations. Sounds exciting and empowering, right?
Sure, but the thought of starting a first nursing clinical also terrifies a lot of nursing students.
So, what spikes anxiety about clinicals? Lots of students are afraid they don’t know enough to go into a nursing clinical and are afraid they will make a mistake. Truthfully, this is a wholly valid concern. You will now be treating people and that is vastly different from anything else you have ever done.
Acknowledge that fear, but work with it as well. Don’t let your fear and your anxiety fluster you, let it focus you. Prepare as best you can for your clinicals and identify your own weaknesses and your own strengths. Try to find ways (and ask for them as well) to make use of your strong points and to stabilize and improve any areas where you don’t feel as competent as you’d like to be.
When you start your clinicals, ask more experienced nurses for advice. You will likely hear them say constant reassessment and reflection is a big part of any nurse’s job. After each day, think about what went right and what went wrong. Figure out ways you can make anything you did a little better.
Get the lay of the land early and memorize it. Know who is in charge, where different patients go, what the general routine is, where the supplies are, and who to go to with questions.
Be the student who asks thoughtful questions. If you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment or you don’t know what to record, ask. And then listen to the answers and take notes so you don’t become the student who asks the same questions over and over. Ask and learn from it.
When you are in such a new situation, you are going to have to work harder to become better. Do some learning on the side – away from clinical and away from the classroom. Spend a few nights familiarizing yourself with the conditions you might see the most, the patient population that is prevalent in your clinical, or even medications and procedures you have seen. The more knowledge you have, the better you will be in your clinicals.
Develop a thick skin when you are in clinicals. Nursing is a fast-moving, stressful profession and if a nurse seems rude to you, she might not mean it personally, so don’t take it personally. Throughout your career, you’ll find not everyone is going to be helpful or nice. That just means you have to find a different way of getting your questions answered so your patient receives the best care possible. Don’t dwell on abruptness.
Remember the end goal is that you want to learn, but also remember it’s your patient who needs to be treated with the best care possible. With that focus in mind, you can stay on the right track to making the most of this first experience.