As a nursing student, responsibilities and demands pull at your time and energy constantly. You have classes to attend, homework to complete, clinicals to work, clubs to join, and organizations to check out. There are family responsibilities and friends to keep up with, and a little personal time to squeeze in there as well.
But nursing school forces you to keep your eyes firmly focused on the future – your career in nursing and all the choices it offers you and all the opportunities you will have to excel in your field.
Confusing? Yes, definitely! But there’s one way to get the guidance you need as a student while also offering opportunities to learn how to lead successfully before you even earn your degree. Joining a student nursing association can help you bring all of those choices, conflicts, exciting developments, and career plans into focus.
Sure, it’s one more thing to do, and as a nursing student, you’re swamped. You might prefer to join a national nursing organization and skip those directed at students altogether. But an organization that’s focused primarily on students’ needs and unique challenges will save you time in the long run because it will help guide you on your career path, introduce you to leaders in your field, and help you clarify what kind of nurse you want to be.
“Joining a student nursing association has helped me understand what kind of leader I am,” says Yvonne Shih, president of the Massachusetts Student Nurses’ Association and student at the Boston College William F. Connell School of Nursing. “I’m not limited to one leadership skill.”
Shih says before joining the organization, she wasn’t exactly the type of person who was comfortable taking or keeping command of a room. “Before, I just couldn’t see myself in the forefront,” she says. “I didn’t have the confidence.” Uneasy with delegating roles to people or completely taking charge, Shih says joining a student nursing association showed her how things work in an organization and in healthcare and gave her needed confidence. She had a chance to try out those roles with her peers before taking them on in a larger professional setting. “There’s no hierarchy and that encouraged me to lead others in a different way,” says Shih.
Student nursing associations are often through a state, so they take more time, energy, and commitment than something closer to your school. But the benefits, both in the knowledge and the networking contacts gained, are clear. Student organizations tend to offer career advice geared to nurses who haven’t yet earned their degrees or those who just recently graduated. One of the biggest benefits is being in a peer organization where most of the other members are in a similar stage of life, education, and career.
Yes, in general, it’s a little tougher to join an organization that’s often state-, not school-, based. “It’s time consuming,” says Shih. “You have to travel a little more, but you’ll meet with others in other schools.” When you graduate from nursing school, your contacts remain and are much broader than any you might gain through your school alone.
Joining a student nursing associaton gives you a chance to take on positions of influence or leadership that will train you for larger roles with increasing responsibility on increasingly larger stages. Because the organization is geared specifically toward students, you’ll have opportunities and access to experiences that larger, national nursing associations might not permit for students.
“Leadership roles are all very different,” says Shih, and she notes this is a great time to find your own style and what works best for you.
Are you a seasoned nurse interested in returning to school, but feeling unsure about your ability to handle the demands of work, life and studies?
Going to nursing school as an older student requires commitment and planning. If you’re on the fence, start with being honest about your feelings. Is your reluctance to earn a B.S.N. or master’s degree rooted in fear?
Dealing with long study hours and difficult courses as a middle-aged student juggling a hectic schedule can be scary. But consider this: as an experienced nurse you bring advantages to the classroom. Older students possess maturity and relevant life and work skills, which help you relate to the course material better.
Consider your learning style. Explore whether the best fit for you is to take classes online, enroll in a traditional bricks- and -mortar university or an accelerated BSN or master’s degree program.
Think about your career goals. Even if you have a well-established career, pursuing a degree can boost your confidence, change your outlook, provide job security and make you more marketable for other opportunities down the road. Advanced education can also improve your nursing skills. Research links better-educated nurses to better patient care.
Another major perk mature nursing students cite is the positive message earning a degree sends to their children.
Other critical factors that will play a role in your decision include family support, flexible job scheduling, finances and stress management.
As you weigh your options, make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of going back to school. Whatever your decide, learning is a lifelong process. And people are living and working longer than ever.
Five years from now, you will be five years older, that much is a given. But will you have that first, second or third degree you wanted, too? Only you can decide.
Would you tell a bright, promising student that he or she just doesn’t have what it takes to be a nurse–before he/she has even been accepted into a nursing program? All too often, this kind of prejudice is exactly what students with disabilities encounter when they apply to nursing schools. Just ask Susan Fleming, MN, RN, a nurse who was born without a left hand. Fleming has been a nurse for more than 20 years and currently teaches nursing at Washington State University (WSU) in Spokane, yet she was once denied admission to a nursing program because the school automatically assumed—incorrectly—that she would not be able to perform certain essential nursing skills with only one hand.
To inspire students with disabilities to not give up on their dreams of becoming a nurse, and to promote disability awareness among nursing school admissions committees, faculty and nursing skills labs, Fleming has collaborated with Donna Maheady, EdD, ARNP, to develop a new DVD, “Nursing with the Hand You Are Given: A Message of Hope for Nursing Students with Disabilities.” Maheady is the author of the award-winning book Nursing Students with Disabilities: Change the Course and founder of ExceptionalNurse.com, an online community for nurses and students with disabilities.
The DVD is presented through the eyes of a nursing student with a disability, who interviews Fleming about how she taught herself to perform a variety of nursing skills with one hand. Fleming takes the student into the nursing skills lab, where she demonstrates such skills as putting on sterile gloves, giving an injection, lifting a patient and applying a sterile dressing.
Produced with support from WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing, the film is also designed for use by state departments of vocational rehabilitation and disability services staff at universities, colleges and technical schools to encourage students with disabilities to pursue nursing careers.
The “Nursing with the Hand You Are Given” DVD can be purchased for $45 plus tax and shipping. For more information, or to order, contact the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing Multimedia Library at (509) 324-7321 or [email protected].
In Oklahoma, the minority population is increasing faster than the majority, but its nursing workforce does not reflect this trend.
In hopes to better mirror the state’s growing Hispanic population, Oral Roberts University places a special emphasis on recruiting Hispanic students.
Dr. Kenda Jezek, Dean of the Anna Vaughn College of Nursing, says the rapidly increasing Hispanic population has made recruitment in this community a priority.
In order to more effectively do so, the University recently opened the ORU Hispanic Center, the first of its kind not just in Oklahoma but at any Christian university in the nation. The center will be a place for Hispanic students, and prospective students in general, to access resources to help them achieve academically at ORU.
In 2009, 31% of the nursing majors were of an ethnic minority. That same year, the School of Nursing celebrated 100% of its 2009 graduating class passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.
In order to encourage more students to study nursing, ORU is also developing a partnership with local high schools that have high Hispanic and African American representation in their student bodies. As a part of the program, ORU nursing students will teach health services and assist students with lab projects.
Oral Roberts University, as the Senior Educational Partner of the Hispanic Evangelical community, is committed to reflecting the multiethnic culture around them, said Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
ORU believes that increasing diversity and culture on campuses across the country will enrich and empower communities around the world.
For incoming freshmen, attending college can feel like entering a maze. But for first-generation students, that maze can have added twists and turns, as they may not have a role model or rule book to follow when starting out as a first-year student.
In turn, while parents are proud of their college-bound daughter or son, they too are unfamiliar with the road they are about to travel. Yet, parents can still offer ample support for students just by showing up at family orientation events, asking questions from the program staff, and seeking out other parents to share information, guidance, and direction.
In the Rutgers College of Nursing Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Program, parents are strongly encouraged to be a support base to their students. The EOF program has a Family Orientation Day where not only parents, but the entire family is invited to attend. Family Orientation Day provides an overview of what students are expected to do in the intensive six-week Summer Readiness Program. The College of Nursing has the only EOF program exclusively for nursing students in the state of New Jersey.
In 2011, parents were given a firsthand account from a parent whose daughter completed the summer program the previous year. She and her daughter spoke to the audience and answered questions. Additionally, the mother stayed through the entire day to privately speak to parents, many of whom indicated this was especially appreciated. Having a parent whose child went through the program offered them a sense of relief and comfort, making it easier to leave their daughter or son on campus.
At the end of the Summer Readiness Program, the students “graduate” to become members of the College of Nursing (Class of 2015). The students participate in a celebration entitled “Culture Kitchen,” where students and/or parents prepare a dish from their culture. It is truly a feast! Students represent many countries, and sampling the cultural cuisine is a cherished memory of the Summer Readiness Program. This past year’s program was especially gratifying because one parent insisted on being a part of the team in setting up the buffet table and working with the students and staff! It was important for her to become actively involved and not sit on the sidelines.
Perhaps the most moving part of the Culture Kitchen program is watching the students reflecting on their summer experience and seeing the proud faces of their parents. Students benefit from their parents’ support and involvement, and parents are encouraged to be a part of the students’ college experience. The EOF Program wants parents to feel welcomed; we understand the daunting process of wanting their child to be educated along with the difficulty of “letting go” so their daughter or son can progress into adulthood and become a distinguished nurse.