[VOICES of EXPERIENCE] Advice for Nursing Students From the Field

ImageSome words of experience from men and women who are working nurses in a variety of settings, with myriad skills, perspectives, and levels of education.  Thank you to all of the nurses who have been so forthcoming in sharing their views and experiences !

“Nursing is an art and a person needs to have that inner desire to help others and at times wear their hearts on their sleeves. I have been in the medical field 27 years, I started out as a Medical Assistant in Denver, CO than realized I was doing almost all that an RN was doing than returned to college in Washington and it was like boot camp but it was worth all the sweats, blood and tears I shed, now I am 2 classes from graduating with my BSN since that is what employers are looking for. I have loved all the different types of busting I have done and if you find yourself liking to teach than get out and get your degree MSN and get some experience under your belt and colleges are needing teachers. I have found my love in wound care and that will be my next degree wound care specialist if anyone knows of a great school. Nursing is awesome.” ~Jodi

“You should ask recent grads in your area how the job market is, or look in job postings to see if they hire new grads.  Nursing school is challenging. Start listening when anyone around you talks about their health problems. Ask them about their signs and symptoms. Try to find people who have recently entered the programs you’re interested in and ask them how it was for them, see if they have any tips for you.”  ~Dawn

“Congratulations! Now, prepare yourself for the most grueling years of your life. Nursing school can be intense (no social life for 2-4 years), but it is more than worth the grind. Go for Bachelors; and when applying for a job try to find places that have some type of Nurse Residency programs for new grads. Nurse residency programs help ease graduate nurses into “real” nursing and taking a full patient load, and can help provide great learning and mentoring opportunities.” ~Lyla

I have several suggestions:
1.  Try to get a position while you’re in school as a CNA or PCT, so you will have some direct experience with pt. care, and the nurses (& Manager) will get to know you. During this time, the Manager will be evaluating your interpersonal skills, to decide if they want you to be part of their team as an RN.
2.  Before graduation, apply at hospitals with a New Grad RN Residency Program, & try for one that provides 12 months of support, with classes and peer discussion groups. These programs have become a “best practice”, so getting into one is difficult. If you already work there as a PCT, & the Manager likes your work ethic, you’ll have the inside track.
3.  As an RN, the PCTs, as well as the other nurses, will watch you to see if you are able to work as a Team Member. You have to be willing to help others, in order to survive.
The worst thing is when an RN is seen sitting at the desk, whether charting or not, when everyone else is super busy–or when the RN “refuses” to do the dirty work. You must recognize that certain PCTs (& Unit Secretaries) hold “positions” as informal leaders in the unit culture. I remember one student in a BSN program who planned to be a Nurse Practitioner. She announced, in front of her peers, that she would not empty bedpans.
Good luck! ~Jean

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About Heather Swift

Heather “Swifty” Swift has been Kicking mAss since 1998. At 28 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a recently single mom with two small babies on her hip. After completing treatment with the thought that cancer was in her rear view mirror she worked, locally, as a volunteer for Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance doing community outreach to be certain that no one faced cancer alone. In 2005, she had a secondary diagnosis of breast cancer and tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, which only amped up her commitment to creating positive change and to becoming a strong and effective advocate for the young adult cancer community. Now, at age 42, Swifty, her partner, Brian, and her two teenage children work together locally, nationally and internationally to advocate for change. Swifty regularly meets with legislators to work towards tangible change in health care, legislation that addresses the needs of cancer patients, care-partners, and families. She works directly with clinicians, medical/nursing students, youth & college students, cancer support organizations and others to educate them about the special needs of young adults living with a cancer diagnosis. Swifty is passionate about providing support by connecting people living with cancer to resources, to other cancer survivors, and to mobilizing and training individuals and groups to find their inner advocate. Swifty currently works with a number of amazing, hand-selected organizations, which provide her with opportunities to educate, to advocate, and to change the conversation about cancer and to work to bring an end to the disease. A few include: LiveSTRONG, mAss Kickers, Imerman Angels, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Dusty Showers & The Second Basemen, and Stupid Cancer. Swifty is an oncology nursing student in upstate New York, loves time with her family, paddling sports, and peanut butter. She is a Virgo, but not the really anal-retentive type. Her strange fascination with superheroes makes her popular in geek circles, but it can be endearing. Swifty will be riding a llama across Oregon in July of 2012 and really does believe we can achieve and end to cancer and in world peace. Motto: Never Give Up! Favorite quote: “Our own life has to be our message.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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