Graduating from nursing school is a wonderful accomplishment. Once you have that degree in your hands you can finally get to work doing what you love the most – helping your patients achieve health and wellness.
Many nurses used student loans to finance their education. And while it’s easier and common practice to just pay the minimum payments each month, there are many compelling reasons why you should make paying them off in full as quickly as possible a top priority.
First, let’s look at some startling numbers. According to the Federal Reserve of New York’s 2016 report, student loan balances in the U.S. increased by $31 billion, and stood at a staggering $1.31 trillion as of December 31, 2016.
How much is the average nursing degree? According to CareerIgnitor.com, “the tuition fee for a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN), which takes four years to finish, costs anywhere from $40,000 to well over $100,000 each year in private institutions and large universities.” Nursing students attending community colleges pay substantially less with tuition fees ranging from $3,000 to about $14,000 per year.
Whether you have $30,000 in student loans (which is the current average loan balance for new graduates), or $100,000 or more, here are four reasons why you should pay them off ASAP.
1. Save Interest
It is expensive to borrow money. If you only make the minimum payment each month over the course of repaying a standard 10-year student loan, it could cost you thousands of dollars in interest payments. The money you’re spending on interest could be better utilized for an advanced nursing degree, travel, a down payment on a house or other important life goals. Just by increasing your monthly payment, you can decrease the overall lifespan of the loan and save thousands of dollars in interest payments.
2. Freedom to Make Career Choices
The last thing you want is to be chained to a high-paying job you hate because you can’t afford to quit. Being strapped by student loan payments limits your career choices. As long as you have student loans you will be chasing the highest paycheck instead of chasing your passion. Clearing student loans quickly frees you to make better career and life choices.
3. Build Wealth
When income isn’t going toward student loan payments, you have more money available to invest in your company 401(k) plan (and take full advantage of any matching programs offered by your employer), IRA, or other retirement accounts to build wealth over the course of your nursing career.
4. Peace of Mind
Imagine life with no student loan debt. The peace of mind that comes from settling your debt will be priceless.
Paying off your student loan may feel like a daunting task, but making the extra effort to clear your student debt will have a huge impact on your career and overall life.
Our Nurse of the Week is Shihan Huang, a senior nursing student at the University of Michigan who was born with biliary atresia, a liver condition that gave her a slim chance of survival. She needed a liver transplant, but was born in Taiwan at a time when most hospitals in the country didn’t have the capacity to perform infant transplants. However, her parents relocated to Ann Arbor, MI a few months later where Huang remained on the transplant list for over a year.
Then just two days after her second birthday, Huang’s parents received a call that there was a liver available. Michigan Medicine nurse, Vicki Shieck, cared for Huang following her transplant and she still remembers those early days treating Huang. Her surgery was a success, and now all grown up, Huang is pursuing a nursing degree at the University of Michigan.
Huang is a thriving young woman, but her condition requires lifelong maintenance and monitoring. Shieck tells Nursing.UMich.edu, “Just like any young adult who had a liver transplant as an infant, Shihan had some transition hurdles to overcome in learning how to manage her chronic illness. Many of my kids her age don’t overcome those hurdles and it leads to non-adherence, chronic rejection and unfortunately, death.”
Huang credits Shieck for encouraging her throughout her treatment and as an adult pursuing a career in nursing that will allow her to support other children facing similar challenges. She explains her career choice, saying “I’ve been in the hospital so much and I know what it feels like to be sick and feeling terrible. Nursing is my way of giving back. The health care profession did a lot for me so I want to be able to give back.”
Huang is now preparing for her graduation ceremony. She plans to work for a few years before returning to graduate school after she has decided on a specialty area. To learn more about senior nursing student Shihan Huang and the many ways she’s giving back to the field of nursing, visit here.
It’s fair to say I am a straight-A student; haven’t always been in high school or my earlier college years, but now that I’ve chosen an actual career and have a family to support, I am definitely working hard to earn good grades.
From the beginning of nursing school, I decided to read every assigned chapter and spend lots of time and energy gaining as much information as I could. Being in an accelerated program, with each class lasting from 1 to 2 months, time management was of the utmost importance. I would spend nights studying, since my days were filled with classes, my full-time job, and taking care of my three kids. I would say I was doing everything right as far as being a nursing student was concerned.
Then hit Med Surg I & II – easily the hardest four months of my life. I was not prepared for how intense of a class this would be, both in lecture and clinical. For the first time in nursing school, I straight up failed a midterm exam. I was embarrassed, ashamed, flabbergasted – I couldn’t understand how my study habits that had carried me thus far, some seven months or so, had gotten me A after A in classes, tests and assignments, then suddenly I had the lowest score I’ve ever seen with my name on it.
At our school we have what are called “LSPs,” or Learning Support Programs, which require that we maintain at least a 76% percent on all tests and quizzes. When I first heard about this remediation program, I haughtily told myself, “I will never be on a LSP. In fact, I’ll make it a personal goal to get through nursing school without a single LSP.” Well, I must have either jinxed myself or was simply never prepared for what Med Surg would be like until that midterm in the first Med Surg class. It was a complete eye-opener, and it humbled me, that no matter what kind of student you are, there will be struggles and obstacles that will make or break you.
I certainly had my breaking points over the four months of Med Surg. I spent more hours studying away from home, sometimes more than 6 hours even after class going to Barnes & Noble or Starbucks. I found comfort in my friends and mentors who knew the struggle I was facing and could relate to my inner turmoil.
If I could share the top lessons that I learned from that first failed test, it would be this:
1. Study smarter.
If the way you’ve studied in the past doesn’t seem to be working, be willing to ask others their study habits and try to incorporate some new ideas into your routine. Don’t try to read everything, like I had before, but rather find ways to absorb the content in a way that makes sense to you. Watch more videos on topics you don’t quite get and hopefully they have visuals to help if you’re that kind of learner. Find “cheatsheets” online from nursing-related websites to help you memorize better. Don’t highlight everything even though everything seems important (trust me, someone called my textbook a “coloring book for adults”). Find questions from NCLEX-prep books or online to help test you on the content; read the rationales whether you got it wrong, know the answer or guessed and still got it right. It’s always best to know the “why” behind every answer, and I have found this to be most helpful in trying to approach NCLEX-style questions on tests.
2. Use this experience to grow.
Re-evaluate your study and test-taking abilities. Meet with your professors during their office hours. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions in class and clarify something during lecture. Don’t try to wear yourself out more from failing, but utilize your time and energy more efficiently. Most of all, get plenty of sleep; I thought that burning myself out with late-night readings and study sessions would help me but it only hurt me in the long run. I learned the value of sleep and how we remember information better when we get a long night’s sleep after studying. Give yourself a daily To Do list and stick with it, but make your goals manageable so as not to overwhelm yourself. Most of the classes in nursing school, like Med Surg, will cover a lot of material every week, so try focusing on one topic at a time instead of a bunch so you can better retain the information.
3. Everyone struggles in nursing school.
Because I failed one test, I felt like a failure. But, that isn’t true. Because nursing school has a wide range of topics that it focuses on, from theory and leadership to pharmacology and specialty areas, we are all bound to get to a subject that challenges us. While I found pharmacology and obstetrics to be fairly easy, others did not; same with Med Surg being my weak spot whereas others found it to be a breeze. Just because you fail one test doesn’t make you a failure or less than your peers; take this opportunity to not be discouraged but rather to push yourself more and test your abilities of what you can do. Two of my favorite teachers I’ve had in nursing school have shared their stories of struggling when they were in school and how they have retaken classes only to come out stronger in the end because of it.
Our Nurse of the Week is Adaya Troyer, a senior nursing student and undergraduate researcher at the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville who is using her own experience to help young children with asthma understand and manage their condition. Troyer was only two years old when she was diagnosed with asthma and now she hopes to help others thrive with the condition from a young age.
Troyer first began to understand her asthma as an elementary school student when she was given an educational video game that taught her what triggers an attack and how to react. Through her research, Troyer has discovered that educational materials about asthma for young children are nonexistent, especially for those too young to read. However, this is the age group most in need of these materials as kids younger than five are the most at risk of hospitalization.
Hoping to fill that void, Troyer’s goal is to create an iPad app. She tells TNToday.UTK.edu, “I believe that educating children early will help them understand and manage their illnesses by the time they are in school, which will decrease hospitalizations as well as social stigma placed on children by peers in their schools.” She has presented her research at the National Council on Undergraduate Research conference in Memphis, Legislative Day in Nashville, and the Southern Nursing Research Society conference in Dallas. Troyer will also present at an international nursing research conference in Ireland this July.
Upon graduation, Troyer plans to continue her work on this research project. Creating her asthma learning tool for kids will allow her to broaden the scope of her work. She will also be a participant in the Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence program, and will begin pursuing a nurse practitioner license and PhD this summer.
Troyer’s research is being highlighted by UT as part of their eighth-annual Research Week, highlighting the everyday impacts of faculty and student research. Over 1,400 UT undergraduate students are involved in research to enhance their learning process and career preparation.
To learn more about Adaya Troyer and other undergraduate nurse researchers like her, visit here.
Two nursing students from Kent State University recently attended the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Student Policy Summit in Washington, DC to meet with legislators and learn about how to make a difference in the nursing profession. Jason Fisher, BSN, RN-BC, CCRN-CMC, MSN/FNP graduate student, and Suzanna Thiese, BSN student, were in attendance with more than 200 College of Nursing deans, undergraduate, masters, and doctoral level students from across the country.
The three day AACN conference hosted speakers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), AACN, and individuals with experience in policy involvement. As attendees, Fisher and Thiese were given the opportunity to learn about their peers’ goals and dreams for the nursing profession and delivery of healthcare.
The second day of the conference was spent at Capitol Hill, with activities focused on sharing concerns about policy issues and learning how to build a relationship with legislators. Fisher and Thiese were able to participate in meetings with the offices of Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman, and Congressman David Joyce. Recalling her experience at the conference, Thiese tells Kent.edu:
“We visited Capitol Hill at a unique time in healthcare. The healthcare proposal was being debated that week and the budget [would be] approved soon. We spoke with our Representatives and Senators about our concerns on both of these topics, and the next week the Healthcare Proposal was redacted. It was very empowering to feel like we were part of the influence that caused those events to take place.”
Attending the Student Policy Summit was a pivotal career experience for both Fisher and Thiese. Health policy is an intimidating topic, especially for those looking to make real changes. However, it helped make both students more aware of the policy challenges they will face as nursing professionals, inspiring them to get involved in any way they can and stay politically aware so that they can best advocate for their patients.
To learn more about the AACN Student Policy Summit and Kent’s student involvement in nursing policy, visit here.
After all that’s said and done, the most exciting part of finishing nursing school is getting hired as a ‘real nurse,’ am I right? Trading in your tuition statements for a paycheck, your non-uniform scrubs in for some Grey’s Anatomy scrubs and Danskos, and actually getting to care for your own patients each day, developing trusting relationships with families and coworkers.
But, what’s the catch? For some it may be the hours. Precepting on nights in nursing school might have been all fun and games, but after the third major holiday you’re stuck working (especially at night), the real world hits.
A substantial amount of new nurses report being dissatisfied with the hours and holiday schedules. Some state that the paycheck was simply not as high as they were expecting, and others are consumed with the stress of being responsible for such significant aspects of care under high stress.
However, a significant amount of new nurses have stated that the hardest part of adjusting to a new job is being so excited, happy, and fresh in the field that our more aged coworkers are quick to ‘take us down’ with their negativity and own ill will towards the profession. Statistically speaking, it is more likely for nurses to be dissatisfied with their job if they are in an inpatient setting providing direct patient care, which is typically the type of job that most new grads are seeking, making us more vulnerable to a stressful environment.
It is not unfamiliar to hear the words “just wait until you’ve been here 20 years,” or “you’re just happy because you’re young, you’ll find out.” These statements are enough to scare anyone into wondering whether they chose the right career path. And for what? Why are these nurses so dissatisfied?
While it is understandable why much of the nursing workforce experiences burnout from many years on their feet, long hours, odd shifts, and missing plenty of family milestones, it is also our right as new nurses to enter a job and feel welcomed in that position. New nurses experience stress in many other aspects, and being surrounded by negativity should not be a normal part of a new career.
The important thing to do when confronted with these statements is to take a deep breath and smile. While it’s easy to feed into the negativity, it’s better to slide past it, acknowledging it and expressing your concern, but staying above it and staying away from it. A key aspect in staying in love with your job that you just recently worked so hard to get is to find out where the negativity is at. Is it specifically in the break rooms? Ask if you are allowed to go downstairs for lunch. Is it before morning huddle? Maybe there’s a free computer where you can begin looking up info about your patients. Be sure to still socialize with your coworkers, but find the best times to do so. Holiday parties, positive action committee meetings, etc. Surround yourself with the nurses that are a positive influence on you and consider asking a fellow nurse to be your mentor to guide you through the tough times and encourage you to stay positive as well.
Most importantly, know when you can help your coworkers. If there is a particular coworker in distress, know who you can speak to if you feel they are unsafe in the work environment. If you are doing well and you feel confident, maybe try using your “young” and “fresh” attitude to bring some joy to your coworkers. Gently remind them how honored you feel to work in your position or tell them why you specifically chose this job over another job. Talk about why you enjoy your job. Kindly redirect negative conversations to more positive subject matter.
Lastly, know when it is OK to be negative and with whom you can share those feelings. Finding a buddy or a mentor that you trust and can vent to behind closed doors is something that every nurse should certainly have access to, but do respect your colleagues’ right to a positive, healthy work environment of their own. Ultimately, balancing stress involves staying in touch with your own feelings and your own needs. Journaling, blogging, or just talking with a close friend are good ways to recognize when you are stressed and perhaps feeling negative. As nurses, we cannot provide the best care to others unless we care for ourselves first.