Our Nurses of the Week are fifteen students from the University of Arkansas Eleanor Mann School of Nursing who spent three weeks this past June volunteering in Ghana, a country in West Africa. The students spent their time helping to deliver babies, teaching wound care, infant hydration, dental hygiene, and CPR, but they also got to experience the local culture at a Ghanaian wedding and while spotting elephants in the wild on a safari.
Study abroad experiences for the nursing school have only recently been offered. The trip was organized by Carol Agana, instructor of nursing, who has traveled to West Africa many times over the last decade and owns a home there with her husband, a Ghana native. Through her connections there, Agana partnered with local healthcare providers and nonprofits to set up learning opportunities for her nursing students. Allison Scott, assistant professor of nursing, also joined on the trip.
The students were required to attend pre-travel meetings to learn about the African healthcare system, chronic diseases, health disparities, and techniques for assessing health in communities. Agana and Scott wanted the students to understand that they were going there to learn, not to change things. Natalie Gohman, a senior nursing student at the University of Arkansas who plans to graduate next May, tells News.UArk.edu:
“We all learned a lot about ourselves. We’ve grown up in America, where our health-care system is one of the best. This area doesn’t have that, yet we learned about different procedures and everyday tasks they do in a much simpler way using the resources they have.”
To learn more about these students’ experience volunteering in Ghana, visit their public Facebook page or https://goo.gl/C9DXev.
I have learned that adapting to the fast paced nature of the curriculum while balancing personal life is essential to one’s overall wellness. You have taken the pre-requisite courses, the GRE, and are ready to embark on this exciting journey. Little did you know, you hit the ground running after orientation. It feels as though you’re on a treadmill. First off, let me remind you that you are not alone. Secondly, as an accelerated nursing student who is in the final stretch of her program, let me provide you with some survival tips:
1. Time management.
Accelerated nursing programs are essentially cramming the last two years of a traditional 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree into a little over a year. You will be taking a pretty hefty course load as an accelerated nursing student, so having some type of planner/to-do list is crucial.
2. Create a study technique that works for YOU.
Everyone has their own way of studying. Some like to study alone, some like to study in groups. You will find those people in your class who can simply listen to the professor and review the lecture slides once over a day before the exam while you’ve been slaving away with your 50+ note cards for the past week. If you find that note cards work for you, stick with it. If you like making your own study guides with charts, stick with it. If you like reviewing the lecture slides and re-listening to the lecture over and over again, stick with it.
This means knowing when you need to give yourself a break. Your body needs sleep, it needs to hit the gym to sweat the day off, it needs that day of retail therapy. Whatever it is, remember that balance is key. Take your mental health days (or a few hours of study break). Don’t neglect your mental, emotional, and physical health.
4. Don’t compare yourself with others.
It’s definitely easier said than done. Just remember that the main goal is to get through the program, pass the NCLEX, and get that RN licensure. It’s so easy to compare your grades with others, or to be more involved in something than others. My advice is to just try your best while maintaining a good balance between school and personal life. If you need those extra hours or days to study, use them and strive for the grade you want. If have an interest or a passion in something, find those opportunities and experiences for yourself and no one else.
5. Remember your big picture goal(s).
Getting caught up in the stresses of upcoming assignments and exams comes with the territory of accelerated nursing programs. You may have those moments where you’re thinking if all this stress and lack of sleep/personal life are worth it. This is where I tell you to take a breather. Remember why you wanted to become a nurse in the first place. Remember that you were chosen out of thousands of applicants to join this amazing network of health care professionals. Speak with alumni, attend the lecture series or seminars your nursing school hosts, and surround yourself with inspiring people. Don’t lose that flame and energy you remember having the first day of school.
Our Nurse of the Week is Yaneli Arizmendi, a University of Pennsylvania (Penn) nursing senior who is spearheading an after-school program for Latino high school students in South Philadelphia intended to drive improved academic success and build self-efficacy. The project titled Lanzando Lideres (Launching Leaders) will be funded via Penn’s Engagement and Innovation Prize program. Yaneli was one of eight undergraduate students to receive the honor following her internship with Puentes de Salud as part of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation’s Nursing Internship Program.
Yaneli will work with Alexa Salas and Camilo Toro, seniors in the College of Arts & Sciences, under mentorship from Toni Villarruel, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing. These students want to position Latino high school students to reach their personal, educational, and professional goals through an experiential, bilingual, and culturally-inclusive curriculum which will serve as the touchstone for the Lanzando Lideres program.
To learn more about Yaneli’s leadership on the Lanzando Lideres project and her background in nursing, read our full interview with her here:
What made you decide to pursue a nursing degree?
I’m very hands-on, so I’ve always wanted to pursue a career that requires physical engagement and practical application. My experience at Puentes de Salud – through the Independence Blue Cross Foundation’s Nursing Internship Program – cemented my desire to pursue a career in nursing. At the clinic, I worked with the triage nurse to initiate the visits for the walk-in patients. The clinic was always full because of the demand for patient care services, so the wait times were long. After learning the structure of the clinic, I started to begin triage for the provider and gather information about the chief complaint to determine whether the patient needed to be seen and, in certain cases, prepare the patient to see a doctor.
Tell me about your involvement with the after-school program for Latino high school students in Philadelphia.
Right now, we are still in the early stages of collaboration with our partner, Puentes de Salud, a south Philadelphia-based nonprofit that promotes the health and wellness of the rapidly growing Latino immigrant population through high-quality health care, innovative educational programs, and community building. Our program will be rooted in three principles: education, enrichment, and engagement.
We plan to launch the program in September, so our first priority is to develop an experiential, bilingual, and culturally inclusive curriculum that will serve as the touchstone of our program. Eventually, we will disseminate our curriculum and resources through an interactive website for students, tutors, and a larger community of Latino youth worldwide.
Ultimately, we hope to create a culturally grounded, community-based program that helps drive improved academic performance and builds self-efficacy, so students are positioned to reach their personal, educational, and professional goals.
What is the mission or goal of the program?
The program’s mission is to continuously improve the long-term health and prosperity of the South Philadelphia Latino immigrant community by actively addressing social and systematic inequities.
Was your internship at Puentes de Salud your inspiration for the after-school project?
The internship was an inspiration for the after-school program because it exposed me to the need in the community and the strategies to address health disparities. The relationship between community work, education, and health has a lot of potential when addressing the social inequities. Currently, the education program only serves elementary school students, but it does not serve high-school students, and my team and I hope to expand the mission of Puentes de Salud.
How do you think your internship and involvement with the after-school program will benefit and impact your nursing career in the future?
My internship and involvement with the after-school program have enriched my nursing career. I hope to continue to work with this population and serve the community holistically. I want to address the social determinants of health in my community and remain an advocate.
What are your future plans for a career in nursing?
In the short-term, I will continue my education via the University of Pennsylvania’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program.
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.