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.
Our Nurses of the Week are the nursing students from Northern Arizona University (NAU) who donate their time on an annual mission trip to Guatemala to treat women with cervical cancer and provide health screenings and education to as many Guatemalans as possible.
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in Guatemala, taking the lives of over 1,400 Mayan women per year. The disease is treatable when detected early, but women in the developing country don’t receive the regular checkups and treatment they need for early diagnosis. 31 percent of women diagnosed with cervical cancer in the US die each year, compared with 48 percent in Guatemala – quite a jump.
Dorothy Dunn, an assistant professor in the Northern Arizona University School of Nursing, became interested in Latin America while taking history classes as an undergrad. Gaining a passion for global outreach, she decided to find out why a curable cancer is killing so many Mayan women. Dunn tells News.NAU.edu,
“Because Guatemala is a low-resource country, women lack the regular checkups and treatment they need, resulting in a very late-stage cancer diagnosis. They are then placed on a waiting list of more than 2,000 people in hopes of living long enough to receive radiation treatment – most of whom don’t.”
This led Dunn to the Center for International Education, where she established an international study abroad program providing NAU nursing students with the opportunity to treat Mayan women through a partnership with the Guatemalan-based nonprofit, Nursing Heart Inc. NAU’s program is unique from other international programs in that a group of students returns to the same town and same people every year, providing them with annual ‘check-ups’ and checking on their patients’ progress.
Students from NAU have been traveling with Dunn annually to Santa Maria de Jesus since 2013 where over 500 people flock each year to receive treatment. They focus on women’s health care, spending the first three days providing Mayan women with cervical cancer screenings. It’s a program everyone benefits from as the women get treatment they don’t otherwise receive and students get hands-on experience and the chance to save lives.
Guatemala has also seen an influx in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. For many of the country’s poorer families, low-nutrient, high-calorie, high-sugar, and high-salt processed foods are all that are affordable. These diseases are often manageable in developed countries, but without adequate healthcare funding and access to medications, these diseases are causing even more early deaths in Guatemalans. Hoping to provide Guatemalans with preventative measures they can implement into their daily lives, Dunn and her students spend the fourth day at the clinic providing patient education.
To learn more about NAU’s Guatemalan study abroad program and Dunn’s involvement in founding and continuing its mission, visit here.
Our two Nurses of the Week are University of Pennsylvania nursing seniors Marcus Henderson and Ian McCurry who are working to transform the way the homeless community in Philadelphia receives health care. Both students are focused on using a community-oriented approach to health care to target shortcomings in the current health system.
Their project “Homeless Health and Nursing: Building Community Partnerships for a Healthier Future” was awarded the 2017 President’s Engagement Prize which includes $100,000 in funding. The senior students partnered with the Bethesda Project, a Philadelphia nonprofit working to reduce homelessness and provide more community-oriented health care by being proactive in addressing health disparities before these homeless individuals reach the emergency room.
Henderson and McCurry have both been caretakers in their young lives. In middle school, Henderson took care of his great aunt with Down syndrome and his grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after school each day. This led him to study public health in high school and eventually join Penn’s nursing program.
McCurry was inspired to become a nurse and caregiver by his veteran mom who he says taught him to look at communities through a nursing lens. As a teenager, he helped adults in his community with developmental disabilities and later worked as a counselor for them, leading him down a natural path to nursing.
Now, both senior nursing students are pursuing their passions and breaking stereotypes about male nurses. Many male nurses choose to go into military or administrative roles, but Henderson and McCurry plan to continue on their path to community nursing and breaking down barriers for marginalized community populations.
To learn more about Henderson and McCurry and their passion project to revolutionize community healthcare for homeless individuals, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Darinisha Turner, a senior nursing student at the University of Texas at Arlington where she promotes work-life balance in her peers. Turner wanted to spend her time as an undergraduate nursing student proving wrong the statement that, “You can’t be in nursing school and have a social life.” She has learned how to pursue her love for the health care field while also staying involved on campus, something she hopes to help other students learn how to do.
While pursuing her degree, Turner also served as a member and journalist for the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, a mentor for upcoming freshmen at the Center for African American Studies, and a member of the Black Student Nurses Association. Turner has also secured a job at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit where she currently works as a patient care technician. For Turner, a typical day includes a 12-hour clinical, preparing sorority events, and trying to find time to eat and sleep.
Turner’s school and social schedule certainly keeps her busy, but while she understands the importance of education to find a successful career path, she also believes everyone should have some balance. Turner tells TheShorthorn.com, “Having a balance between school and being involved on campus is extremely important to me.” The sorority is important to Turner because it allows her to be involved in something bigger than herself and to serve as a positive role model while changing the community around her.
While her time as a student is coming to a close, Turner is also ready to begin her career in a few months. She tells TheShorthorn.com, “I fell in love with the health care field in high school, and having the opportunity to live my dream in a couple of months is worthwhile.” Turner’s love for promoting a healthy balance of school and social activities will leave an impact on many of her peers as she heads into graduation.
To learn more about Darinisha Turner and her time as an undergraduate student at UT Arlington, visit here.
Eight senior nursing students from the University of Arkansas (UA) Eleanor Mann School of Nursing have been getting to know the homeless people of Fayetteville through a 7-week clinical rotation with 7hills Homeless Center. Working with the homeless has taught them empathy and how to think beyond immediate treatment, an immensely valuable skill that they will carry with them into their graduation this Spring.
During their rotations, the students have learned that homeless people aren’t as unfriendly and scary as many people think. Homeless people come from all backgrounds and most aren’t homeless because of something they’ve done, but due to unforeseen bumps along the way. Gaining trust with their patients has taught them not to judge by first looks or impressions and educated them on many of the challenges that homeless people face. Dorian Nelson, a senior nursing student, tells News.UArk.edu:
“After you go to the emergency room, if your home is the wet, cold woods, it doesn’t matter that you had treatment. A lot of nursing is advocacy. Here, we work with case managers whose job it is to help the homeless in all aspects of their lives. They will leave here no better than when they came in if we can’t help them with resources.”
Registered nurse Janet Gardner established the clinical rotation program at the 7hills homeless enter in January 2016 and now places different groups of 8 students there two times per semester. Their clinical duties include taking blood pressure, checking blood sugar, treating wounds, and making calls on behalf of their patients who need further medical treatment. This has taught these senior nursing students how to be advocates for their patients who need help, especially those who need management of their chronic conditions.
Taking a broader mindset with them into their upcoming graduation ceremony, many of these students now plan to work in hospital emergency departments or critical care units where they can best serve some of the most vulnerable patients and populations.
To learn more about the University of Arkansas nursing program and 7hills Homeless Center, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Sara Huffaker, a senior nursing student at Pittsburg State University (PSU), who has been donating her hair to help make wigs for cancer patients for over a decade. Inspired by her own hair donations, Huffaker decided to organize a donation drive on PSU’s campus. Discussing her decision to organize the donation drive, Huffaker told Pittsburg’s MorningSun.net:
“I’ve been doing this since I was in fourth grade. I was donating last year and thought ‘why isn’t everyone doing this?’ So I decided to get to work.”
The goal of her event was to receive eight donations – enough to make one wig. They already had eight people lined up by the time the donation drive was opening, and had over 64 donations by the end of the day, enough for eight wigs. After far exceeding Huffaker’s expectations, she decided that the hair drive will be a yearly event in the future, occurring on the first Saturday in February.
Huffaker is the Breakthrough to Nursing Program leader for PSU’s chapter of the Kansas Association of Nursing Students. Using her position there, she partnered with Wild Side Salon to organize the drive and ended up with hairdressers from multiple salons volunteering to donate their time. Donations were made through Pantene Beautiful Lengths in partnership with the American Cancer Society.
You can read the original story on Huffaker’s hair donation drive here.