By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN interim editor-in-chief
I just came back from the NSNA (National Student Nurses Association) convention in Orlando. What a crowd! There were over 3,500 attendees, mostly nursing students and some faculty. And contrary to what one usually thinks of students on spring break, this group was serious and focused. Some impressions I took away from the meeting:
- I was impressed with the many people pursuing nursing as a second career. I incorrectly thought several people I met were faculty because they looked older than many of the attendees—they were nursing students. One had been a marketing executive, one a financial executive (for over 20 years!), one a regional manager of a cosmetics company, another a stay-at-home mom for 10 years . . . not to mention a bank teller who had been a caregiver for a family member who was quadriplegic. They had professional resumes; plans A, B, and C for job hunting; and were focused and organized.
- Missing in the exhibit hall were hospital nurse recruiters. But presidents and representatives of nursing organizations were there, wooing potential new members either via booths or focus sessions. And with 80% of nurses not belonging to any professional association (according to Rebecca Patton, president of the American Nurses Association, in her remarks to the group), associations need to figure out what would make these future nurses join their ranks.
- Finding a job was the hot topic. I spoke with several students who were graduating next month or in December. Most were having no luck; some couldn’t even get interviews because they had no experience. Those who had secured jobs seemed to have established an earlier relationship with the agency through an internship or working as a nursing technician or aide. Evetta Eubanks, an NSNA board of directors member from Kansas City, Missouri, told me that of her 63 classmates graduating next month, only eight others have secured jobs.
- And as in other organizations, proceedings in the House of Delegates were sometimes contentious. Students from the Portland [Oregon] Community College chapter were angry at what they said was a planned move by the board of directors to defeat a resolution they had crafted. Elizabeth McPhee, president of the chapter, said its resolution to gain the organization’s support to establish a full-time National Nurse was not given fair treatment. (See a 2009 AJN report on the controversy around the Office of the National Nurse, plus a more recent post here on the topic. The movement was buoyed earlier this year by legislation introduced by Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer, H.R. 4601).