Posts Tagged ‘nursing school’


Five Steps to Make Writing a Research Paper Less Daunting

May 28, 2015

By Amanda Anderson, a critical care nurse and graduate student in New York City currently doing a graduate placement at AJN.

By DeclanTM, via Flickr.

By DeclanTM/Flickr

It takes a certain kind of super strength to be a grad student in springtime. Some days, I’d rather sit on a bench and watch the daffodils sway in the breeze than search for citable references to back up assigned claims. But after three years of graduate study, I’ve found a method that eventually grounds me. A looming deadline helps me hunker down with all necessary objects—iPad, keyboard, headphones, dirty stares for chatty undergrads. Most of my time is spent searching, until I’m finally ready to write. Edits are fairly quick, and my adherence to APA (American Psychological Association) style comes naturally now.

My system for writing a research paper is not new or undocumented. Research papers span all disciplines, but with little structural variation—a research paper is simply that: a paper that discusses research. Once I am able to will myself to focus, my research papers can be written in five basic steps.

Write a Thesis
Writing a research paper (for a school assignment or a work evidence-based practice project) can be intimidating, but fear can be eased by starting with just one sentence. A thesis statement should say exactly what I, the writer, plan to say to you, the reader, and how I will say it. It can vary and change throughout your writing process, but it should always guide you. In research papers, the thesis statement should usually fall somewhere in your first paragraph.

To write a thesis, you must first understand your assignment. What exactly will you write about? How? What matters about your topic? If it’s for a class, what are requirements of your assignment? With an understanding of all of the paper’s elements, you can begin your first and most important sentence. A proper thesis statement of this blog post might be:

“Writing a research paper is hard for me because of the distractions of springtime sunshine. However, this is an important task in grad school, and if I stick to a process, it can be completed. This blog post will tell you about the process that works for me, and the resources you can use to implement it for yourself.”

This simple statement acts as a road map for my writing process, and also gives my readers a heads-up on what to expect:

What I’ll write about (writing a research paper in springtime).
Why I’ll write about it (I must complete research papers to graduate).
How I’ll explain myself (sharing the writing process and resources for implementation).

Once you’ve written a thesis statement and broken it down into each question (what, why, how) that it will answer, you essentially have the research paper. (Some writers literally cut the thesis statement up with scissors into a bunch of key words and phrases. I like to duplicate it in outline form.)

By looking at the separate elements of your thesis, you’ll see exactly what to research, and exactly what to write. To support my springtime thesis, for example, I’d search for articles using the key words writing, processes, springtime, distraction, writing resources, and research papers.

The actual search for thesis-backing sources should be done through an academic database, like Academic Source Complete, PubMed, or CINAHL. These databases can be found on your school or hospital’s library site, typically under “Databases.” If you’re researching for a work project, hospital libraries can sometimes be difficult to find, but they are treasure troves of information, once located, with Web sites often housed on hospital intranets.

To search for the elements of my thesis, I’d connect things in a database search box with Boolean operators, or words like AND/OR/BUT that create a research phrase. In short, I could enter: writing AND “research paper” AND nurs* AND springtime AND process. Many databases allow you to search an entire phrase, or select connecting words from drop-down menus, in addition to a whole complement of other symbols that librarians are experts on (I’ve gotten to be good friends with the Ask-A-Librarian chat function that my school provides).

Unsurprisingly, when I plugged this search into Academic Search Complete on my school’s library Web site, it brought me zero results. It’s probably safe to say that no one has written a study on springtime, nursing, and research papers. However, when I deleted springtime, my search produced 24 results. A lot of times, research for a paper is a matter of trial and error and refining your search.

Unless you’re writing about a niche topic, you’ll often end up with too many results. To narrow it down, I typically start by stripping out articles that fall outside of the publication dates specified by my professor—most nursing programs ask for studies published in the last five years. Further narrowing comes by selecting the type of article (periodical, academic journal, etc.), since most professors prefer academic, peer-reviewed journals (in some circumstances, citations of blogs of academic journals, like this one, are becoming more widely accepted). Rule of thumb: leave out sites like Wikipedia and WebMD; here are some recommendations on evaluating sources.

Your search can be repeated on Google Scholar, where you can simply input your Boolean phrase like a normal Google search. Google Scholar prominently shows how many times each article has been cited and where—a feature that easily can lead to more sources.

Organize Your Research
Once I have some studies that seem reputable, I organize them. The actual organization of studies often leads to deeper understanding of my topic. And if I follow recommended processes on literature reviews, I tend to find as well that the organization stage produces a greater sense of whether my evidence has validity. Read the rest of this entry ?


Essentials for New Clinical Nursing Instructors, Especially Adjuncts

August 22, 2014

There are many things it’s helpful to know when you start work as a clinical instructor—and you might not get a lot of orientation first.

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

“So you’ve accepted the contract for your first part-time clinical teaching assignment and you’re wondering where to start in preparing for this new role. Perhaps you’ve been working in an administrative role, away from direct caregiving. Maybe you’ve been active in bedside nursing but have no formal preparation in clinical teaching. If you take the time to prepare for your teaching assignment, you can confidently lead your students through a meaningful clinical experience.”

Clinical instructor Betsy Moorhouse (second from right) reviews the contents of a pediatric code cart with her nursing students at Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, Maine. Photo © Getty Images.

Clinical instructor Betsy Moorhouse (second from right) reviews the contents of a pediatric code cart with her nursing students at
Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, Maine. Photo © Getty Images.

So begins “Starting a Job as an Adjunct Clinical Instructor,” the second article in our quarterly column, Teaching for Practice (published in AJN‘s August issue, the article is free until the end of September).

When I was working as a clinical nurse specialist, I was also adjunct faculty for a local school of nursing, working with students in the acute care setting. Fortunately, I had taken an education minor in graduate school—otherwise, I would have felt lost when faced with setting objectives, planning pre- and postclinical conferences, and student evaluations. Read the rest of this entry ?


Revisiting Reality Shock – What’s Changed for New Nurses?

July 28, 2014
julie kertesz/ via flickr creative common

julie kertesz/ via flickr creative common

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Last month, we highlighted on Facebook a blog post I had written in 2010, “New Nurses Face Reality Shock in Hospital Settings – So What Else is New?” (It seemed timely in terms of all the June graduations.)

I wrote that original post in response to a study that had just been published in Nursing Outlook (here’s the abstract) describing the experiences of new nurses. Generally, these newbies felt harried, unprepared, overworked, and unsupported—all similar concerns voiced by nurses in Marlene Kramer’s 1974 book, Reality Shock: Why Nurses Leave Nursing. (Here’s AJN’s 1975 review of the book. It will be free for a month; note that you have to click the PDF link at the article landing page to read it.)

My post back in 2009 noted how nothing much seemed to have changed since the publication of Kramer’s book. Now, once again, this post has generated many comments, a number of them on our Facebook page as well as on the original blog post.

Here are a few. I’ll start with Facebook:

I’m almost a 20yr RN and have experienced [this] in a new job. I’ve developed skills to deal with this over the course of my career, so it doesn’t impact me like it did as a new nurse…but to new nurses out there: just know that bullies have some personality disorder that extend[s] beyond the workplace (even if you never get to see it). Learn, be happy, and go on your way. It’s them, not you.

It’s up to nursing leaders at all levels to set the expectations and role model professional behavior.

The real problem is that we will no longer want to work as nurses . . . it has become so difficult for so many reasons. So at the end of a long shift you wonder, “Is it worth it? Is it?”

And some comments from the blog: Read the rest of this entry ?


To Be a Nurse Is a Powerful Thing: Thoughts on Graduation

May 12, 2014

By Karen Roush, PhD, RN, FNP, AJN clinical managing editor

Photo by Karen Roush.

Photo by Karen Roush.

After years of work and sacrifice, last month I successfully defended my dissertation. In the weeks leading up to my defense I found myself overcome with emotion each time I imagined that moment when I would hear myself called “doctor” for the first time. And my breath did catch in my throat when the questioning was over and the chair of my dissertation committee turned to me and said those magic words, “Congratulations Dr. Roush.”

But then something funny happened. There was no incredible high. I wasn’t walking on air. For so many years I’ve been focused on the goal of achieving a doctor of philosophy in nursing. But now that I’ve accomplished that, I am faced with a new and no less difficult challenge—what I do from here and how I make those words, Dr. Roush, mean something.

Many of you graduating this month may have similar feelings. It is a powerful thing to be a nurse. What we’ve learned in the classrooms, in hospital halls, in the connections that pass between us and our patients in moments great and small, has given us tremendous knowledge. But it is what we choose to do with that knowledge and how we do it that gives meaning to our hard-earned credentials, not the other way around. Read the rest of this entry ?


What Advice Would You Give a New Nursing Student? Our Readers Respond…

April 9, 2014

KarenRoushBy Karen Roush, MSN, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

My daughter Kim is starting nursing school next month, so last week I asked AJN’s Facebook followers for the best piece of advice I could give her. The response was overwhelming: over 600 people offered wisdom, encouragement, and tips for success. I went through and read them all and the following is an attempt to synthesize the advice.

Of course, with so many responses, there were many valuable pieces of advice I had to leave out, from the practical to the profound, such as:

sit in the front of class, stick to your principles, invest in good shoes, choose clinicals that push you out of your comfort zone, be early for everything, celebrate the small victories, get a really good stethoscope up front, believe in yourself, pick the hardest patient you can at clinical, audiorecord the lectures, be truthful and committed to your work, eat healthy, get to know your instructors, coffee and chocolate!

And finally: look into the eyes of your patients and be sure they know you care. Every patient, every time.

(Oh, and not to leave out the lighthearted—Don’t hold your nose in clinicals. The teachers frown on that.)

Below are five areas of advice that stood out:

1) “Take a good picture of your friends and family and put it on your desk, because that’s all you’ll be seeing of them for the next two years.” There were many variations on the idea that nursing school “takes 100% dedication.” You need to warn your family and friends that they won’t be seeing you for a while, get rid of your TV, sleep when you can, learn good time management, and be prepared to spend Saturday nights with your books . . .

2) “Study, study, study, and study some more.” Respect the quantity and degree of difficulty of the material you will have to learn. There were a lot of ideas about how to optimize your studying—chief among them was to get in a study group and to study NCLEX questions from the beginning. Others were to read ahead, not procrastinate, use flashcards, attend practice and review sessions, and have a study partner or buddy system. Having a study buddy, though, is only a small part of the importance of friendships with your fellow students . . . Read the rest of this entry ?


Don’t Write Off Community College to Start a Nursing Career

March 26, 2014

By Karen Roush, MSN, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

KarenRoushMy daughter is about to start her nursing career. She’s got all her prereqs out of the way and she’s waiting to hear from the half-dozen colleges she applied to. Among them is the community college where I started my career 35 years ago. That’s right—a community college that confers an associate degree.

I hope she gets in.

Community colleges are seen by many as the bottom of the ladder of desired schools of nursing. Not only do they offer only a two-year degree, but they’re not seen as being as selective as four-year colleges and they don’t have the big name professors.

But community colleges can and do produce great nurses. Programs are rigorous, so a more liberal admission standard at the onset doesn’t necessarily change the caliber of student who graduates at the end. And once they graduate, they must meet the same standards as students from four-year schools to attain licensure as an RN—everyone takes the same NCLEX. At the time of my graduation, my school had a 98% pass rate, one of the highest in the country.

Community colleges even have some advantages over a lot of four-year programs. They may not have the big names—but really, how many of those big name professors actually teach full courses? At community colleges, teaching is the focus. Community colleges are affordable; students don’t leave burdened with astronomical debt to start a career that, while setting them down firmly, and often permanently, in the middle class, can also saddle them with a burden of debt on top of all the expected financial struggles. And in many places, community colleges are truly embedded in their community; this can provide a level of support and open up opportunities for students that is not possible at larger detached universities.

I agree that all nurses should have a BSN, eventually. There is a lot of evidence that it improves patient outcomes. But the two-year community college can be a great place to start—two years of reasonably priced education that gives you a solid base of skills and knowledge to practice while you continue to take courses toward a bachelor degree. I remember when I returned to school for my bachelor’s: the wonderful sense of discovery that I was not just a nurse but a professional, and part of a profession with its own history and body of knowledge.

We need more nurses. All the experts agree that there is a shortage just waiting for the rest of the Baby Boomer nurses to hang up their stethoscopes. An education that starts at a community college can take a nurse far. I know mine has, from acute care staff nurse to long-term care educator, from oncology to urgent care to the IV team. Here in the U.S. and in India and Africa. As a nurse scholar at the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, and as an NP in the Adirondacks of upstate New York.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Preventing Delirium, The Luxury of Time, Things We Get Right, More: Nursing Blog Roundup

March 7, 2014

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

Here are a few recent posts of interest at various nursing blogs:

karindalziel/ via Flickr Creative Commons

karindalziel/ via Flickr Creative Commons

In the throes of nursing school: An intriguing little pastiche of a poem (does it qualify as a ‘found word’ poem?) can be found at a newish blog, adrienne, {student} nurse, in a short post called anatomy of a bath. In another post, she makes the following observations: “In nursing school, you are not driving the train…You absolutely must keep telling yourself that there is nothing wrong with you.”

Preventing delirium in the ICU: At the INQRI blog (the blog of the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Institute), a post summarizes some recent research on implementing a “bundle” of practices to increase mobility and reduce sedation in the ICU, all in order to prevent patient delirium, which is known to have many short- and long-term negative effects.

The luxury of time. At Love and Ladybits, the author gets a tantalizing glimpse of the quality of care she’d be able to provide if she had more time to spend with each patient. Of course, this “alternative reality” can’t last, but perhaps it can serve as a touchstone of sorts during more hectic times.

The past is present. At Head Nurse, there’s a somewhat rueful post about an unexpected encounter, years later, with the author’s least favorite nursing professor (“Everybody has one of those instructors–the ones whose classes make you yearn for the sweet release of death, or at least a nice case of vascular dementia”). Read the rest of this entry ?


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