Posts Tagged ‘Nursing students’

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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.

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Future Nurses—No Shrinking Violets

June 24, 2013
Thelma Schorr and Kathryn Brownfield.

Thelma Schorr and Kathryn Brownfield

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Last week I had the opportunity to meet several members of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) board of directors when they were here in New York for a board meeting. As is custom, NSNA chief executive officer Diane Mancino invites many of the NSNA sponsors and supporters to dinner to meet the new board.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kathryn Brownfield, the nursing student editor of Imprint, the NSNA’s official publication. She’s a nursing student at Nash Community College in North Carolina. We sat with Thelma Schorr, AJN’s former editor and publisher (and a consulting editor at Imprint) and Florence Huey, a former editor of AJN and of Geriatric Nursing (and a former president of the NSNA). It was like homecoming!

I was impressed—as I always seem to be—with these aspiring nurses. Many of them are second-degree students and come into nursing with work experience, a family, and a maturity that was lacking in my cohort, which was largely younger, right out of high school, with little work experience.

I wonder how these nursing students will fare in their first nursing jobs. One hears a lot about bullying and lateral violence and how it’s driving some new nurses away. I can’t imagine any of the students I met being cowed by overbearing coworkers.

In November, NSNA will host its mid-year conference, which typically draws 1,500 attendees; this year, it will be held in Louisville, Kentucky.

We’ve been able to publish some very engaging blog posts by NSNA members in the past. These two posts by Medora McGinnis, a former editor of Imprint, were particularly popular:

“Don’t Cling to Tradition: A Nursing Student’s Call for Realism, Respect”

“Practically a Nurse: Life as a New Graduate RN”

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‘My Professor Said to Submit My Paper’ (We Hope They Also Told You This)

February 22, 2013

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

Niklas Bildhauer/ Wikimedia Commons

Niklas Bildhauer/ Wikimedia Commons

When we get a manuscript submission, I always read the cover letter first to learn about the author and why the article was written. Often, the first sentence goes something like this: “I am a student and I’m submitting my capstone paper as required by my professor.” Or the letter may say, “My professor encouraged me to submit this paper, my capstone work.”

The paper is usually the very paper the student wrote and submitted to the professor. And that almost always means it’s not suitable for a professional journal.

The problem is not that we won’t consider manuscripts written by students—we sometimes welcome them, especially papers written by nurses who are experienced clinicians and working toward a graduate degree. The problem with the submissions I’m talking about here is inherent in the purpose of the papers themselves. Student papers are written primarily to demonstrate what the student knows about a subject; these papers tend to be expansive, cover the topic in a superficial way, and include a long list of references of books, articles, and Web sites (or, conversely, they may only have a few references, mostly Web sites, plus perhaps one much-cited textbook—thankfully, few are citing Wikipedia).

Student papers that describe themselves as “literature reviews” often have no information about the search strategy—and little synthesis. Instead, they contain a long list of various studies related to the topic, with no real discussion of key findings or filtering of the information for relevance. Student  papers tend to cover what most nurses in practice already know. Writing them may help a student get a good overview of what’s known about a specific clinical topic or issue, but this doesn’t mean the papers should necessarily be published.

Articles written for professional journals have a different purpose. These articles, properly done, should be written with the reader in mind, presenting new information the reader needs to know or that provokes the reader to think about something in a different way. The reader should come away with new knowledge or a new perspective.

There are many good reasons that faculty should encourage students to write. For one, we need nurses at all levels to write about their work, and not enough of them do so. And the responsibility for nursing’s scholarly work cannot rest solely with academics and researchers; clinicians have the firsthand knowledge about care processes and outcomes, and they need to document their work. They need to communicate to the public about what it is that they do so that nurses’ work becomes more visible; they need to communicate to colleagues about what works and what doesn’t so that we can replicate successful quality improvement initiatives.

But in encouraging students to write, faculty members need to give the correct messages.

Here’s what faculty might tell students:

  1. Go to the journal’s Web site and review several articles similar to what you want to write. Note the tone, level of detail, sourcing. Search the journal to see if it recently published articles on a topic similar to what you want to write. Send a query letter to determine whether your topic is of interest.
  2. Review the submission guidelines. Pay special attention to the instructions for authors and to how to format the paper and the references. This isn’t just an academic exercise, but is necessary so that references appear correctly and are verifiable in online databases. Also keep in mind that many journals run software to detect plagiarism, and the results can be inaccurate if the software reads the references as part of the body of the manuscript because they are improperly formatted.
  3. Write the manuscript using the information you learned when preparing your capstone paper or thesis as a starting point. All information is not equal. Be selective. Perhaps include a case study, and focus on what’s new or important for nurses to know. In addition, write to the audience that makes up the readership of the journal. Use active voice; avoid jargon. If there’s a word limit, honor it.
  4. Be sure to use primary sources when providing citations to support facts. Ask the librarian to help you find the correct sources.
  5. Spell-check your article before you send it. Read it aloud. Ask a colleague to read it.

We often suggest that new authors invite a colleague or faculty member who has published in a peer-reviewed journal to be a coauthor. And perhaps faculty should rethink requiring all students to submit papers and instead only encourage those students whose papers go beyond competence and add to our knowledge or understanding of a topic. We want students to want to write, and their first experience with publishing shouldn’t be one in which they have little chance of success.

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The NLN: Where Nursing Teachers Go to Learn

September 27, 2011

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

As a nursing student, I was always awestruck when an instructor could rattle off a few points that keyed me into what I should be thinking about when I approached a patient, or use questions to lead me through a thought process that ended with the discovery that I’d known the answer all along. It never dawned on me that those were teaching skills, tools of the trade that she’d learned as an educator.

Last week, I spent a few days in Orlando, Florida, attending the 2011 Education Summit of the National League for Nursing, or as most nurses know it, “the NLN.” I’d venture that if you asked most nurses (who aren’t faculty, that is) what they know about the NLN, they’d answer that it’s the body that accredits nursing schools (key information when deciding what nursing program one should attend). While that’s partially correct, that’s only one part of the NLN’s mission. Read the rest of this entry ?

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