Revisiting AJN’s long connection with this vibrant student nursing association.
By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, editor-in-chief
I’ve said it a number of times over the years, most recently in my editorial in the April issue of AJN: the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) is a vibrant organization and produces one of the most well-organized annual meetings in nursing. This year, it broke attendance records, drawing approximately 3,200 students and faculty advisors to the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, where I spent part of last week.*
Supporting NSNA since its founding. The American Journal of Nursing has been a supporter and and sponsor of the NSNA since the organization began in 1952. The NSNA offices used to be part of the AJN offices at one time, and before NSNA had its own publication (Imprint), AJN published “The Student Pages.” We sponsor Project InTouch, an award given to the student who recruits the most new members for the organization. This year, winner Joanna Laufer from East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, recruited 130 new members; overall, this initiative brought in over 1,600 new members this year. Impressive.
Impressive, and sharp dressers too! The students I met—mostly junior and senior nursing students—were also impressive. They were enthusiastic, eager to learn, and professional. I have to say this group as a whole was better dressed than many attendees I’ve seen at other nursing conferences—they clearly got the message about what business casual meant; I rarely saw anyone in jeans.
The students’ major concern was of course, finding a job in this tight market. And there were few recruiters other than the military services among the couple of hundred exhibitors—most were schools of nursing and companies with educational products for passing the licensing exam. Many speakers reinforced the message that the tradition of working in a hospital for a year before working in other settings is not necessary (and likely never was), and students seemed a bit relieved to hear that. But more jobs will be opening in primary care settings and preventive care services; senior care centers and long term care will grow along with the aging population, so jobs will be there, too. And while it might be tough now to get a job in a hospital, the market will be very different in a few years as older nurses retire.
Listening to hunches. One message that resonated from many of the speakers, from opening keynote speaker Gloria Donnelly (dean of Drexel University College of Nursing, Philadelphia) and plenary speaker Elizabeth Eastman (co-director, Interprofessional Education Center, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia) to panels and the sessions I did (Building on Nursing’s Legacy), was that one needed to listen to “hunches”—that many changes in practice and health care systems came about because nurses, those closest to the patient at the point of care delivery, thought that something wasn’t working and that there had to be a better way to deliver care.
A pivotal time in U.S. health care. These students are graduating and taking their places at a pivotal time in U.S. health care—systems are in chaos as they try to adapt to new technologies, new rules, new payment schemes, new roles for practitioners. It’s a great time to influence how new care processes will evolve and to create new roles for nurses. Nurses have done it before—think of Florence Nightingale reforming military hospitals, Lillian Wald delivering care in homes and the community, Mary Breckenridge in the 1930s and Ruth Lubic today showing the difference family-centered care makes in infant mortality.
The American Academy of Nursing’s Edge Runners list contains 49 such innovators. I have no doubt that some of these students will be added to the list.
*It’s not really a hotel—one wanders by cascading waterfalls, along paths through lush vegetation and through main streets with some odd characters, viewing the sun only through a large glass dome. The “You are here” maps always make it appear as if one is in the same location. I took a different route each day, though I didn’t plan to. The good news is it’s easy to walk 10,000 steps here—one convention organizer hit that mark by 2 pm!