May 10, 2008, 11:43 am

Nursing: The Next Generation

Well, another Nurses Week has passed without me wearing my cap! This year it was only because I did not work through the week, thank goodness!

I would wear it tonight, but for the fact that my hairdresser decided that a mullet would be the thing for summer and decided I should have one. Stand back, Billy Ray Cyrus! Okay, it isn’t that bad, but I’m not a happy camper.

I did want to thank all those who read and commented on my Nurses Week post from February! Some great comments were left this week by both new and current readers! You can find them here.

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I spent last weekend up at the University of Portland, watching my oldest daughter receive her Masters of Arts in Teaching. It was a very intense year and I am extremely proud of her.

Portland is such a beautiful campus. We figured out that 15 family members have graduated with their BA or MA from the University, with more family members entering this fall.

Who knows, perhaps this is where I will receive my MSN, provided I get my BSN before I’m 100!

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I was also fortunate enough watch the University of Portland School of Nursing graduate one hundred and seventy nine new nurses with their BSN degree and six with their MSN as Clinical Nurse Leaders.

I didn’t know a single one of them, but I felt as proud as the mother of one of the MSN recipients who sat in front of me.

It was an impressive sight.

I literally had goosebumps as the entire School of Nursing stood and applauded until their last classmate had walked across the stage.

The enthusiasm of these men and women, the pride with which they accepted their diplomas – this is what makes me want to become a nursing educator. It’s the same attitude I find in the blogs of nursing students. It’s what spurred me to go back for my BSN – the excitement of learning, the appreciation for the opportunity to be a nurse.

Sometimes it is easy to lose track of those things in the day-to-day environment of the hospital.

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So to the new nursing class(es) of 2008, I would say:

* Your first year will be the most difficult as you acclimate to your new role as a professional nurse. Hang in there! Keep your focus on why you went into nursing to begin with.

* Keep your eyes and ears open. Watch the nurses around you. You will be surrounded by role models. Take the best of what see and incorporate it into your own practice. It may be hard to believe, but by the time the next class enters the profession YOU will be the role model they look up to.

* Ask questions. Ask a lot of them. Keep asking “Why?”. This will keep you learning every day. I still do it after 30 years. Don’t take symptoms or lab values or behavior at face value. Find out “why”.

* Don’t let yourself get cynical or burnt out. Don’t work so much that you are exhausted on your days off. Work what you need to work to get by – keep overtime to a minimum. Yes, the money is nice but so is your mental health. Nursing is hard, demanding work. You need your “downtime” to recharge.

* Speaking of cynical or burnt out, you will work with nurses who suffer from both. Don’t let their attitude bring you down. (And I hereby apologize to all those nurses who had to work with me when I was suffering from both those maladies). You will feel the same on occasion, but keep in mind that “this, too, shall pass”. It does.

* You are professional nurses! Don’t let anyone treat you like a housemaid, a slave, an underling, or anything other than the educated, professional people that you are. Don’t accept the status quo. Don’t accept that things “have always been done this way”. Don’t accept stupid water bottles with hospital logos on them.

* Please, please remember that you practice nursing and not medicine. The professions are complimentary, not identical. Should a patient refer to you as “Doctor”, let them know you are a registered nurse. Act like the consummate professional, and you will find that the doctors will treat you accordingly. Those who don’t have a problem. You do not.

* Tell everyone what you do! Promote the profession! Encourage young people to consider nursing. Explain the difference between nursing and medicine to those who are confused.

And finally, there will be days when you leave work exhausted, emotionally drained and aching from head to toe, wondering “What the hell was I thinking?”

On those days remember that you made a difference in someone’s life.

Because you are a nurse.

Congratulations to the Nursing Class of 2008. I’m proud to call you “colleague”.

13 Comments


  • PM, SN

    May 10, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks for the advice! I still have no idea where I’m going to enter into practice, just over a week before graduation, but I think no matter where I work I’ll have a blast. I have a good/bad habit on selling people on the idea of whatever I’m into, so your last point really resonated with me. Over the course of nursing school I’ve nudged, cajoled and encouraged a bunch of my friends to join up, some had always wanted to but were intimidated about what they’d heard about the process, others had never considered it until I pointed out how they could apply what they’ve already learned to the profession.

    I think what’s most exciting to me is how I’ll be keeping in touch with the faculty who’ve inspired me through this process as colleages, through our professional organizations and community health care delivery systems. The underclassmen are always asking me if I’m excited to ‘be done’, and I always tell them this is just the beginning!



  • girl in greenwood

    May 10, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks, Kim! I appreciate your thoughts for new nurses for Nurse’s Week… I just passed the NCLEX last week and start my first job as an RN the first week of June. I am scared to death but I will keep your words in mind!



  • Dawn

    May 10, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for the great advice. I have 12 weeks of school left and I’m so excited to be a nurse and hope/plan to make a difference.



  • NPs Save Lives

    May 10, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Awesome post as usual with great advice to the new and old nurses. We must remember why we were called to this profession. I do believe that it is a calling and I would never do anything different for as long as I am able to productively work. I am so glad that I became a nurse and now a Nurse Practitioner.
    http://www.npplace.com



  • Jane

    May 10, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for the inspiring words again!
    I just finished off my first year of nursing and whew! I love my job, but do find myself complaining about the way things are as opposed to what I learned in nursing school. I still feel overwhelmed! Trying to learn it all and mostly just staying safe. The learning comes like bits and pieces of an old frayed quilt. I am just trying to put it all together.
    Jane.



  • Lawrence

    May 11, 2008 at 3:27 am

    Kim,
    Thank you very much for this post. After undergoing a VERY rough shift as a tech…and having a patient file a complaint, as her mother’s sugar was 67 and she was NPO from the ER. I took away the entire Box lunch..and explained that I would bring her mom a half glass of juice to raise her sugar. But she could NOT have water, or the sandwich or the applesauce….the daughter filed a complaint against me due to “oh, he didn’t know the whole story”….Yep, never mind that I am graduating with my ADN this Friday! I’m just the tech.
    Your advice to remember that we make a differance everyday really hit home tonight. I do what I can.
    And a quick add-on to your list….never underappreciate the value of a good tech. Lord knows I won’t forget where I came from when I’ve got that RN behind my name! thanks again, kim!



  • Charles

    May 11, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Great Advice.



  • Adrienne Zurub

    May 11, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Kim!

    Awesome, inspirational, true, and powerful words.
    Kudos to the Graduating Nursing Classes of 2008!

    And, to those nursing students plugging through classes, working weird shifts, and juggling family and other responsibilites in pursuit of the dream, YOU CAN DO IT…we need relief 😀
    (…well, maybe not me).

    My Warmest Regards~



  • Heather

    May 12, 2008 at 6:01 am

    I don’t know if you remember me. I graduated!!! woot!

    I take my NCLEX on June 3rd. I am so excited. These days up to the NCLEX are almost too excrutiating. I am ready to start my new life.

    You probably don’t have time but here are the pictures of my pinning and the speech that I wrote: http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474977335639&nav=Namespace

    I blogged my entire experience. I am so glad that I did.

    Thank you so much for this post!



  • Ariel

    May 13, 2008 at 2:35 am

    I graduated in December and I just finished my first shift without a preceptor. Those were words I desperately needed to hear today.

    The cynical nurse to whom I gave report was determined to point out every mistake I made, and glared at me for not being able to recite the most recent vital signs for six patients without looking. After reading your post, I’m able to say “oh well. I gave good care.” I think things will look up as I get used to being a nurse and not having a preceptor looking over my shoulder every second.

    Thank you.



  • Nursing Dude

    May 13, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Heather,

    Nice article at Gather with nice pics of the ceremony. May God bless you.



  • mdingo98

    May 19, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    I have about 25 years as a BSN and I think we must be about the same age. I just discovered your blog today and I must admit to being one of the burnouts. My husband hasn’t worked in9 mo (due to injury) and my kids are young.. Despite having many years of experience I feel greatly undervalued (read financially undercompensated) by one of the best hospitals in Houston. How can we recommend this profession to our daughters. Anyone with half a brain deserves so much more today. What can nursing possibly offer a woman who may end up the sole provider for her family? I am grateful for my colleagues both doctor and nurse who are wonderful to work with. But I can’t help feeling stuck stuck stuck. Sign me bitter.


  • […] offers words of wisdom to graduating nurses. Among them: “Please, please remember that you practice nursing and not […]


About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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