As soon as I made the decision to enter nursing school as a high school junior, I started brainstorming ways to prepare for nursing school. In addition to researching nursing schools, and preparing applications, transcripts and letters of reference, I wanted a little taste of a career in health care.
I wanted some sort of preview of what it might be like being a nurse. So, I signed up to be a hospital volunteer (“candy striper” in the days of old) during the two summers before my high school graduation.
Working as a hospital volunteer exposed me to the field of nursing and allowed me a valuable glimpse into a “day in the life” of a nurse. It also gave me the chance to help in many other hospital departments, see their role in patient care, find out how they interact with nursing and get the “big picture” view of my future profession.
More and more high schools are seeing the value of spotlighting a career in nursing for their students, in hopes of drawing them into the field, especially in light of the mounting shortage of nurses. Lamar University in Texas, for instance, has created a program for high school students called the “Nightingale Experience” where students are introduced to the field of nursing, are engaged in conversations with nursing faculty, shown the different job opportunities available and encouraged to consider nursing as a career goal.
The university program takes it a step further, allowing students a hands-on learning experience in a simulated hospital setting. Whether your groundwork for nursing school includes a program such as the one at Lamar University, or if you choose to work as a hospital volunteer, it is helpful to include some kind of “real life” component to your preparations. Nurses will be in higher and higher demand in coming years, so the earlier you start developing an interest in this career, the better.