Registered Nurse Terry is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. he received her degree cum laude in nursing and is now employed in a Pennsylvania hospital focusing on trauma. he is considering her graduate school plans and hopes someday to work in pediatrics.
Terry credits her education in urban Pittsburgh, PA, with 7 local hospitals, as extremely beneficial to her advancement in the nursing profession. This diverse atmosphere helped her find her passion in pediatrics and her interest in graduate programs.
Terry graduated school in May 2010 and passed her boards in July 2010.
Most people say they chose nursing as a career in order to help others. There are plenty of other fields in which this applies, so why did you choose nursing?
I knew I wanted to do something in health care. Originally I was torn between pharmacy and nursing. I shadowed both and I realized I wanted to be more involved in the care of people rather than sorting pills.
Were there any particular classes or programs in high school that sparked your interest in nursing? What recommendations do you have for high school students thinking about going into nursing?
My high school had a program during your senior year that let you shadow nurses once a week. This really showed me everything nurses do. For students who don’t have this option I highly suggest volunteering at their local hospital. I did this as well. This let’s you pick the unit you think you’re most interested or you could be a float and see many units. You don’t get to do what a nurse does but you get to see them in action and ask them questions.
What advantages did you have by choosing a nursing program at a school located in a major metropolitan area? Is there a difference between this and schools not located near cities?
I loved going to school in the city especially because I had 7 hospitals within walking distance from me and I had clinical in all of them. Also by having more hospitals which most cities offer you see much more such as different populations, different diagnoses, and different specialties. Many rural schools don’t have these opportunities. Those students either have to travel a far distance to see different things or they just don’t get the experience.
When deciding on nursing schools, what were the major factors that played into your decision-making?
My number one requirement was to go to a city school to have more hospital opportunities. Then I started looking at NCLEX 1st time pass rate for schools. Finally I looked at what recognitions and achievement each school had.
What recommendations do you have for incoming freshman in regards to the transition from high school to a first year nursing student?
Study, study, study!! Many of my classmates blew off studying freshman year and they suffered from it. Make a study plan and study in advance. Procrastination is the worst thing you can do in nursing. Don’t make a habit of it.
What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced during your four years as a nursing student? How did you cope?
During nursing school stress levels are high. You have long days with classes and clinical and long nights studying. It’s most important to take a break. Go out with your friends and have fun. Even though it’s so important to do well in school you don’t want to burn yourself out. College is supposed to be fun too and it will be one of the greatest times in your life.
How critical were the clinical rotations to your development as a nurse? How did you adjust from classroom learning to hands on learning?
Clinical rotations are extremely important when learning procedures and tasks in nursing. This was not a hard adjustment for me. The only thing that was hard to deal with was my sleep deficit but your body slowly adjusts.
Describe the most difficult problem you encountered during a clinical rotation and how you solved that problem.
During my pediatric rotation I was taking care of a young girl who had Gardener’s Syndrome. Her mother accompanied her during her stay and her mother was not happy about how infrequently her child’s pain mediation were given.
In this situation I talked with the mother about her concern, taught her about the pain medications that were given, and we got the physician involved to deal with this issue. After working together and her having a better understanding of the medications she felt much better about the situation.
These type of instances happen a lot in clinical. Always remember to stay calm, try and imagine what the patient is feeling, and help them reach an outcome that will make them feel better and improve their health.
What qualities do you think are needed in a person pursuing a career in nursing?
A nurse needs to be caring, understanding, and hard working. Being a nurse is a demanding job which requires them not only to provide great care, but to listen to the patient and advocate for them.
Now that you have graduated, what are your plans? Have you chosen a specific field of interest in the nursing profession?
I currently am working in a trauma unit. I want to eventually switch into pediatrics and go on to get my Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) and specialize is pediatric oncology.
Do you see yourself as a nurse for your entire career or are there other professions you have looked into?
I only plan on being in nursing but advancing my education in the nursing field. My main goal is to be a DNP.
I’ve heard a little about these NCLEX boards. Can you tell me some more about what they are, why they are important and how to prepare for them?
NCLEX are the state boards which determines your ability to be a nurse. It is a computer adaptive test which means the next question on the test is dependent on the answer of the previous question. To pass this test you need a majority of higher level questions. These questions are about prioritizing and analysis.
For example which patient would you see first. The rest of the test is comprised of recall questions. These questions are for example what is a symptom of renal failure. You must answer these questions correctly to get to the higher level questions.
The test varies for each person. This means everyone has different questions and a different number of questions. The minimum amount of questions you can answer is 75 an the maximum is 265. Also 15 questions are pilot questions. These questions are not included in determining if you pass or not. They are simply trial questions.
Everyone prepares for this test differently. First you must know what is the best way you study. For example I read trough a NCLEX review book and made flash cards on different information such as diseases, drugs, lab values, and stages of development. I also did over 2500 NCLEX practice questions. The key to the NCLEX is practice. Do as many questions as possible. To have access to all these questions I enrolled to a Kaplan prep class which I really felt was beneficial.
When taking this test remember that there will be questions you don’t know the answer to. Try and remain calm and do the best you can.
As most college graduates seem to be struggling to find work, how do you feel about the availability of nursing positions?
Nursing is definitely affected by the economy. When the economy is good there is usually a shortage of nurses and many positions available. When the economy is struggling it is much harder to get a nursing job. Currently jobs are becoming easier to get.
Have you ever considered travel nursing? What do you believe are the pros and cons of this profession?
I have thought about travel nursing. It is a great opportunity to travel and work. The major pros that I’m aware of are that the company will pay for a place for you to live, sometimes give you a car and a stipend for food on top of your salary. Some of the draw backs are that many company don’t offer benefits or paid time off.
What do you find to be most beneficial about being a nurse? Are there ever times where you wished you had chosen a different field of study?
I like nursing not only because I get to help people but also because of the great benefits, the schedule flexibility, and the salary. Once I started the program I’ve never considered switching majors.