Nurses' Questions Answered: Toughing It Out as a Student Nurse

Diane M. Goodman, BSN, MSN-C, APRN


May 06, 2022

Diane M. Goodman, BSN, MSN-C, APRN

Tactless Instructors

Nurse: Recent postings on Twitter provide alarming scenarios wherein nurses (and students) encountered shameful, embarrassing, disheartening, and degrading comments from nursing instructors. Do we attempt to prepare our newest caregivers to enter the profession by making sure they can "take it"? What does this communicate in a profession that is supposed to promote nurturing?

Goodman: From feedback supplied by nurses and nursing students (during dialogue posted on Twitter), the environment for academic nursing may be less supportive than we hope. My own experience as a diploma graduate, although many years ago, parallels what nursing students have to say today.

I lost my father during my first semester of academic learning. His death was unexpected; the grief was profound. I was allowed time to attend the funeral but shortly thereafter, I was expected in the classroom. To my shock and horror, the first lecture upon my return was about death and dying.

I was completely unprepared. I can still feel eyes staring holes into my back as I kept my attention focused downward. It required all my strength to complete the lecture. I should have been excused or offered the opportunity to make up the work on my own time but I was not.

Could I "take it"? I could, but the experience changed me.

Students today have posted similar events on Twitter.

One young woman lost her dog and begged for a morning to grieve. Rather than granting the request, an instructor suggested that the woman find another profession, one not as taxing.

Others mentioned how they were shamed, either for a full-busted appearance or for being a bit overweight, with instructors hinting that they would find the rigors of nursing difficult.

Still, in more scenarios, a student described how she received a paperback from a nursing instructor with the suggestion that a nursing candidate needed to excel at the written word before attending clinicals.

All potential nurses asked the same question: Why would a profession that prides itself on being nurturing work so hard at demeaning and belittling new nurses? Why, indeed? Nursing instructors are well-meaning, trying to weed out those who might not have the best intentions, but their approach could use work.

Let us know your experience with school in the comments section. Have you had potentially inappropriate moments?

Pros and Cons of Nurse Residency

Nurse: I am a new graduate and was approached to interview as a candidate for a nurse residency program. Is this a promising idea for my first year? I am hesitant to apply unless I understand how these programs work.

Goodman: Nurse residency programs are designed to condense as much practice and substance into a few months as possible for the new graduate. The programs include didactic content as well as clinical experience with complex patients. This can be arduous. As a result, the new graduate could be exposed to dying or critically ill patients at a far greater ratio than they would as part of a team.

New nurses should examine what type of learning experience they need to integrate into nursing. If they prefer a faster-paced approach to gathering knowledge, a residency program may be a good fit. However, these programs typically require new graduates to sign a contract and work multiple shifts, including weekends and holidays.

The contract may be difficult and expensive to break if the schedule proves stressful. A self-directed learner may be able to seek experiences on their own. An introverted new graduate that is hesitant to step forward may need the boost provided by a residency program.

Whatever your decision, be sure you understand what you are signing when you apply, especially the cost to terminate!

Recognizing Nurses

Nurse: Why is early May designated as Nurses Week? Is this a formal designation? Why does the concept exist?

Goodman: At no time throughout the history of nursing did recognition become more important than during a global pandemic.

However, the concept of Nurses Week has existed for decades. Its mission is to encourage civilians and businesspeople around the world to unite in paying homage to professional nursing.

Although a day-long concept existed for years, it was not until Ronald Reagan's presidency in 1994 that nurses were formally given a week to focus on celebrating their professional contributions. Currently, the week (May 6-12) offers institutions as well as individual nations the opportunity to celebrate and applaud the influential work that we provide.

In the United Kingdom, nurses celebrate by passing a lamp at Westminster Abbey in honor of the Lady With the Lamp, Florence Nightingale. In the United States, professional organizations such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the American Nurses Association designate a theme for the week.

This year the theme is "Nurses Make a Difference," continuing the appreciation of the heroic work of nurses throughout 2020 and 2021, when we became heroes during a worldwide pandemic.

Although deaths and hospitalizations in the United States have declined, giving nurses a much-needed respite, case counts in China and Taiwan are staggering, making international nurse recognition imperative for 2022.

Whatever the universe has in store for nurses throughout 2022, we should pause and reflect on the knowledge that we do affect our peers, institutions, and colleagues across oceans and lands that we may never see.

We deserve the celebration; we deserve the week. Absorb as much as you can and please, say a prayer for Ukraine.

Thank you for making a difference!

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