Archive for February, 2009

What Nurses Won’t Learn in School

Posted in Nursing, Nursing Jobs

What Nurses Won’t Learn in School

Nursing is a lifelong learning process, and one of the things new nurses learn quickly is how much they did NOT learn in school. Graduating from an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX is just the beginning.

In clinicals, nursing students get only a small taste of what nursing is all about. They usually have one or two patients to care for and only for a part of a shift. They are frequently very sheltered so as to not get into trouble and cause an issue for their instructor who has many students to oversee.

Student nurses have little, if any, experience in the day to day activities and functions on the unit. Admitting and discharging patients is rare and therefore the associated paperwork with just these two activities can be overwhelming to a new nurse!

Ordering supplies and meds may be touched upon as needed for your patient, but the overall process has probably been shortcut by someone; either a staff member or your instructor. Signing for the narcotics may not be allowed by students even if the instructor co-signs and so nursing students may not even be aware of the process with controlled substances.

With only one or two patients to care for in a short duration, time management skills will never be effectively taught in nursing school. Prioritizing and learning how to schedule your day is something all new nurses struggle with. This then becomes one of the most intense points of contention with regular staff; how to learn to be good nurses without becoming a burden to the already over-stressed regular staff.

Student nurses would be well-served to spend some time just sitting and observing the flurry of activities on a unit, and if possible, shadowing a nurse for at least one whole day each rotation instead of being assigned to a patient. This would help to provide students with insight into how to plan out their day, make adjustments as events unfold and to regroup as necessary to stay on schedule.

Spending some time with other team members on the unit such as the unit secretary or clerk would be beneficial. Learning how supplies and medications get ordered and charged or how an order for a CAT scan get processed and scheduled can be very important. When you have some idea of the process, how long it can take, the number of people involved, etc, you will have a better appreciation for doing your part in a timely manner and being as accurate and complete as you can.

Learning about the day to day function of a unit will give you a broader understanding of the need to be organized, to know how to strategize, how to delegate effectively, and how to flex when the unexpected happens. Understanding how the unexpected can make a major impact on how your day goes will also help you to formulate the need to learn to be organized and use time management skills effectively.

You will have learned the basics of nursing in school; the anatomy and physiology, the microbiology of germs, the chemistry of medications and bodily functions, and many of the skills such as IVs, injections, catheters, tubes, wounds, etc.

As a new nurse, you will learn how to put all of this knowledge to work while learning how to function as a nurse. This part will take some time. You won’t master it all in a day or even a week. Give yourself a year! But keep plugging away at it and making progress. You too will become a good nurse.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the owner/author of

©2009 by

If I Have a Criminal Record, Can I Become a Nurse?

Posted in Nursing, Nursing Jobs

If I Have a Criminal Record, Can I Become a Nurse?

Is it possible to become a nurse if you’ve been charged and/or convicted of a crime?
There are several important aspects to the answer.

It may be that you shoplifted a lipstick from the local drug store when you were thirteen. Were any charges filed? Or was it handled just between the store, your parents and you? If you were charged and the case was sealed because you were a juvenile, don’t make assumptions. Find out what’s on your record that can be found.

Have you been involved in a domestic dispute? Were any charges filed against you? What was the result? Were you perhaps arrested for being involved in a public rally or demonstration that got out of hand? Or do you have a record for a DUI or involvement with drugs?

First of all you must be honest about your experience. Before you apply to a nursing program, contact your state board of nursing to discuss your situation. They can advise you as to whether your situation will prevent you from becoming licensed or not and what steps you need to take.

Be prepared to answer honestly and to explain your unique situation. Have all police records, court documentation, etc. at hand to refer to and to send copies if requested. If you have served jail time, provided restitution or been involved in rehabilitation of any kind, you should have all of that information and documentation as well.

Nursing schools will have a question on the application or at some point during the admissions process. Again be prepared to discuss the situation openly and honestly. Have your documentation at hand and present copies if needed. Also provide the information your state board of nursing gave you.

Employers may ask about criminal activity as well and you will again need to be frank and honest about your situation and provide all necessary information.

In some cases, your situation may prevent you from becoming licensed as a nurse, but the state board may also be able to suggest other health career options to explore.

Not all situations will prevent you from becoming licensed. However, the one thing that will be a sure bet to prevent you from becoming a nurse is if you lie or try to cover up any criminal activity you have been involved in. No matter what the crime, if you lie about it, you will most likely never become a nurse.

Nurses are held to a very high standard. Patients entrust their lives to nurses and expect that they are honest, have integrity and are professional. Nurses deal with narcotics and are expected to maintain confidentiality.

Throughout your nursing career you will continue to be held to this standard. Your behavior off duty can be as important to your career as how you conduct yourself on the job. For instance, a DUI can not only cost you a lot of money in fines, legal fees and rehabilitation efforts, but it can cause you to have your license suspended or revoked.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and is the author/owner of

© 2009 by All Rights Reserved.