On the morning I was supposed to leave for Indianapolis, I woke up both nervous and excited. Like a typical twenty something, as soon as I turned off my alarm I checked the text messages on my phone only to find that my flight had been canceled. This of course, provoked anxiety and a series of web searches only to find that it had been rescheduled. Crisis averted, or so I thought. Unfortunately the mid-October day I had chosen to leave for my trip turned out to overlap with a Nor’easter rain storm. My flight was delayed an hour…then two hours, so I had the option to switch my flight. This switch worked out well – I was then on the same flight as my faculty mentor, Dr. Barbara Wolfe. We had dinner together and decided to wait for our 8:45 pm flight together. Well… our poor luck had not yet run out when our flight was postponed once again to leave at 11:50 pm, with an ETA in Indianapolis around 3:00 am, to then go to the hotel and wake up early to start at 8:00 am with the Keynote speaker.
First thing Thursday was a bit of a blur given my sleep deprivation. Throughout the day however I was able to connect with Dr. Wolfe again, as well as Dr. Danny Willis, Pam Terreri and BC Ph.D student Karen Jennings; so we had quite the crew representing Boston College! I had the opportunity to see Dr. Willis present his research, which was wonderful and fun to see him present outside of our classroom!
During my few days at APNA, I attended educational sessions, keynote addresses, panel discussions, and the New England Chapter meeting. Most meaningful were the connections I made and people I met. The professors from BC all introduced me to their former colleagues, professors and mentors. This was really inspiring, as I got to see how people can shape one’s career and how those connections live on for many years.
There was no shortage of impressive individuals to be acquainted with! I had the opportunity to meet other distinguished professionals in psychiatric-mental health such as: Shirley Smoyak, the president of the APNA, many past presidents (a list of which includes my faculty mentor, Dr. Wolfe!), and the editor of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. In addition, I got to know nurses and nurse practitioners from New England, Louisiana, Washington, DC, New York, and all over the country. Each had a unique story and contributions to the field of psychiatric-mental health nursing. They were distinguished in what they had done in their careers.
A unifying feature of these nurse leaders was their willingness to share information and encouragement. This conference is the only place where I have been asked “have you considered getting your Ph.D. yet?” with just 7 months left in my Masters, instead of just being congratulated. The conference provided a wonderful environment for someone young and budding into the profession, because I was surrounded by experienced individuals looking to encourage me and impart pearls of wisdom they would have liked to have known earlier in their careers.
Besides meeting incredible people, I learned about issues all over the country in nursing. In some states the fight for nurse practitioner autonomy has become more prevalent. However, I was most struck by the stories I heard from Louisiana. Since Hurricane Katrina, many mental health providers did not return after the storm. This left the Louisiana population in dire need of care. Since then, political issues have led to the closure of many more mental health facilities. The lasting effects of the storm affected the mental health of the people and there are not enough resources to give them the care they need.
Being surrounded by individuals who are truly passionate about what they do is invigorating to a young nurse and future nurse practitioner. I was struck by the work of APNA members in areas of research, practice, and advocacy. Having so many distinguished role models in the field, and at home at Boston College, I feel truly privileged to be able to do what I’m doing with my career. The lasting impact is feeling empowered to work towards my goals and be a good nurse leader. As graduation is quickly approaching, I need to critically reflect on just what I want my impact to be. My passion for psychiatric-mental health nursing was strengthened even further, and I look forward to next year’s APNA conference!
by Djerica Lamousnery
Upon graduating from Boston College (BC) in the spring of 2011, I took a month to prepare for the NCLEX. After passing the exam, I interviewed and accepted my first RN position at Rhode Island Hospital (RIH). As a new nurse in the ICU and Step down, I was part of the new graduate program, which is for nurses entering the ICU with no previous RN experience. I enjoyed learning with my peers who were all new graduates, partly because we were able to form a support system. Outside of the classroom, we spent our days gaining clinical experience in the units. I worked as a staff nurse on the Cardiothoracic ICU, which primarily served cardiac surgical patients. Although this was a very serious and specialized unit, I learned a lot about the importance of patient care.
During my first year as a nurse, I accidentally gave an IV medication too fast, and although the patient was not adversely affected, this proved to be a scary but teachable moment. As a new nurse it is not uncommon to make a mistake at some point. It is okay to not know everything when starting your first job. However when caring for other people’s lives, it is important to learn from your mistakes and always ask for help or advice, which will ultimately make you a better nurse.
After working at RIH for about a year and half, I decided to move to New York City. The search for a position was long but I finally landed a job at Columbia Presbyterian on the Neuro ICU. I was very excited to work alongside fellow BC alum, Ann Finck. Transitioning to this position was easier than my first job but still a learning experience. Learning nursing practices and customs in another hospital and state was a bit overwhelming, but I persevered and am still on the unit a year and a half later.
My advice to new nurses is to find a hospital with a respectable new grad RN orientation program. Despite where you may end up working in the future, this is where you will build your fundamental nursing skills. I believe hospitals which have a structured orientation program generally provide the tools for their new grads to succeed. My other piece of advice is to foster relationships with your coworkers and draw up on their years of experience in the field. They are a wealth of knowledge and are always willing to help you if you ask. Coworkers can become great friends outside of work as you progress through life and your nursing career.
Currently I serve on the Council for Women at BC and have been a member since graduating from BC in 2011. I enjoy maintaining relations with BC, especially being able to give back to the undergraduates. With numerous networking and career oriented events, it is a great resource for recent alumni. Last spring I sat on a panel for nursing undergraduates and shared my experiences of getting my first job and tips for preparing to enter the workforce. I am always looking for new ways to stay active and involved at BC. Soon I will be looking into graduate nursing programs, taking my nursing career a step further. For now my goal is to soak up all the knowledge I can get at the bedside!
Rosalinda Barrientos (GSON ’15), Yesenia Japa (CSON ’14), Andrea Lopez (CSON ’14), and Alexandra Paz (CSON ’15) attended the July 2014 National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) Conference in Miami, Florida. NAHN is a professional association “committed to advancing the health in Hispanic communities and to lead, promote and advocate the educational, professional, and leadership opportunities for Hispanic nurses.” The purpose of the conference was to advance one’s practice with clinical sessions and poster presentations, expand professional and personal networks, and improve knowledge of cutting edge products and services. The KILN Scholars reconnected with other NAHN members, learned about various topics, volunteered with the Stop Hunger Now organization, and reflected on ways to advance professionally and practice leadership.
Andrea, Alexandra, and Yesenia commented on how NAHN has expanded and strengthened their professional networks over the years of attending this conference. Andrea has met many community leaders at the conferences and looks forward to starting partnerships with them in the future to improve the quality of life of various communities. Alexandra expressed her gratitude and appreciation to KILN for giving her the opportunity to surround herself with nursing leaders who she respects immensely. She explains, “I really value the time I spent. I have taken away a wealth of knowledge not only from the speakers but also from the conversations I had with many of the nurses.” While attending the conference, Yesenia received advice from members as she was debating between two job offers, which ultimately helped her make a decision. At the same time, Rosalinda, who was attending the conference for the first time and is interested in pursuing a PhD, had the opportunity to explore different graduate programs and talk with attendees about career paths and becoming more involved with NAHN.
Besides expanding their networks, the students also left the conference with different takeaways. For Yesenia, listening to the speakers reminded her why she chose nursing as a profession and the role she wants to play in the healing process of her future patients. Meanwhile, Alexandra found motivation to keep furthering her education and pursue a graduate degree. She also expanded her knowledge on addressing health disparities and on the diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome. Through one of the conference sessions, Andrea got a new perspective on the importance of self-knowledge as it relates to her development as a new nurse professional. Rosalinda, who is in her second year of the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program, hopes to apply to practice the information she learned about the healthcare needs of the Hispanic population.
Three KILN Undergraduate Research Fellows (UGRF) from the CSON Class of 2015 presented their work at the September 2014 Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) Leadership Connection conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Taylor Fischer, Patience Marks, and Savita Sukha represented Boston College as “rising stars” and took advantage of the opportunity to network with nurse leaders from around the world.
By Taylor Fischer
I am so blessed to have attended the Sigma Theta Tau International Leadership Connection conference on September 24-27 thanks to KILN and the Price Family Foundation. I gained valuable experience presenting the research I have done with my UGRF professor, Tam Nguyen, as well as attending the various presentations and break-out sessions that the conference offered. I met many inspiring individuals and felt absolutely empowered to be both a future nurse AND a leader. One of the best things about this conference was that they offered a ‘Career Center’ session where one could sign up to get career advice from a seasoned nursing leader. As a current nursing senior, I immediately signed up because I am torn about what to do after graduation. I am debating between applying to graduate programs, residency programs, or going straight into the workforce. Also, I am not sure whether I want to stay in Boston, or look elsewhere. So with all these uncertainties, I was paired with Dr. Joan Roache, an Associate Clinical Professor at UMASS-Amherst, who gladly listened to my career goals and aspirations and offered various suggestions on how to achieve them. She explained several processes of how nurses get their PhDs, DNPS, and masters and the different routes that one could take. She also gave me advice for which graduate school programs focused on certain research topics. For example, she told me that University of Pennsylvania’s PhD program does a lot of research on organizational systems, the broad scope of work flow processes, and improving patient outcomes from the top down. This was very intriguing to me because I have worked on efficiency and work flow in various hospital units so I could see myself pursuing this area of research if given the opportunity. Also, she encouraged me to go after my wildest dreams, because there should not be anything holding me back. To hear this nursing leader tell me that I have so much going for me, and that I have much to offer anywhere I will apply to, was both comforting and incredibly honoring. When I entered my appointment, I felt anxious and overwhelmed, but I left feeling renewed and excited to have so many possibilities in front of me!
By attending this conference, I am now confident in applying to all the places that my heart desires and pursuing my interests without fear of being too overzealous. Also, just being in the STTI atmosphere surrounded by such accomplished nurses really made me realize how lucky I am to be entering this profession. It is encouraging to know I have the opportunity to make a difference in my career but also as a person. I felt humbled that nursing leaders wanted to hear about the research I am currently doing at BC and that they regarded me as an equal: a person excited about research, leadership, and the dissemination of knowledge for the good of our profession. Furthermore, I felt at home because I was surrounded by people who are leaders pursuing their dreams and wanting to help others achieve their own, which is the best atmosphere one could ever wish for.
By Patience Marks
One of the most valuable and important things I learned from the Sigma Theta Tau International Leadership Connection conference was the information about adaptive leadership. The presenter spoke about what it means to be an adaptive leader, focusing on the essence of being able to change and deal with changes as a leader. This resonated with me the most because as a rising leader amongst my peers, I have experienced situations that were out of my control and beyond my ability to handle. However, with the concept of adaptive leadership, I have learned the importance of adapting to unexpected changes and seizing them as opportunities in order to succeed. Lastly, I learned the key concept of resilience from adaptive leadership, which is the ability to bounce back from difficult situations. I learned to “keep flying the plane despite the turbulence.”
By Savita Sukha
Attending the Sigma Theta Tau International’s Leadership Connection 2014 was one of the best experiences I have had during my undergraduate career. The conference was a huge growing experience for me as a future nursing professional because it provided new interpretations of what it means to be a nursing leader. For example, the “Models of Leadership: A Panel Discussion” provided a great overview of the different models of leadership. Karlene M. Kerfoot, PhD, RN, CNAA, FAAN described the Transformation Leadership style, which includes the belief that a leader should have the trust of followers and empower those followers by allowing them to work by themselves. Carolyn Miller, MS explained the K/P Leadership style, which describes a leader who is honest, inspiring, future-oriented, and credible. K/P leaders know what they stand for, match their actions with their values, inspire others, challenge the process and make improvements, build other people’s competencies, and recognize other people’s contributions. Marjorie A. Maurer, MSN, RN, NEA-BC described the Servant Leadership style which involves a leader who has the personal drive to serve others first. Kenneth W. Dion, PhD, MSN, MBA, RN described the Situational/Adaptive Leadership style which encourages leaders to live without predictability and focus less on routine and more on opportunity. Overall, the panel discussion augmented my understanding of various leadership styles and made me think about what kind of leader I want to be. I intend to embrace key characteristics of those leadership styles in my own practice.
My professional growth as a leader was further augmented by attending the presentation by Susan B. Jeska, RN, MBA, EdD, called “Building the Nurse Executive Pipeline.” As part of the presentation, she emphasized the challenges many nurses face, such as the lack of visibility to be considered full partners and the lack of consideration for important roles in advancing health. Hearing the presentation strengthened my determination to become a nursing leader and diminish the challenges nurses face. On a similar note, Jothi Clara Micheal, MScN, RN, RM, PhDN, MBA (HA) was particularly inspiring. When I received a chance to talk to Dr. Micheal in person during a break in presentations, she brought up a point that provoked my interest. She emphasized how nurses should aspire to become leaders, not nursing leaders. By this she means that nurses should strive to obtain a leadership role among different facets of healthcare and not only limit themselves to the field of nursing. Hearing this point from Dr. Micheal was very encouraging and changed my idea of what a nursing leader means. Overall, attending the conference made me feel empowered through the wonderful experience of presenting research, networking with inspiring nursing leaders, and learning more about the essence of being a true nursing leader.
by Siobhan Tellez
I am currently working as a nurse in general care pediatrics at Mott Children’s Hospital, a division of the University of Michigan Health System.
I started my RN job in November 2013 and now that I am approaching a year at my job, it is incredible to look back and appreciate all the things I have learned since nursing school. Professors, mentors, and peers always talked about the importance of time management. However, I have to admit that while I understood the basics of prioritizing and being efficient, I did not fully comprehend the significance until I had three or four patients on my own, and I was the one responsible for getting them through the day.
One of the biggest lessons I learned is to take every day during orientation one step at a time. When I graduated nursing school and passed the NCLEX, I felt very confident that my Boston College education would serve me well. It did, but not in the way I was anticipating. During those first few weeks of orientation, I felt as if I was learning everything for the first time. My brain was in overdrive during every shift, and I would come home completely exhausted. I got very anxious and nervous that I was “behind the curve” since everything felt so new. Yet my education in nursing school helped me piece together what I was learning and master the basic nursing skills. Now as I go through my day, I am able to stop focusing on the little tasks that once made me nervous and really put those critical thinking skills to good use.
I want you all to know that feeling nervous, anxious, and stressed is normal during those first few weeks at your first job, where even the “easy” tasks will feel hard or confusing because everything is so new. These feelings WILL pass with more experience and it is so rewarding when you suddenly realize you have been at your job for a few months and you finally know what you are doing! Nursing is a constantly changing profession and requires lifelong learning so do not be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.
Nina Wujech completed a five-day medical mission trip to Cameroon with the Michael and Mauritia Patcha Foundation this past summer. She has been seeking ways to contribute to the healthcare of Cameroonians and give back to her home country of Cameroon. We congratulate Nina on this stepping stone and we know there will be many more to come!
We would like to congratulate Yvonne Shih on being a recipient of the Minority Nurse Magazine Scholarship. We are proud of her and wish her the best as she enters into her senior year!