Graduation, the Beginning of Education

Congratulations!

You did it!

Classes, caffeine-riddled nights of cramming for exams, and clinical rotations are a thing of the past.

That BSN is firmly in your grasp.

As you stand on the threshold of your nursing career, the NCLEX before you, pondering the job situation for nursing graduates, the last thing on your mind is more education.

But right now is exactly when you should think about that very thing.

Long-term goals for a nursing career should include options for an advanced degree.

Thinking about it now, when you are just starting out, gives you a couple of advantages.

First, it gives you time to really check out different programs while you are gaining that most important asset: experience. When it’s time to come back into the classroom, that experience will be invaluable.

From here on, when you take a nursing class, the material will have meaning because you can decide whether or not to apply it to your own practice, and you will be contributing your own nursing perspective to the conversation – something no one else can provide. You’ll find yourself learning from, and contributing to, your fellow colleagues, with professors acting as facilitators of learning as opposed to “teachers.”

Second, by keeping the idea of an advanced degree as part of your career goal, you will naturally begin to work toward that goal. While it is never too late to obtain the degree, I would advise not waiting decades into your career.  An advanced degree gives you options and mobility. Healthcare is changing; it is moving away from the classic hospital bedside and nursing roles will be changing dramatically in the next few years. An advanced degree will keep you ready for whatever changes healthcare reform requires of our profession.

Graduation is really just the beginning of a career of continuous education. Stay ahead of the curve and make an advanced degree part of your career plan.

Welcome to the profession!

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One Response to Graduation, the Beginning of Education

  1. Hi Kim
    I thought I’d expand on some of what you wrote to offer a different perspective. First of all, what everyone should be aware of before entering a Master’s program or advancing their nursing education beyond that–is that your view of nursing will change dram-a-t-ic-ally! You no longer think at the solo practitioner level or even at the unit level–all of a sudden you’re identifying practice problems that can be fixed, you understand the hospitals balanced score card, their strategic goals, their CMS adherence scores and how they impact not just you but your colleagues–you actually “get” a lot of things your colleagues just “don’t.” You start to understand why policies are being implemented and why they are or are not working etc….bottom line–your whole world view of nursing and healthcare changes.
    Great! You say. Well, yes, it is great. If you have a plan and a goal for how you are going to use that MSN–and I do mean a specific goal. Nurses with Masters Degrees are not easily integrated (or even welcomed) at the bedside. Alot of our hospital management come from previous generations of nursing that didn’t promote advanced education….so, many times today’s nurses have a more advanced education than their unit supervisors and managers…..here–is where there are pitfalls. Not every unit manager seeks to be transformational, one who harvests and supports the new breed of nurse and their innovative talents or ideas. In fact, many are threatened that their seat at the leadership table will be usurped by the youngins. At the time I got my Masters I was the only Masters prepared nurse on a 36 bed high acuity advanced heart failure/heart transplant unit. Kim, I had soooooo many ideas. I was so excited to use my education to help meet our CMS goals, reduce post heart surgery length of stays, our CHF readmission rates.
    I tried using my education but was literally stunted every time I submitted ideas for the unit. The last project I submitted for consideration–I was bluntly accused of plagiarism. Despite my efforts to prove otherwise, it was clear my manager had no interest in helping me to use my education. She asked I no longer submit anything to her or email her any more ideas. Annnnd–that was that. Look I’m not saying it’s horrible to get a Masters in Nursing–quite the opposite actually. But what I am imploring students to do is use that first year or two as a nurse to key into some interests and observations that they want to explore more with regard to patient care or nursing in general. Start there. Identify a passion! Begin making notes in a journal about nursing experiences and feelings related to them….then, go back and read that journal from time to time to see if you can pull out themes. Those themes provide the beginning of a journey toward advancing your education in a very fulfilling manner while revealing opportunities and possibilities that could lead to successful use of advanced education within nursing.
    Don’t limit yourself in nursing. Doing that ultimately reduces your marketability and movement within the profession. It’s a self- imposed shot in the foot that drastically reduces your view of nursing and burnout is more likely to occur. Today’s healthcare system and the politics involved within it mandate that nurses are highly educated and prepared for anything, that they have the ability to be mobile and creative in how they adapt to the market changes. What I find sad is that I have worked with nurses who have expressed to me how ‘stuck and trapped’ they are at the bedside and that they resent the hell out of feeling that way. It affects their nursing care, the example they set for nursing students, the overall morale on the unit, as well as their own personal health. So you see how an advanced education can be a double edged sword if not “planned out?” I celebrate any nurse who sticks it out and shoots for the stars by continuing with their education….but it’s also our duty and responsibility to share personal learning experiences with each other so the next nurse doesn’t fall prey to the potholes of frustration that we have in our own journey through academia.
    Personally, I loved my MSN program at University of Phoenix. I can’t recall a time I ever learned soooooo much about theory application, leadership skills, communication skills, hospital operations/finance, the healthcare system, healthcare politics and policy making, issues and trends affecting the profession, how to read journal articles and apply research findings to nursing, as well as teamwork with other nurses in the online setting. I had a blast…up until the time I graduated and wanted to actually use my education without going into nursing management….This is where I made my mistake. I did not have a plan when I started the journey, I did not have alternatives worked out, a plan B. So–that is my biggest piece of advice. If you have a nursing manager who thrives on the new and innovative ideas of her staff and strives to allow her nursing staff shine–I congratulate you, consider yourself incredibly lucky. It is not the norm. In such a work setting an MSN can do soooo much good. But you have to be in a nursing culture that allows for the growth and advancement of the MSN nurse as well as the ability for these nurses to contribute to their work settings. Because, at the end of the day, that is where the true fulfillment of getting an MSN lies…….Best wishes to everyone!!!!!