Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Accelerated Nursing Programs and Nursing Externships Don't Mix!

One of the major benefit of an accelerated nursing program is that students who have already "been there, done that" can get a nursing degree faster, right? The degree is obtained faster not because there is less work in the curriculum but everything is condensed so students attend school year round, including summer, while traditional students are off. Fair trade off? Maybe, maybe not. The thing is, most summer externship programs for nursing students during the summer are full-time programs. This is fine for traditional students who are off during summer but for accelerated students, this is a big problem since 10 times out of 10 accelerated students are not only taking classes, but are probably doing so on a full-time basis. Why am I bringing this up then? Well as you know I am doing any and everything possible to gain as much health care experience as I can before I graduate because I don't want to be "caught out there" when I graduate (sorry just not trying to be one of those new grads spending a year plus looking for my first nursing gig; too damn old for that). Now the good thing is I do work in a hospital and my job is useful experience, but I would actually like to touch a patient, not to mention I didn't leave my desk job of over a decade to pursue a nursing career only to work another desk job but I digress. There were two summer externship programs that I felt could have been perfect for me, only to find out I will not qualify for either position since I cannot commit to a full-time work schedule (I actually had a phone interview with one of the organizations and the recruiter specifically told me this). Honestly it hurts and it's a little frustrating but I almost never give up so I will keep pushing until I find something that will give me good hands on experience and align with my interest until I am actually a RN.

So what can accelerated students do? My advice would be to obtain any per diem or part-time job in a hospital or healthcare organization, even if it isn't hands on. I would even go as far as to suggest getting a non-paid or volunteer position if it healthcare related (but that would be a last resort since I feel that broke adult students should be getting some sort of paycheck but again I digress). Why? because you have to do something to market yourself and you don't want to be "caught out there." Sure there is the whole option to relocate to where the jobs might be, blah, blah, blah, but if you are like me (and many accelerated traditional students are), uprooting your life is not even an option. Does all this guarantee a job within 3 months of graduation? No, but why not do what you can to increase your prospects? Now I am off to study and get back on my grind.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

7 More Months until I Graduate Nursing School!

I can hardly believe that I am through the halfway mark of my accelerated nursing program and I will graduate in only 7 months! I am so excited but am definitely feeling that I am not prepared but that seems to be the theme with most nursing students I guess. Work so far has been good (still only working on weekends) but I am currently interested in getting into some sort of nursing externship this summer. There are some I will probably not even apply for like the NYU summer student nurse extern program, which requires a 3.5 GPA. The distance would also be a hinderance since it would require travel by train AND bus which I am not trying to do. The hospital I work at has an 8 week student nurse extern program as well and it only requires a 3.0 GPA (my current GPA is around 3.3). I already applied (the deadline is next week) but there are several complications that may knock me out of the running: the position is full-time (I am in an accelerated program and take classes in the summer) and the program is geared to students graduating in either December 2018 or May 2019. The program also requires nurse externs to follow their preceptors' schedule which means I may have to miss class on occasion, not to mention working nights which for me is a no go. My oldest child will be 14 this year and I am not sure if and how she will be able to help me with her younger siblings as she will have her own things to deal with. I also considered transferring into a more hands on position (i.e. PCT) but not sure how practical that would be since I will only have the job for a few months. Then there are nurse resident programs which allow you to orient right into a specialty unit like critical care, ER, or pediatrics. Sure they don't always pay as well as the regular RN positions but the experience would be invaluable. So many decisions and so little time! To think this time last year I had only been accepted into Downstate's accelerated program for a month and was questioning whether or not I even made the right choice. Time really flies.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Working Girl

As promised I obtained a per-diem job in a hospital. I currently work as a per-diem unit clerk in a hospital and although it doesn't give me the hands on patient care experience that I was looking for like a PCT, it has allowed me to get an in depth look at how a nursing unit functions as well as entry into healthcare (not to mention the daily drama nurses deal with). Right now I only work a couple of days a week which is doable for me this semester (in the summer there was no way in hell I could even work 1 day a week) and I hope that when the time comes to start applying for my first RN job I will get first "crack" at jobs in the hospital or even elsewhere. The pay, while a lot less than my previous job (and certainly less than that of an RN) is actually not that bad and it allows me to not put all of our expenses on hubby.

So what is a unit clerk anyway? A unit clerk or unit secretary is a person that deals with the "administrative" aspect of a nursing unit, such as answering phones, contacting physicians or other health care personnel (respiratory, pharmacy, etc.), organizing patient records as well patient tracking. Depending on the unit or hospital there may be additional functions; in smaller facilities some clerks are crossed-trained as PCT's. Is the unit clerk position difficult? In my opinion it isn't but you do need to have decent communication skills, some knowledge of medical terminology and equipment and be able to follow directions relatively well. You should also be able to work in a fast-paced environment. In essence your job is to make the nurses' job easier by doing the mundane tasks so that they can actually have time to care for their patients and be nurses. Do some nurses take advantage of clerks? Sure but I don't care as long as I am doing tasks that are in my job description. My goal is to be the best unit clerk I can be so that when my time comes, I have lots of people who can vouch for my work ethics and be a reference for me.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Downstate: Some of the Pros and Cons

I finished summer session 1 and 2 in the accelerated program at Downstate and man was I exhausted! I thought I would use my time off (1 week) to clean and play catch up but I mostly rested, watched TV and spend time with the family. I really needed the time off because I swear since I started this program I have had more gray hairs on my head and my blood pressure continues to rise! I will say that my family adjusted relatively well to the changes that have occurred over the past few months; in fact, my kids and husband probably adjusted better than I did!

A few readers have contacted me regarding the program and since I have a little free time, I will discuss the pros, cons, and everything that I have experienced or have plans for up to this point.


Tuition- I estimate that my total loans for the program will be roughly $16, 000, which is quite manageable as long as I get full-time employment after graduation. My total loan will be higher since I still have a balance from the MSW program but even combined my entire loan balance will be no more than $25,000, which is still doable.

Cohorts- My cohorts, for the most part, are genuinely nice people. Some of them are really smart too! Seriously I would not know a lot of things going on if it wasn't for them. Not sure if it's because many (probably most) of them are younger than I am or what but they are definitely on top of their work! My cohorts look out for each other which may change once graduation approaches and there is competition for jobs but it isn't the cut throat environment I was told it might be.

Distance- Even though my first choice initially was Lehman, Lehman is actually farther than Downstate and rush hour traffic to the Bronx as opposed to Brooklyn would be worst; actually a lot worst (Cross Bronx Expressway any morning other than Sunday is a nightmare). Let's not talk about Stonybrook. I can't even imagine commuting 85- 90 miles per day to Stonybrook.

Failing a rarity - Most of professors are not out to fail students, even the ones whose teaching style I don't particularly care for or who I feel are inadequate instructors. As someone mentioned, the best students were already accepted so it isn't necessary to wean students out. Most students, also pass NCLEX the first time taken. So far only 1 student dropped out of the program to my knowledge and unless there is some extraordinary circumstance to cause another student to drop out, I feel confident that most of us will graduate.


Disorganization- This is probably the most annoying thing about Downstate. Keep in mind that I graduated from a CUNY school so I am no stranger to disorganization but I have never experienced this type of disorganization from any school I have attended, ever. This program has been around for sometime so I can't understand why the administration can't get it together. I will not go into details but there were things that irked the hell out of me, and I am normally not a person that is easily frazzled. I honestly feel like these issues make the program harder than it needs to be.

"Hidden fees"- Another nuisance. I feel like every time I turn around, there is something that must be purchased, whether its a $300 book that I barely read or scrubs that I wore once but actually didn't need. OK I am exaggerating a bit but it would be nice to know the cost up front for everything so that I am not surprised. Sure I still won't want to pay but at least I get a heads up and can plan ahead. I am unemployed after all.

Parking- Parking in Brooklyn is @#$*y for lack of a better term.  There is a parking lot for students and employees which charges a reasonable fee but in order to get the parking passes I literally have to get up at the crack of dawn in another country and wait on line for almost 2 hours to purchase a pass at the school's bookstore since spots are limited. Did I mention that the waiting list for ongoing parking is 3 years long? I am not a fan of public transportation but I sometimes envy students who are only a 30 minute train ride away.

Overall I still feel like I don't know a whole lot more than when I started. I am a somewhat visual and hands on learner so sitting in a lecture hall for hours freezing while my knees get stiff is not conducive to effective learning or retention for me. I enjoy clinicals so far but wish there was more that students were allowed to do. I am now applying for per-diem jobs and even had a couple of interviews lined up but hubby doesn't think I should work as he feel I need to put my energy into school. I am restless with school however and want to get some much needed hospital exposure but not sure if I can balance work, school, and family and maintain decent grades or avoid having a breakdown. I am not a straight A student (nor do I care) but I am doing better than expected and feel that as long as my grades are at least where they are at currently (my guess would be above 3.0?), I can go to graduate school ASAP since I want my masters within 5 years. Fall classes start in a few days and I am already thinking of ways on how I am going to maintain. The summer semesters handed my a$% to me and I do not want the Fall semester to do the same.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

So Anxious!

In two weeks I will be embarking on my new journey (a.k.a. nursing school) and I am so anxious! I waited so long to get to this point and now it seems surreal. I'm excited no doubt but I am also very nervous and a part of me is doubting my decision to make this career switch. What if I go to nursing school and don't like it? I am resigning so it's not like I really have the option of returning to my job, at least not in my current capacity. Or what if I like nursing but can't find suitable employment? It's competitive for every job and nursing is not a guaranteed thing like it once was. To make matters worst, I will probably only be limited to working day or afternoon shifts. What if I fail? A traditional nursing school is known for being challenging and I am enrolled in an accelerated program, while still caring for three kids, a husband and a dog! This is the first time in 14 years that I am going to school full-time and I most certainly won't be the youngest student. I understand that what I am feeling is natural but the closer I get to orientation, the more anxious I get. I just want to get this over with already!