MCN Talks is an interview series designed to give voice to different members of the Mennonite College of Nursing community. Twice a month, faculty, students, and staff are asked questions related to health care, education, or life in the nursing program at Illinois State.

(MCN) What is one piece of advice that you would give to recent MCN graduates?

Lana Blakemore, administrative clerk for prelicensure compliance: Make sure that you’re following your path. Many students get distracted after they graduate, although typically our nurses don’t. But it’s something that everyone should be aware of. Also, if you plan to go further in your education, do that as soon as possible! Sometimes, distractions from life and things that happen delay the process, and you get down the road and start thinking that it’s too late.

I have a son that’s currently finishing up his nursing degree at Parkland right now, and this is the exact advice that I gave him. I said, “As soon as you finish, you need to go back and get your B.S.N. right away.” If you take time between degrees, education starts to slide further and further down the priority list.

Blanca Miller, Ph.D., assistant professor: Advice I would give recent graduates would be to ask questions and ask for feedback if you are not sure about something. You always want to make sure that each patient you care for receives safe care and the best outcomes. Ask for constructive feedback from nurses that have a lot of experience because it will help you become a strong clinician.

I worked with a wonderful nurse educator, Gail Petro, who retired last year, and she would always say, “Good nurses know their resources.” I think that is very, very true. You won’t know everything, but good nurses look things up and ask questions.

The last piece of advice is to always advocate for your patients. As a nurse it is your responsibility to be the patient’s advocate when no one is listening to them or they cannot make decisions for themselves. This may mean stepping out of your comfort zone and having difficult conversations with health care providers and families. Patient autonomy and the right to self-determination always matters.

Sheryl Jenkins, Ph.D., professor: There are probably many, but what has been on my mind lately is that I would advise new grads and new nurses to be flexible with their expectations towards a job. A lot of times, people get out of school and they are absolutely certain that they want to be a pediatric nurse or an ICU nurse; or that they don’t. You don’t really know what the job is like until you find yourself in the thick of it.

When I got out of school, I wanted to do ER, and I knew for sure that I didn’t want anything to do with cardiac, so I didn’t want any ICU stuff. So, of course, the hospital administrators put me right in the ICU. I ended up loving the ICU and I worked there for many, many years after that. It has always been my absolute first love.

Also, I never had any interest in mental health nursing. I just went there one day to help out because they were busy. I loved it, and I’ve worked there off and on for years. I’ve found it to be a fascinating place to work, even though I originally had no interest in it.

Lastly, I’ve seen students who get out of school and want to go into mother-baby. They couldn’t get that job and, instead, they got a job at the ICU and then they’re there 10 years later. I’ve seen that several times.

So, I guess that’s my advice: Be flexible.

Emily McMahon, director of marketing and recruitment: Find that thing that grounds you, and make it part of your routine. That can mean yoga, hiking, music, or any variety of things. Just find something that you do for you, and never sacrifice that.

Work and life can get intense sometimes—remember that you are the keeper of your own health and happiness. Always take care of yourself first, because your emotional and mental health bleeds over into everything else.

And, have fun! This is the next step in your adventure.

Kim Schafer Astroth, Ph.D., director for Graduate Programs: When looking for a job, it is helpful to learn as much about the institution as possible, including their mission and philosophy. If the mission and philosophy are congruent with your own, then you’re likely to be much more satisfied in your position. Once you’re there, smile, be on time, and be a team player. Find your place on the team and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Above all, professionalism is key.


About us

Lana Blakemore Lana Blakemore—administrative clerk for prelicensure compliance

Learn more about Lana.

Blanca Miller Blanca Miller, Ph.D.—assistant professor

Learn more about Blanca.

Sheryl Jenkins Sheryl Jenkins, Ph.D.—professor

Learn more about Sheryl.

Emily McMahon Emily McMahon—director of marketing and recruitment

Learn more about Emily.

Kim Schafer Astroth Kim Schafer Astroth, Ph.D.—director for Graduate Programs

Learn more about Kim.

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