MCN Talks: Advice for nurses
MCN Talks is a bi-monthly 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 healthcare, education, or life in the nursing program at Illinois State University.
[MCN] What is one piece of advice that you would give to all students starting at MCN?
Diane Fleming, office support specialist: I would advise students to stay very organized and on top of any kind of school work. Work really hard to never get behind. If at all possible, stay ahead. Get all of your stuff done when it needs to get done, and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
Dr. Valerie Wright, director for undergraduate programs: One piece of advice for students would be for them to know their “why.” Why do they want to be a nurse? Why are they on this journey? Parts of school are going to be very stressful, and without having that true north and knowing why you’re doing it, it’s very easy to get off course.
Sometimes, students want to help other people or to be with people when they are sick. Sometimes, students have had family members that have been ill and have seen a nurse make an impact, and they want to have that same impact. Really digging down into why they are doing what they are doing is key. I promise their “why” is not because of job security or even the paycheck. Students need to find the emotional piece to it. And at the end of the day, your “why” should make you cry. It’s the driver for why you are doing this. Students should be able to reflect back on their “why” in the times when they don’t really want to keep going. Their “why” will fuel them to continue on their nursing journey, even on the days unimaginably hard. After all, the “wise” begin with “whys.”
Amie Walker, instructional assistant professor: I would tell students to stop comparing themselves to other students right now. I know that it is competitive; it’s a competitive field. You want to do your best to get the awards and the honors and the scholarships and everything like that. However, sometimes, it’s a matter of too much competitiveness. When you start to compare yourself to other people, it actually diminishes the quality of work that you can produce.
Positive psychology posits that if you are happy first, then you are more productive. It doesn’t work in the opposite way! Thinking, “if I do better on my test than both of my roommates, then I’m going to be happy,” or “if I have this GPA, then I’m going to be happy,” is not productive. That’s not how your brain wants to work, so it doesn’t do you any good.
The best thing to do is to be your own benchmark. If you got an 85% on the last test, try and study differently so that you get an 88%. Try and study more effectively. Go and talk to your professor to see what you aren’t understanding. Definitely try and improve yourself, but stop comparing yourself to others now.
Susan Lynch, assistant to the dean: Well, coming from the perspective of the assistant to the dean, I strongly encourage students to make sure that they’re taking advantage of every opportunity to become and stay involved, whether it be through membership in the Student Nurses Association (SNA), running to serve in an SNA officer capacity, volunteering for community service opportunities, or attending the offered lunches and dinners with the dean. By doing this, you will demonstrate that you care about making the most of your time at Mennonite. You still stand out as an engaged leader. Get to know not only your faculty—I know it is easy to get to know your clinical faculty because you’re in such a small group of students to teachers—but also your theory instructors, your dean, your administration, and the staff that are there helping you. Just realistically speaking, down the road, you’re going to want a recommendation letter, and you’ll get a much better one if you allow them to get to know YOU. All of these people are here to educate you, but they’re also there to help you advance in your career and to make sure you are achieving your goals.
As nurses, you will constantly hear how you touch the lives of your patient. But also know that as a human being, you will touch the lives of everyone around you: the janitor who mops up the halls of your residence hall, the lady in the hairnet spooning mashed potatoes on your plate in the dining hall, the elderly gentleman whose eyes light up when he learns that you are a nursing student at MCN because his late wife also graduated from Mennonite many moons ago. You will become a part of other people’s lives whether you know it or not. Make sure they are a part of yours as well. Know their names. Know their kids’ names. Learn about their hobbies. Know as much of their backstory as they’re willing to offer. Ask how they are doing and actually wait to hear their answer. Make eye contact. People recognize when you are real and genuine and authentic and they recognize when you are not. Know that every person is a thread in the fabric of your day. Everyone deserves your time and attention, just as you deserve theirs.
Kileigh Guido, academic advisor for traditional, accelerated, and RN to BSN programs: Bring with you to Mennonite College of Nursing all of the wonderful study habits and skills that got you here in the first place. But also bring flexibility and an openness about how you approach studying and academic preparedness. Many students find that nursing courses challenge them in new ways, and this makes them have to adjust how they prepare for class and exams. It is not uncommon for even the best students to struggle a little bit at first, and it’s completely normal. Don’t be scared to find new, effective ways to study and to ask for help—even if you’ve never had to ask for help in the past. While getting academic help can come with a stigma, I encourage even “A” students to seek tutoring to help them solidify concepts that they are learning in class in order to best practice these skills in the clinical setting.
Diane Fleming – Office Support Specialist
Dr. Valerie Wright – Director for Undergraduate Programs
Amie Walker – Instructional Assistant Professor
Susan Lynch – Assistant to the Dean
Kileigh Guido – Academic Advisor for Traditional,
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