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Answers to Your Nursing Career Questions

Why do I need to take English?

March 22nd, 2011 by – Sue Barton

 I’m an LPN with years of experience.  Every time I consider going back to school to get an RN degree, I find I need to take courses like English and social studies.  I would be perfectly willing to take science courses, but why do I need courses that don’t have anything to do with nursing? 

An LPN license is attained at the end of what is typically a one year academic program, often in a vocational setting.  An RN license results from taking the NCLEX after completing at minimum an Associate Degree in Nursing, or alternatively a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.  These degrees are offered at community colleges or four year liberal arts colleges.  In order to qualify for an associate or bachelor’s degree, you must also take the core courses that are common to college students across academic disciplines.  It’s assumed, for example that if you are a college graduate you have good skills in English (can write, comprehend literature), as well as have familiarity with the social science fields (history, psychology, philosophy, for example).

While these requirements may seem like roadblocks to your nursing goals, in fact they contribute to your development as a well rounded educated person.  If you have been in practice for several years, you may enjoy the change of pace they represent.  Because they are not clinical courses, you may be able to test out of courses you feel you are already knowledgable in.  Most others can be completed online for maximum flexibility.

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YouTube videos help nursing students learn

March 18th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

Whether you’re a nursing student or a graduate who needs to review certain techniques, YouTube can be a wonderful source for you. Often thought of as a way of showing silly things to friends or catching the world’s attention with beautiful music, it’s also a great learning tool.

Check out some of these YouTube videos that nurses and student nurses have made to help others learn.

Understanding IV tubing by MauiMaryRN is an interesting review of the actual tubing and its parts. She has many other videos as well including several on diabetes and endocrine disorders.

If you’d like a review on inserting IVs, nursingcrib shows you how to start an IV in this video. She has a few others including one on how to insert an nasogastric, or NG, tube.

Sometimes it’s better to see what we may be doing wrong to reinforce our technique. This is the first in such a series: Common errors in sterile technique (1 of 8 ) dressing removal. Subsequent videos go on to to focus on other errors and ways to avoid them instead.

There are many more videos that offer demonstrations of other skills. It is important, however, to be sure that you are doing the techniques that are required by your nursing school or the facility where you work. Their protocol and procedures trump what you see on the Internet. That being said, these videos are great reviews and can help you remember parts of a procedure that you may have forgotten.

Have you ever used YouTube videos to learn or remember techniques? Which ones do you like?

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US graduate education for foreign nursing graduates

March 17th, 2011 by – Sue Barton

  I am still an undergraduate at a state university in Nigeria.  I wish to do a master’s degree in the United States.  Please, what do you advise? 

Your question deals both with education and with study abroad issues.  From an  education point of view, you first of all need to complete your undergraduate nursing degree.  Good grades and good recommendations will strengthen your graduate school application.  Any clinical nursing experience you have after completing your undergraduate degree will also be helpful.  Work experience helps you to know more about what area you may want to study in graduate school.  Your undergraduate degree from the Nigerian university will need to be the equivalent of a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) in the US.

The next step will be to research travel and visa  details for studying in the US.  You might contact some of the American universities that are of interest to you.  Most will have an office and staff that can advise foreign students.  Will you need any assistance with English, or are you already studying at the university level in English?  Will you need financial aid?  Do you have any contacts in the US who can help you get settled if you come here to study?  Do you know any nurses in Nigeria (faculty?) who have studied in the US?  The answers to these questions may help you to know which programs to apply to and how best to proceed.

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Would you be a good nursing instructor?

March 16th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

Pass any group of nursing students and chances are you may catch some conversation about their nursing instructors. Many times, it’s not complimentary. There seems to be an adversarial relationship between nursing students and nursing teachers, and it also seem to go quite far back.

Is there really such a disconnect between the student nurses and the instructors or is it imagined? It’s hard to tell. What is easy, though, is to find a nurse who has at least one horror story about how they felt they were treated at the hands of a nursing instructor.

If this is the perception, then the nurses and nursing students need to do something about it. And the best way to go about changing things is to get involved. There is a shortage of nursing instructors in the U.S.  and Canada. If you believe you can do a better job teaching our future nurses, then now is the time to step up and become part of the solution.

According to a Tennessean article called “TN short on nurses, and those who teach them“, the state of Tennessee desperately needs nursing teachers to fill the demand of people who are applying to nursing school. Writer Tom Wilemon says: “Last year, 3,000 nursing school applications never made it past the admissions office because there wasn’t enough teaching faculty.” And, if no teachers are hired, this will continue.

So, what does it take to be a nursing instructor?

In some states, a nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, or BSN, may teach licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, and students in the associate degree of nursing, or ADN, program. Having a background in education, either degree or certificate, will increase your appeal to hiring departments.

Most nursing teachers, however, must have a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing, or MSN. Again, a background or some sort of program in education is very helpful. It’s important to understand that no matter how great a nurse may be, this does not necessarily make them a good teacher. Having an education background will help you develop the skills needed to teach adults.

So, is this something you would like to do?

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Memory aids for nursing students

March 11th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

When you’re a nursing student, you have so much to remember and sometimes you wonder just how you’re going to do that. While sometimes you just HAVE to memorize things, other times you can use handy memory tricks called mnemonics. Here are a few that could help:

- Learning how to give IM, or intramuscular, injections to patients in their buttock can be stressful. The nursing instructors have made it so nursing students are terrified of hitting the sciatic nerve. Here’s a hint to help you remember where to place that needle:

“Shut up and butt out“:
The Upper Outer quadrant of the Buttock safely avoids hitting sciatic nerve.

- If you have to remember the components of the bowel, think business:

Dow Jones Industrial Average Closing Stock Report”


- Do you have problems remembering which position is supine and which is prone? This may help:

Supine is on your spine.
Therefore, prone is opposite.

- Or what about the difference between pharynx and larynx?

Eat Phood with your Pharynx. Sing La La with your Larynx

- Once you begin studying reproduction, there’s a whole new set of things to remember. Here’s something that can help you remember the path that sperm have to take for them to try to impregnate an ova:

Seminiferous tubules
Vas deferens
Ejaculatory duct

- And finally, if you’re stuck remembering the six bones of the skull, try this trick:

The 6 skull bones are:

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Financing nursing school

March 9th, 2011 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Is there financial aid for nurses who wish to further their studies from Africa?

There are many different ways to pay for nursing school: personal funds, grants, scholarships, government-subsidized loans, and private loans. Personal funds would come out of your savings or checking account. Grants are sums of money that do not have to be paid back and are granted to you usually through an application process or non-profit organization. Scholarships are typically merit-based monies given through an application process. Loans can either be subsidized by the government (where interest is paid and you are responsible for the initial loan amount only) or unsubsidized (you are responsible for paying the interest as well as the loan).

If you are interested in specific scholarships or grants for students studying abroad (from Africa), or looking to study abroad, you should check with your nursing program or institution. Consult your financial aid office regarding your payments or other options for financing nursing school. It can be pricey and finding the best way to pay for your program can save you from long-term loans. Check out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website for national financial aid assistance.

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Becoming an RN after high school

March 7th, 2011 by – Derek Brocklehurst

I am a senior in high school. Whats the first step I need to take to start my journey as an RN?

Becoming a registered nurse, or RN, after high school can take as few as two years! During your final year in high school, it might be a good idea to take some nursing-oriented courses like anatomy or biology. The next step toward becoming an RN would be to attain your GED certificate or high school diploma.  From there, you will have several different options for becoming an RN:

  • Applying to four-year nursing school programs
  • Applying to two-year diploma nursing programs
  • Applying to two-year community college nursing programs

While all tracks listed above will allow you to practice nursing as an RN, with a four-year nursing degree or bachelor’s of science nursing, or BSN, you can become a nurse leader, administrator or supervisor. Although tw0-year tracks tend to be less expensive than the four-year tracks, if you might want a master’s or PhD nursing program in the future, a four-year track is the way to go.

Make sure you check out Medi-Smart’s Nursing Schools directory. There, you can filter nursing schools by locations, type of degree received and type of program.

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Nursing courses online vs. clinical hours

March 2nd, 2011 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Can I do all my nursing classes online?

This is a good question. In an ideal world, you would be able to keep your full-time job and go back to school at the same time, completing all of your courses online. Realistically, you are not too far from reaching that goal.

Nowadays, there are many different nursing programs to choose from. Online degree programs offer a majority of the courses online. These courses would focus on the theory of nursing, basic nursing skills, maternal and childbearing health, pediatrics, medical and surgical, psychiatric, geriatric, and community health nursing. You will be able to watch online lectures or view powerpoint presentations, answer questions, submit homework online, and take an exam at the end of each course.

Clinical hours are needed for the latter 7 courses listed above. These hours must be completed in-person at an accredited local health care institution. You will be managing and assessing your own patients, under the supervision of an RN, and learning how to apply some of what you learned online in the clinical setting. Check out Medi-smart’s Online Nursing Schools directory for more links and information about online courses.

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The age-old question: medicine vs. nursing

February 23rd, 2011 by – Derek Brocklehurst

Do people believe that without a doctor, a nurse is competent to address  health problems?

This question brings up some interesting points. Remarking on common knowledge or popular belief can be dangerous because there are exceptions to every rule and sometimes people’s varying beliefs depend on circumstances. Learning about organ systems may be similar, however the approach to medical issues taught in nursing school can be quite different from that taught in medical school. Oftentimes in nursing school, you are taught to treat the person as a whole and approach each issue with a physical, psycho-social and emotional perspective.

Certain cultures may view different health care professionals in different lights. For some elderly populations that may have been used to seeing doctors when they were younger, the idea of being evaluated by an RN, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant may be foreign. On the other hand, the younger generations may  be used to seeing a variety of health care professionals for their complaints and may believe that nurses are equally as competent for addressing their concerns as doctors are.

Make sure you check out Medi-Smart’s Health Care Careers directory for a comprehensive list of other health care professions.

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Nursing specialties

February 17th, 2011 by – Sue Barton

  What is the best nursing specialty to study?

My first response to your question would be to suggest gerontology nursing.  This specialty area focuses on the care of the geriatric patient.  The reason to consider gerontology is because the population demographics point to the greatest needs and therefore the greatest opportunities for the future.  People are living longer, and at the same time there is an increased incidence of chronic disease.  Nurses who work with the elderly population may work for home care agencies, in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, in rehabilitation facilities or acute care hospitals.  The field of geriatric psychiatric nursing helps older people with dementia and depression and other neuropsychiatric concerns.  You can learn more about geriatric nursing at this Medi-Smart career comparison site.

However, the best nursing specialty for you to study may be something entirely different.  You will be happiest and most productive  if you pursue a field that is a good match for your interests and your personality.  Some nurses thrive on the intensity and adrenalin charged atmosphere of emergency room and ICU work; others work best in preventive health arenas.  The good news is that a nursing career offers  many opportunities to work  and study in areas that interest you.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is intended as a supplement, not as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.