Interview With a Pre-nursing Student: Part 1
Deciding to go to nursing school (or, worse, back to nursing school) involves a lot of weighing pros and cons. I interviewed a student (we’ll call her PS) on the cusp of starting nursing school to find out the current state of nursing education and her tips and tricks for navigating the entry process—the ones you won’t find in official nursing school blurbs. I chose a nontraditional student because they are increasingly common and because having existing degrees complicates prerequisites and financial aid considerably.
Me: What is your background?
PS: I’m a nontraditional student going back with an existing degree. My degrees are in anthropology, sociology, and mass media. What I loved about being an assignment editor was having to become an expert in something overnight.
Me: What made you decide to become a nurse?
PS: I wanted a stable and flexible career that could guarantee a certain minimum pay and might have options no matter where I moved or what my family situation was. The idea of 3–4 days off per week is also tremendously attractive. I loved my career in journalism—but I couldn’t afford it. I was drowning in debt, unemployed, and pregnant (after a decade of being a student and broke). I want some security (health insurance) for me and my son. I think that was the number one factor. I also love medicine, but more than anything, I want to work with people, and I want a challenging job that doesn’t allow me to walk along in autopilot.
I wanted a job degree that I could get quickly (I was promised many things when looking into an accelerated bachelor’s program that ran 11 months and then let you stay another 18 months to earn an NP or RN-midwife). My thinking (as naive as I know it to be) was this: as an RN with some experience, I could work in a hospital. If I am injured or lose my eyesight or life just happens, there are phone/desk nurse/office jobs to transition into. If the worst happened, there are certificates in forensic nursing that can be earned in a few months (I have some legal background), and I could even work for an insurance company.
Me: Are you worried about the stories of new grads being unable to find jobs?
PS: Yes! That is a huge concern. I was lulled into thinking there were lots and lots of jobs. But I also see people in tough industries who always have jobs. I know how to network and take every opportunity I get. I am starting my first semester with an internship in a free women’s clinic. It’s idealistic, and I won’t always do it, but I try to keep in mind that the professor I try to blow off or the class I want to float through or the patient I least want to deal with may be my next job connection.
Me: What are some unanticipated roadblocks you would caution would-be nursing students about—things you didn’t know to worry about beforehand?
PS: Everything in this process feels like a catch–22. I am just dealing with the automated service my school uses to clear background checks for clinical readiness now. The requirements for vaccinations/titers are actually impossible to meet. It cannot be done (the paperwork they ask for just does not exist).
The hardest part has been the layout of funds. I have learned that every promise will be broken. Even when you think you’ve planned for everything, you hit new financial walls. I am doing a background check now which was supposed to run $100. But there are additional fees for every state (let alone country) you have had residence in. It’s that type of surprise every day. I talk to people at schools and get amounts that things will run, but there are always things (large things) they don’t mention.
I got my acceptance letter to my first school 2 months before I expected to. That is great, but they wanted a large deposit (I had to get accepted and then file an appeal with my grant committee to get my accepted school approved), and they gave me less than 10 days to accept with a tuition deposit.
— Part 2 will appear later this week, so check back! —
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