Help Me Understand! UCD Grad Student Reflections

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    Nursing as a profession is unique in that there are multiple educational pathways. The decision to advance ones degree is a personal one. As a graduate nursing student I am struck by the perceptions of the lack of value of educational advancement in nursing. Although I understand that this is not feasible for all, I am perplexed by the perspectives of my peers. I am curious whether anyone else has similar experiences.

    I need the help of my fellow nurses to unravel a problem that I am struggling with in our profession. This may be unique to my working world, but I suspect it’s not.

    After 20 years as a nurse, I have decided to take advantage of a fantastic, grant-funded Master's of Clinical Science and Health Care Leadership program at U.C.Davis. I decided to take the plunge because I am in desperate need of professional inspiration and renewal. I need to step out of my unit as a staff nurse and submerge myself in new ideas and perspectives. Stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. I believe that under the best of circumstances, the pursuit of higher education can be transformative and I, as well as my cohorts, have grown in many unexpected ways this past year. I’m not sure what I will do with this, but if nothing else, I am a stronger writer, public speaker and critical thinker. I know how to look for evidence in the literature to support or enhance nursing practice. I have broadened my understanding of what an exemplary leader is and the ways that I can support and nurture the leadership capability within my nurse colleagues. It’s an incredible amount of work, but I feel tremendously grateful for the opportunity. I share my journey (both good and bad) regularly with my fellow nurses in hopes of inspiring, even one, to take advantage of the program.

    So…at this point you might be thinking "That’s great!" "What’s the issue?"
    Well…Let me explain.

    "So…does this mean you are going into management?"

    In general, my nursing coworkers have been supportive of my journey and have in many cases agreed to an adjustment in their schedule to accommodate my educational needs. But, I am struck often by the lack of interest in advancing ones education and by the suspicious tone that permeates the attitudes of many nurses and nurse practitioners to the value of an advanced degree. This seems to include a B.S.N. as well. I find myself deflecting comments about my presumed intention to enter an administrative role or to teach. The latter always comes with a statement about the cut in pay one would incur when choosing to educate the next generation of nurses. This fact is unfortunately true, but illustrates an inclination by nurses to de-value education outside their clinical nurses training.

    Recently, a nurse chairing a committee questioned the validity of the Institute of Medicine(IOM, 2010) report on the Future of Nursing. She did so because of its recommendation that academic nurse leaders should work together to increase the number of nurses with a BSN from 50-80% by 2020. She felt the entire document of recommendations was suspect because this aspect is not supportive of the many associate degree nurses who are doing a great job without a BSN. What? Why are we resistant to any efforts to suggest that setting a minimum degree standard(such as is present for a PT, OT, etc) for nurses might result in a greater number of nurses in decision making roles, such as public health policy. Also, within this document are many important recommendations such as, the desire to see nurses to be full partners with physicians and other health care professionals in redesigning healthcare. There is a clear alignment of these recommendations to achieve the ultimate goal of advancing the field of nursing.

    The bottom line for me is that our health care system is broken in the U.S. Reevaluating how we deliver health care is essential. Nurses need to have an equal and active voice in the collaborative improvement efforts that are on going in our daily workplaces. Do we need to have an advanced degree to obtain this? Not necessarily. But, I believe it raises the bar of our profession and increases the chance that we will have a seat at the table of important decision-making.

    Now, let me be crystal, clear. I do not believe a great nurse is defined by the degree he/she has obtained. Nursing is both science and art. The vast array of skills a nurse possesses is honed with practice, over time. Experience has shown me this time and time again. But, we want nurses to lead us, rather than an MBA without clinical experience. Don't we? If so, nurses need some essential tools that we didn't necessarily acquire in our undergraduate work.

    So, what’s at the heart of the fear or suspicion I sense from within my fellow nurses?

    My hearts desire is to encourage, support and help equip nurses to practice to their full potential and understanding some of these dynamics might help.

    So, has anyone had these same experiences? I would welcome your perspective.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 25
    jiacarin, eagle78, bpriest, and 10 others like this.

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  2. About babaloo8

    I am an R.N. with 20 years of experience in ambulatory care and public health. I am also currently a graduate student at U.C.Davis.

    Joined Jun '14; Posts: 39; Likes: 76.

    Read more articles from babaloo8

    29 Comments so far...

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    Because you have been a staff/bedside nurse for 20 years, you are EXACTLY who we need in managment. Period. Perhaps you are being asked in a more hopeful way, as opposed to the opposite.

    I think that if there were more grants, more work accommodation, more funding for nurses to advance most would. With that being said, I think the current climate on healthcare is such that it is all about the dollars as opposed to sense, which can be a huge conflict in how a nurse has refined practice over many years.

    It would be amazing if multi-year nurses are put in positions of managment and lead how they see fit to lead--as opposed to being restricted by business led companies who have little understanding of nursing practice, but a huge understanding of surveys and numbers and reimbursements.
    steffijack, athena55, jiacarin, and 16 others like this.
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    I think some of it is a matter of time and money.

    I've worked alongside a bedside nurse a with an MSN and I did ask her what she was going to do with it, and if she planned to go into teaching or management. My thoughts at the time were: that took time and money, what are your options now? (for my future reference).

    Some people who have other degrees may not necessarily feel the need to run out and get a higher degree in nursing.

    I have a previous 4 year degree -prior to my nursing 4 year degree, so I have not been drawn to run back to get more education. Over the years, I have also contemplated leaving nursing, and going for a different degree/career.

    With the cost of education and the time involved, some people want to make sure they are making the right decision, and have a bang for their buck. (I realize you had a grant, but not everyone has that option)

    My employer does pay for so much/yr for nursing related courses, but it still involves time, and making the right decision of which route degree- MSN, NP, or a degree for different career.

    Some people don't have the time, or want to enjoy life outside of nursing, now.

    I don't think all of the answers are so cut and dry.

    And although I do value education, If I went back for my MSN now, it would only be for job security for the future, not for the sheer value of education.
    eagle78, SMSoulie, BahaMamamaRN, and 9 others like this.
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    I keep saying that if I were going to go back to school it wouldn't be for nursing. I've been a Diploma RN for over 30 years and the thought of having to first re-learn how to study, then find the time and the $$ to not only pay tuition and materials but also continue to cover my living expenses scares me spitless. I've never even admitted that to myself until composing this comment. I don't aspire to be THE boss, I don't need that responsibility. I do want to pursue certification though. I admire those of you with the strength to go back to University and pursue a degree. I can't imagine where you get the energy to do all you must be doing to maintain a full time job and study for a degree.
    Last edit by KatL.RN on Jun 25 : Reason: Spelling
    athena55, eagle78, SMSoulie, and 6 others like this.
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    Their negative attitudes and opinions have nothing to do with you or with this profession. The nurses giving you attitude or are resistant to furthering education for themselves or the field of nursing are afraid he/she will be booted to the curb sooner than he/she wants to retire. That is all. Sadly, for them and others like them, he/she may find his/her fears realized in the next 5-10 years.

    For example, when administration decides to layoff nurses, the nurses sometimes are offered the opportunity to rebid for available jobs. Therefore, nurses that did not bother to further his/her education(for whatever reason) become unemployed and many end up having no choice but to retire early because the job market did not and will not grandfather-in those nurses.

    Keep doing what you are doing and ignore the naysayers.... Good luck.
    athena55, BahaMamamaRN, joanna73, and 4 others like this.
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    I agree there needs to be more effort from within our healthcare organizations to assist nurses who wish to go back to school and 'groom' leaders from within for all manner of pivotal roles. Not just management.
    Thanks for the comment!
    BahaMamamaRN and SeattleJess like this.
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    I hear you! It took me years to pull the trigger for all the reasons you mentioned.
    thanks for the feedback!
    SeattleJess and chelli73 like this.
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    Thanks for sharing your perspective!
    It took me years to work up to going back to school after 20 years and once I found out about it this one of a kind program, I still sat on it and told no one for at least a month because I was afraid to even say it out loud! My fears were very similar. Do I remember how to write even a simple essay? Will I fail? Can I manage balancing family, work and school? What level of computer skills will be required??
    I walked into a physicians office to drop something on his desk and saw a paper weight that said
    " what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" I decided this was it and tackled one fear at a time.
    eagle78, SeattleJess, chelli73, and 1 other like this.
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    Right there with you...RN for 22 yrs. Diploma trained. Wanted to go back to school since the day I graduated from nursing school. It has taken me this long to muster up the courage, put aside the excuses of family and "the children" and become selfish for the best of my family and my career. I am encouraged when I read posts like yours. I am not alone in being scared and anxious, mainly about the unknown and worrying about whether or not I am going to do well. Will I be able to write good papers? Pass the tests, finish on time, etc, etc. I have to think about that..."What would you do if you think you couldn't fail? Now that changes the mindset...Thanks for sharing
    athena55, eagle78, BahaMamamaRN, and 1 other like this.
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    Quote from babaloo8
    It took me years to work up to going back to school after 20 years and once I found out about it this one of a kind program, I still sat on it and told no one for at least a month because I was afraid to even say it out loud! My fears were very similar. Do I remember how to write even a simple essay? Will I fail? Can I manage balancing family, work and school? What level of computer skills will be required??
    I walked into a physicians office to drop something on his desk and saw a paper weight that said
    " what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" I decided this was it and tackled one fear at a time.
    Thank you, babloo8! I'm a career changer and not a nurse advancing her/his educational credentials who had similar feelings. I didn't tell most people that I was taking prerequisites for nursing school until I was almost finished with them. I had the fears of being an older student with an older brain, of knowing how to study in the internet age and (behind them all), of failure and ridicule. Yes, still working on getting free of approval.

    Just as you said, it's one fear at a time. Amazingly, fears can be whittled down to size and moved beyond. Instead of "total failure", just "the test on the endocrine system next Tuesday."

    I also think it is very, very important for anyone chasing a dream to surround herself with positive, encouraging people. People who will support you, emphasis the positive in you and your situation, and help you to conquer the molehills in your path instead of growing them into mountains. So by all means, consider all the facts that negative people may bring up, but once you've made your decision to go for your goal, keep them at a distance!

    And look at you! A grant, work accommodations and 20 years of hands-on experience that will add to your value and to what you can contribute to your profession. Bet you got there by taking steps to your goals, not advice about why you can't or shouldn't go for it.

    Well done and best wishes to you.
    athena55, eagle78, SMSoulie, and 2 others like this.

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