What are SMU Nursing Students Up To?

Kayla May, Staff Writer 

Here at Saint Martin’s, the nursing program is “dedicated to creating a learner-centered education grounded in the university core values of faith, reason, service and community,” as explained on the university’s website.

Their goal is to “prepare nursing graduates who are committed to evidence-based practice, social justice and lifelong learning to meet the needs of the global community in the 21st century”.

Nursing has long been an in-demand profession because of the critical role it plays in the healthcare system, which has become especially evident during the pandemic. Yet, the nursing shortage is growing due to several factors.

One of the main factors contributing to nursing shortages is burnout. Working conditions with a high workload, low staffing, and long shifts lead nurses to leave and move on to a different profession. Other factors include an aging population, an aging workforce, rising travel nursing popularity, and a lack of nursing educators.

To get a sense of what nursing students at SMU are experiencing, I talked to juniors Vanessa Smoke and Bernanidino Mariano, as well as senior Abigail Burton.

Smoke and Mariano are learning about managing chronic diseases, putting in catheters, IVs, and doing wound care as well as the appraisal of different levels of evidence.

Burton explains that seniors within the Spring ’23 cohort are taking classes discussing the transition into their nursing careers and public and community health. She describes the workload seniors are dealing with. A combination of Capstone Dissertation projects, clinical practicum (working full-time in a hospital with preceptor nurses), and studying for the national board exam for nurses. Despite all of these things on her plate, Burton describes how she’s feeling about her final semester, “I am honestly so excited to graduate- I am counting down the days!”

When asked what something they have struggled with during their time in the nursing program, they all shared a common answer: time management. Mariano describes his experience, “The nursing program is such as demanding area of study that requires a balance between a heavy course load of assignments, on top of studying, and attending clinical shifts that range from four to twelve hours every week.”

The task of time management becomes even more difficult when you add athletics in the mix explains Smoke, who is a softball player, “So far in my first year of upper division nursing, I have struggled with learning how to manage all my time between academics and sports. It is a huge learning curve being in upper divisions and very humbling when it comes to exams.”

Each of them shared some tips for others nursing students or those thinking about pursuing a career in nursing. Burton and Smoke both agreed that lots of sleep should always be a priority, regardless of how much studying you have to do. They also agreed that finding a study group and taking advantage of the tutors is very beneficial.

Mariano said to not fall behind and find fulfillment in what you’re doing, “The nursing program is easy to get tired and have low motivation to continue but to truly make it through the program I think that finding fulfillment and enjoyment in being of service to others is an important part of making it through.”

Their reasoning for pursuing a career in nursing varies from wanting to give back to their community to a fascination with the human body and healthy living. They have also been inspired to care for others by caring for sick family members.

Their passions within the field of nursing also vary. Mariano has an interest in being a travel nurse and hopes to be able to travel internationally to provide care in areas with lower access to healthcare. He also is eager to be a public health nurse that “researches systemic issues that prevent these [marginalized] groups from getting the care they need and finding solutions to combat systemic barriers and biases.”

Smoke is curious about working in the OR (operating room) and being able to watch surgeries but could also see herself working in Labor and Delivery. Burton originally wanted to work in the emergency room because of the variety of patient populations and problems, but has now fallen in love with the idea of working in Labor and Delivery and, “helping mothers bring life into this world.”

Nursing has been and will continue to be a crucial part of the medical process, especially in handling any further pandemics that are thrown our way. It is important to acknowledge the hard work nursing students put in and support them in their endeavors to join such an important profession.

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