Student nurse Kelly Hunt joins us this week on the show. She is the current National Student Nurses Association president and a nursing student at the University of North Florida. On Nursing Notes Live this month we will look at how nurses give back to their communities and the world. What advice does she have to other nursing students to excel in nursing school? Find out coming right up!
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Jamie Davis: Hi, Kelly, I want to welcome you to Nursing Notes Live. It’s great to have you here on the show. I understand you just finished up your finals for this semester, so congratulations on getting through another semester of nursing school.
Kelly Hunt: Thank you. Thank you so very much. I’m really proud that I finished nice and strong. I’m seeing everyone else finishing up on social media and just being so excited about it. It’s a great feeling and we’re looking for it till the next chapter.
Jamie: So you move on into your fourth semester of nursing school coming up and you’ll be finishing up in the spring?
Kelly: That’s correct. I’ll be graduating hopefully July 2015.
Jamie: Fantastic. That’s exciting. So I always ask the people that I have here on the show the first question of why you wanted to become a nurse. Even as a nursing student, that’s an important question to ask. So what’s the answer for you?
Kelly: Why did I want to become a nurse? I think a lot of people know that they want to be a nurse right away when they’re young. I think a lot of people look up to nurses. It’s a wonderful well-respected profession. But I did not always know. This is a second career for me. Before coming to nursing school, I actually worked as a corporate manager and a trainer for Starbucks for about 10 years. I have an experience where I ended up – I had an unexpected hospital stay. And my family was not able to be with me and my husband, who is a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, he was away, he was not able to be with me. And it was kind of traumatic because I ended up being admitted to the CV-ICU feeling very vulnerable, feeling very scared. I actually met a nurse, who was just so kind and so wonderful and so supportive. This is what nurses do every single day, but when you’re the patient and the tables are turned, it’s crazy the impact that it can have on you. Right at that point, when that event occurred, I was ready for a career change and I was on track to go to pharmacy school. After I had that experience, I really thought about it. I spoke with my husband and I said, “I just don’t think pharmacy is for me. I think nursing would be more appropriate because there’s so much connection at the bedside and what that nurse did for me, I would like to do that for other people. I think that would really make me happy.” So that’s kind of how the nursing journey began for me.
Jamie: That’s such a great story. You’re not alone on that. People have wanted to be a nurse since they were little, and used to play nurse, or there are people like you that wanted to become a nurse because of a contact with a nurse in their life – may be a neighbor or a family member or through a hospital stay where a nurse really touched them. And I think that that’s important for all of us to keep in mind as nurses, like you said that personal contact at the bedside is such an important part of the nursing process.
Kelly: Absolutely. She was my family. She asked me – try to be your family for the night – and was just so thoughtful and so carrying and it’s very interesting because I didn’t know a lot about nursing before I entered the profession. I wanted to pursue nursing in the beginning when I first went back to school and a lot of people tried to talk me out of it. They were saying, “Look, you’ve been in leadership position like through almost your entire career. I don’t think a nurse would be a good fit for you. You might have trouble taking orders from the doctors. You might not know enjoy changing bed pans all day,” and just really kind of just talked me out of it. I said, “Well, okay, maybe this isn’t for me,” and I ended up pursuing pharmacy but the more I learned about the profession and what nurses really do, it just kind of opened up my mind and I’m just really happy that – I’m not happy that I ended up in the CV-ICU – but I’m happy that I had the experience with that nurse. It just really gave me an idea of what it is that nurses do because it’s a calling. This is where I was supposed to be in, this is where I am supposed to be in and I’m so happy and I am so proud to be a nursing student.
Jamie: Let’s talk a little bit about your comments on leadership because I think that’s an important thing to know, especially for the students listening to this. Nurses aren’t followers in any stretch of the imagination.
Kelly: Absolutely not. They are leaders in their own right and they’re also teachers. They’re educators. They advocate for their patients and for each other. It’s a very fine balance of many skills. Not only are we taking care of our patients at the bedside, you’re also working with your CNAs and LPNs and you’re working with other nurses. So interpersonal savvy, that professional relationship building, that camaraderie, all those things are important. It’s kind of a talent and almost like an art. Personally, that’s how I feel.
Jamie: That’s great actually. I’m involved with another nurse that’s doing a project called “The Art of Nursing” and it really is an art. I think that’s a great way that you put that. What about your second career? There are so many nurses coming with nursing as a second career. I’m a second-career nurse. I’m interested in your thoughts on that because I find that people really bring something from their previous career into their nursing background.
Kelly: Oh, absolutely. So before I started nursing school, like I said, I worked at Starbucks as a corporate manager and trainer, running a business. I didn’t think that a lot of my skills were transferable. But after being here for a little bit, I realized that they really work. Not just the customer service aspect or patient satisfaction, but leadership skills, being able to train people in new programs and teambuilding and also the business side that comes with it. I’m really happy that I’m able to break down a P&L – Profit and Loss – statement, because that’s something that is going to be applicable to no matter what kind of job you have. They’re going to look – they are looking right now for nurses to figure out how to cut back costs and how to run things a little bit more efficiently. Like the input of nurses, I feel like it’s very valued. And so there are a lot of transferable skills. Even as a server, that interaction and being able to notice, if someone’s may be in a hurry or if they’re looking down, just those little subtle signs, it’s all related. So I’m really happy to come in with the experience that I had in the beginning. I really didn’t feel, like I said, like my experience kind of matter compared to some other people working as a PCT or having other roles in the healthcare profession. But I actually feel like I brought in diversity to our cohort, to my class. And also to the NSNA Board because all of that training, all of those experiences I bring that with me.
Jamie: So Kelly, you talked a little bit about your experiences as president of the National Student Nurses Association. So I want to congratulate you on that. I also want to ask you about that experience. Nursing school is such a challenging endeavor in and of itself and yet you chose to seek out another leadership role in another organization, another endeavor.
Kelly: Absolutely. So, yes, you are absolutely on point with that. Nursing school is very challenging. In the beginning, when a classmate of mine encouraged me to run for the national presidency, I really just kind of looked at her like she had two heads. [Laughter] It’s like, “No. I don’t think so. I think it’s just going to be too much and our program is very intense. I would love to but I just don’t think it’s going to be right for me”. And she kept – she didn’t give up on the idea. She kept going with it. And eventually, I really sat down and I thought about it. I was on a study abroad in Thailand. Thailand was just such a beautiful place and a lot of time and temples to reflect. I really thought and thought about it. I said to myself, “If I were to do this and go for the national presidency, who’d be the reason behind it? Because I don’t do things for no reason there. I do things because I believe it’s the right thing to do. And if it’s the right thing to do for me, what do I have to offer? What do I have to give and share with 60,000 student nurses?” I had a little conversation with myself and really thought, “I have all this corporate experience, experience in servant-leadership and situational leadership and teambuilding and managerial financing and all these things I could bring to the table to further develop them not only professionally but just in life.” Because I’m a little bit older, I’m 34 years old, so I have some life experience and that’s when I decided to run. And I remember calling my professor who is one of my mentors, Dr. Connolly, and also the director of my nursing program, Dr. Loriz and I just really made sure that I had support from them first. I said, “I know how intense our program is and I’m thinking about doing this. Would you be happy about this? Would you be able to work with me regarding scheduling?” and there were a hundred – everyone at the school, they were very supportive and they said “Absolutely yes”. So I went for it. My school has – UNF has – I’m the third national president to come from my school. So we have a little bit of a history with NSNA and with the organization. So the professors, my professor, who is my director, kind of knew already what the schedule would look like. So in order to be successful, because I am very passionate about my grades, we started planning really early. As soon as I was elected, my professors and everyone at school, they have my schedule by May. We all just worked together. There is no way I could be doing this without the support of my roommate, my classmates and my professors and my mentors and also Dr. Diane Mancino, my executive director from NSNA, and the entire staff, they’re incredible. We all really do, just worked together, but I think the only reason I feel like I’ve been successful is still a lot of planning, just planning and being proactive. I’ve had to take a lot of my exams early, because I’m out-of-town a lot of the times and you can do it. I think sometimes fear can be our biggest enemy and that was it. I was so fearful of doing this and not being successful in school and fear held me back, but my friend that encouraged me to run, Jenny Morris, she helped me overcome that fear. She believed in me so much and then I began to believe in myself. Now we’re here today. I am the national president of this amazing organization. The experience has been life-changing. It’s been so incredible. I’m so thankful for all of it and for everyone that has supported me throughout the process.
Jamie: Tell us a little bit about the organization and why a student nurse should consider becoming a member of the National Student Nurses Association. I’m a big proponent here on the show. If you listen to other episodes that are talking about why nurses need to be members of their professional organization and their specialties, but nursing students, their specialty is being a nursing student. So I assume that the same things probably apply.
Kelly: Absolutely. NSNA is truly the pipeline where leadership in nursing begins. It completely fosters the development of student nurses regarding so many different things, regarding professionalism, leadership, shared governance, conflict resolution, community involvement, mentorship. There are so many different benefits of being an NSNA member. My experience has been absolutely incredible, not just because I’m the national president when I was just the first vice-president of my school and I attended Midyear Convention, I had the opportunity to network with nurses that had been in their profession for decades and just being able to talk to them and reach out and get their advice. It was just such a wonderful and amazing experience. I was hooked after my very first convention. Not only all those things regarding professionalism and leadership, but they also give out scholarship to their students. I was a scholarship recipient from the foundation of NSNA. I really feel like it’s just all the way around beneficial. It’s one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made to join. It’s just given me an opportunity to surround myself with other student nurses that are just so passionate and so driven. People ask me that all the time, “How do you do this? How do you balance at all?” The love that I have for my fellow student nurses and I get so excited when I hear them talking about a community project, something that they’re working on or how they’re going to change the future of nursing and research and all these different things. They just get so excited and it’s genuinely – it is the fuel that keeps me going. It’s the best.
Jamie: What advice do you have for student nurses out there? Maybe someone that is getting ready to start in a nursing program or maybe they’re getting some prerequisites out of the way before they apply for the final entry into the program, is there anything you’d say to get them prepared for the rigors of a nursing school program?
Kelly: Yes, this is a great question. I would say most people know that nursing school is very challenging. So mentally right off the bat, you have to be able to just handle stress. And you have to be able to handle it in a productive manner. Again that mental preparation, you need to study hard. You need to do well on your T’s. Networking, you can join NSNA before you become a nursing student. That will give you the opportunity to network with advisers and other nursing students that could give you advice or information that is specific to that program. Finding balance is just really important. I think sometimes it’s really hard for people to ask for help and sometimes we all need help. Whether you just need to talk or maybe it’s a subject that you’re working on. Maybe it’s health assessment. Whatever it is, I think it’s hard for a lot of people to reach out and sometimes you just have to be able to recognize that, because we can’t do it all on our own. We all have to be able to support each other. And that’s one of the cornerstones of nursing. You have to be able to give and accept help. I think that’s really important. Really just never stop learning, never stop growing. One of the biggest things that I say to nursing students a lot, whether it’s about grades or a score or a GPA, I personally never measure myself against another person. I measure myself against my own standards, my own personal goals. And I feel like that’s what really keeps me focused, keeps my eye on the prize, and sometimes we just tend to be, like, we tend beat ourselves up a little bit and spread ourselves too thin and you have to find that balance. You just have to do what you can do, be the best person that you can be. Ask for help, get involved and just take a deep breath because it is a roller coaster. It’s crazy ride, but it’s completely worth it. It’ll be one of the most rewarding things when you get to the finish line I personally think.
Jamie: As we wrap up here and kind of close things out, what are your hopes for the future of nursing as you enter this new profession, new career for yourself?
Kelly: My hopes for the future of nursing. I have a lot. [Laughter] I think I definitely would like to see kind of the direction that we’re already going. Nurses represented on hospital boards, professional boards, more nurses in politics, and a bigger presence. We have a presence already, but even taking that to the next level. I feel like we are a diverse profession, but it could be even more diverse. I think diversity is really important to any organization. I’m also very passionate about inter-professional collaboration and everyone just kind of working together. I have a special project that I’m working on right now with other national presidents of student organizations. And the most important thing to me, servant-leadership, which was my campaign platform when I was running for the presidency and servant-leadership is just so important because it’s all about serving those that you lead and not being an intimidating leader. Whether you’re a nurse manager, whether you’re a national president, it doesn’t matter what your position is, everyone is a leader in some way. The best kind of leaders don’t really bully or intimidate. They actually speak out and build relationships and exploit people’s talents. It’s an entire huge concept, servant-leadership that started with Alan Greenleaf. I really feel like it’s going to help us if we can incorporate it into nursing. And a lot of things that maybe we see going on now, maybe patient violence, bullying and that silly phrase “Nurses eat their young.” It needs to be eradicated from our profession because that’s not the case. Nurses are not doing that. Nurses are supporting each other and we’re helping each other and propelling this profession forward and I think servant-leadership is just – you need to just continue the conversation about it.
Make sure you check out the entire December 2014 issue of Nursing Notes where we look at how nurses give back to their communities and the world. You can read the entire issue www.discovernursing.com and don’t miss the other Nursing Notes Live episode this month where I got together with a nurse and a physician assistant involved with the NICE ERG, the Nursing Innovation Council of Excellence Employee Resource Group at Johnson & Johnson. Nurse Maida Fiquereo is an executive virology sales specialist at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and physician assistant Yvonne Wind-Vazquez is an account manager at Janssen Therapeutics, a division of Janssen Products, LP.
We talk about the NICE ERG program and their recent trip to Nicaragua to participate in an initiative with the Ministry of Health in Nicaragua and Save the Children, a non-governmental organization that promotes children’s rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries. Here’s that discussion. You’ll find this and other episodes of Nursing Notes Live in the podcast area on iTunes.