School of Nursing Can Do Better

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Senior Caitlin Mayo is concerned about a communication gap in her nursing program. WILLIAM WIN / FOGHORN

I have fallen into an uncomfortable, but generally accepted, limbo when it comes to the School of Nursing and Health Professions (SONHP).

On one hand, I am extremely proud of having gotten this far in my nursing education. USF is known for hosting one of the most prestigious nursing programs west of the Mississippi. Whenever I go to a hospital for “clinicals,” jargon for hands-on nursing experience, I’ve always been under the impression that USF students are perceived as competent. Our 2016-17 National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX, the nursing licensing exam) success rate sits high, at 90.22 percent. We have a rigorous, solid program that will successfully prepare you for a career.

That being said — and I am hard-pressed to say this — it doesn’t always feel like I am a student of a top-tier nursing program.

Multiple nursing students I have spoken to this year have complained about the department’s inability to provide us with the information we need in a timely manner. When the first week of school rolls around, we are almost always unaware of when our clinical orientations are until the day before. During my second semester as a junior, we weren’t aware of whether our first clinicals were going to be on campus or not. During the spring of my sophomore year, I was told the day before classes started that I needed to rearrange my schedule because my clinical day, which was promised to be on Tuesdays, was suddenly moved to a Monday. When I was registering for classes, I wasn’t aware that the clinical would be in Oakland, as it was listed as TBA. My own clinical instructor for that semester was not informed that he would have his position until the week of.

Rearranging my whole schedule, figuring out transportation and risking not being able to fulfill my minor requirements was extraordinarily stressful.

These are not isolated incidents. Often, we are just instructed to be patient and flexible as our future careers will require us to be. However, we are often uninformed when it comes to what SONHP is doing to solve the issues within our program. Just as nursing students are asked the rationale for everything we do, asking for the the reason behind a clinical block location deciding to not host students, as was the case for Children’s Hospital Oakland this semester, or a change in schedule, seems reasonable.

After having a conversation with one of my nursing professors, I know that the incidents I’ve talked about speak to a nationwide problem in nursing education. There are many moving parts that need to work together to make the nursing student clinical experience successful. The nursing student, of course, needs to do their part in being prepared and competent for their clinical experience. The school needs to provide the student with training, making sure that the student has all the instruction and resources necessary to succeed. The final piece is the clinical setting — the hospital. However, hospitals are becoming more and more reluctant to take on nursing students, especially in the case of pediatrics. This is due to a lack of nurses willing to teach nursing students, changes occurring in the clinical settings and a variety of other factors. Unfortunately, our learning and training is adversely affected by this, and we as students receive less real-world experience — hindering our learning and adversely affecting our ability to become better nurses. This further contributes to the national nursing shortage—if we are not willing to train new nurses, how are we supposed to meet the nation’s nursing needs? Hospitals not providing clinical placements limit access to nursing education.

There doesn’t seem to be a viable solution beyond realizing that, due to the lack of clinical placements and resources, SONHP may need to communicate this to their students and scale back on their acceptances for future nursing classes. That would be a shame — I am proud of this school and the nurses that it produces. I am proud of being able to learn the art of nursing from a school that champions the Jesuit value of cura personalis, care for the entire person. I am proud of the School of Nursing and Health Professions, but we could do better.

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