Keeping up with Keith
Student Nurse Blogs his Journey

Keith is a non-traditional nursing student at a prominent Midwest teaching hospital. Prior to embarking on his nursing journey, Keith worked as a corporate marketing consultant, an editor and a journalist. He enjoys creative writing and relaxing on the couch with his two chihuahuas.

The End of the Beginning

Keith | Learning Extension
September 09, 2020
The beginning of my nursing journey has come to a close. I am now in possession of a master of science in nursing. In addition to a few letters after my name, I walk away from my program with an assortment of newfound knowledge and experiences. Soon, I will sit for the NCLEX and gain my license, which will allow me to work as a registered nurse. Until then, I will be studying and reflecting on these past two years of my life.

Read More

My Final Project

Keith | Learning Extension
August 26, 2020
Earlier this week I delivered my capstone presentation via livestream, thus completing the final piece of coursework for my nursing program. I wanted to use this post to describe the nature of my project because it represents the culmination of all the knowledge and skills I have acquired throughout my nursing school journey. It also reflects my unwavering interest in community health, my passion for health education, and my dedication to marginalized populations. And, to be honest, I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish and felt it was worth sharing to paint a broader picture of what nurses can do beyond the bedside. 

Read More

Looking Beyond Graduation

Keith | Learning Extension
July 29, 2020
I am at the end of the beginning. In less than a month, I will have completed all of my required coursework for my degree. I will then register for the NCLEX and sit for examination. If all goes well (fingers crossed), I will begin searching for my first nursing job and embark on the next leg of my nursing journey. 

Read More

How to Maintain School-Life Balance

Keith | Learning Extension
July 15, 2020
Nursing school is a major investment of time. If you’re not in class, you’re in clinicals. If you’re not in clinicals, you’re studying. Downtime is a precious resource that should not be squandered, which emphasizes the importance of time management. This is especially true for those of us who crave social interaction, whether that be with our friends, family members or partners. 

Read More

Tweaking Nursing School Curriculum 

Keith | Learning Extension
July 01, 2020
I am now less than two months away from finishing my nursing program. Overall, I have enjoyed my experience. I have had the opportunity to see and do things I never thought I would have: performing CPR during a code, observing a caesarian section, taking care of a dying patient. These moments were fundamental to my education, and the memories will stay with me for the rest of my life. For that, I am grateful.

Read More

How to Stay Focused in the Midst of Crisis

Keith | Learning Extension
June 18, 2020
The world is in a state of turmoil. COVID-19 continues to be a global health crisis and causes pervasive disruption to our everyday lives. Social distancing limitations, which have stretched on for months, are exacerbating mental illness. The death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer is the most recent example of police brutality and the horrific effects of systemic racism. Protestors in support of Black lives are staging large gatherings across the U.S., while white supremacists, in opposition of the movement, seek to stoke fear and cause physical harm. 

Read More

My Brush with Bullying

Keith | Learning Extension
May 27, 2020
Bullying is a widely recognized problem in nursing. The American Nurses Association has spoken out about the topic, defining bullying as “repeated, unwanted harmful actions intended to humiliate, offend, and cause distress in the recipient.” Researchers have invested time into studying bullying among nurses, finding that as many as 80% of nurses have experienced bullying at some point in their careers. In addition, higher incidence of bullying have been shown to correlate with negative impacts on nurse’s physical and mental health, which in turn can have a negative effect on patient care. 

Read More

It’s Time to Celebrate

Keith | Learning Extension
May 13, 2020
These are tough times. Throughout our daily lives, the pandemic looms heavily in the background. News of infection and mortality rates seems impossible to escape, as do stories of economic strife and deteriorating mental health. It seems like everyone is mourning some sort of loss, from cancelation of graduation ceremonies and the postponement of weddings to the literal loss of human life. Frontline health care workers, meanwhile, are working tirelessly—often under less than ideal conditions—to improve patient health while also risking their own. 

Read More

How to Get the Most Out of Online Learning

Keith | Learning Extension
April 29, 2020
I’m not the most technically savvy student in my cohort. While I did grow up with an ancient desktop computer in my home, I am from the pre-internet era, and so online classes elude me. Even during my undergraduate years, I never had any online coursework. Yes, we had email, but otherwise everything else was done in-person. We even would sometimes be asked to turn in hardcopies of our papers, a concept that many of today’s students might find completely foreign.

Read More

What Nursing Students Can Do During the Pandemic 

Keith | Learning Extension
April 15, 2020
All of my classes have been moved to an online format. This includes my clinicals. Instead of taking care of real patients in the hospital setting, my classmates and I are discussing case studies via video chat. It’s a far cry from what I expected nursing school to be, but you have to be flexible during these unprecedented times.

Read More

There Will Be No Graduation

Keith | Learning Extension
April 01, 2020
I know the title of this post sounds overly dramatic, and, well, that was intentional. After two years of prerequisites and nearly two years of nursing school, I will receive my master of science in nursing degree in August. It’s a lot to take in. This has been four years of my life, hours upon hours of studying, and weeks of long clinical days where I gained the necessary hands-on experience to develop my skills. 

Read More

Staying Healthy During Nursing School

Keith | Learning Extension
March 18, 2020
If you’re reading this, know that it is March of 2020, and we, the world, are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a nursing student, I am feeling the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic directly.

Read More

When a Patient Dies

Keith | Learning Extension
March 04, 2020
I went into the nursing profession because I wanted to help people. I believed that with my clinical skills and my compassion that I could relieve the suffering of others. And for the most part, my nursing school experience has shown me that I have the capability to do that.

Read More

Reducing the Pre-test Jitters

Keith | Learning Extension
February 19, 2020
Question: What condition causes tachycardia, increased work of breathing, and GI dysfunction? The answer, if you’re me, is an acute case of test anxiety. Even though I usually test well, I suffer from the pre-test jitters. This is regardless of how confident I feel about the test—though the less confident I feel, the more my stress intensifies. 

Read More

Expanding Empathy Through Patient Interactions 

Keith | Learning Extension
February 05, 2020
I live in a big city, and we have a lot of your typical big city problems. In addition to things like pollution and potholes, we sadly have a very visible population of people experiencing homelessness. You will often see the same people every day on your commute, occupying the same spot on the train platform or street corner. In fact, seeing them becomes so commonplace that it is easy to let them fade into the background, becoming part of the scenery. Often, the only times they do attract attention is when they are visibly suffering from mental illness, which typically manifests as some form of psychosis, e.g. hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t really there. 

Read More

The Benefits of Not Being Confident

Keith | Learning Extension
January 22, 2020
I am less than a year away from earning my master’s of science in nursing. That means by this time next year – granted I pass the NCLEX – I will be a licensed nurse. It is an exciting prospect, but it also terrifies me. It’s not that I haven’t done well in my program. In fact, I have excelled in all of my classes and performed at a competent or advanced level in all my clinicals. It’s that when I compare a professional nurse’s skill set to mine, I see a tremendous gap. 

Read More

Research for the Uninitiated Nursing Student

Keith | Learning Extension
December 25, 2019
A few weeks ago, I, along with several of my classmates, stood flush against a wall in a large, open room. Behind us was a trifold poster we had created that summarized important issues pertaining to breast cancer screenings in African American women. We were one group of many that had set up posters along the room’s perimeter. Each poster spoke to a different public health topic, from incidence of syphilis in urban areas to developments in the anti-vaccine movement. Instructors from our college of nursing paced around the room, eyeballing each poster with a critical stare as we students provided three-minute elevator pitches about our poster topics. 

Read More

Nurses Mentor Their Young

Keith | Learning Extension
December 11, 2019
There’s an old saying within the nursing profession: “Nurses eat their young.” The underlying message of this statement is that more seasoned nurses intentionally intimidate and bully their younger colleagues. While research does show that aggression between nursing professionals occurs within the workplace, the culture of the profession seems to be making a shift toward one of support and mentorship. 

Read More

The Patient-Centered Care Model

Keith | Learning Extension
November 20, 2019
While doctors, nurses and other health care professionals might be the experts in the science and administration of health care, the most important member of any health care team is the patient. After all, no one can evaluate pain, discomfort or quality of life better than the patient. The patient may also have his or her own rationale for requesting or denying certain types of care. For example, a patient may have unique cultural issues that require individualized care plans, such as dietary restrictions. 

Read More

Nurses Beyond the Bedside 

Keith | Learning Extension
November 06, 2019
When I first decided to become a nurse, my intent was to work in what is often considered to be the traditional nursing role – at the bedside. Historically, working at the bedside is what nurses have done for the majority of time the profession has existed as its own self-governed, independent practice. However, as nursing and nursing programs put a great emphasis on addressing the social determinants of health, the role of the nurse is expanding. 
 

Read More

Supplement Your Education with Professional Development

Keith | Learning Extension
October 23, 2019
Reading textbooks and attending lectures are basic elements of a nursing education. This is how you form the foundation of your nursing knowledge, learning the fundamentals from pathophysiology to pharmacology to nursing diagnoses and interventions. But heath care is an ever-changing field. Scientific discoveries shed light on previously unknown etiologies of diseases as well as new cures. Meanwhile, health-related research can lead to changes in best practices and new innovations in patient care. 

Read More

When the Hospital Is a Happy Place

Keith | Learning Extension
October 09, 2019
“How can you work in a hospital? It’s seems so depressing!” I have heard that line countless times from friends and acquaintances who observe my nursing journey from the outside. I can’t blame them for thinking my chosen path isn’t all sunshine and roses because, well, it’s not. Hospitals can be sad, scary places.

Read More

The Social Justice Side of Nursing

Keith | Learning Extension
September 25, 2019
One of the primary reasons for my move into nursing was because I wanted to live out my commitment to social justice through my profession. As it turns out, I could not have chosen a better career path. A central component of today’s nursing education focuses on the social determinants of health, which the World Health Organization defines as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” Nurses are being tasked to consider the social determinants of health when caring for patients so as to provide equitable and optimal care. 

Read More

Advice from Someone Halfway Through Nursing School

Keith | Learning Extension
September 11, 2019
Someone pinch me because I still can’t believe the title of this post is true – I recently surpassed the halfway point in my nursing program! To celebrate, I took a much-needed vacation with my husband and spent quality time with my friends and fur babies (i.e., my chihuahuas). I also took time to reflect on what I have learned about nursing school in the last year. So, I thought it would be helpful if I wrote a post as if I were writing a letter to myself one year ago right when I was starting the program. 

Read More

There’s No Need to Know Everything

Keith | Learning Extension
August 28, 2019
In nursing school, you are inundated with information. Just when your head is done spinning from digesting a textbook worth of pathophysiology, you’re thrust into the deep end of pharmacology. Once you feel like you have a handle on pharmacology, you find yourself racking your brain trying to comprehend the concepts of research methodologies. 

Read More

Nursing Education Enhances Scientific Literacy

Keith | Learning Extension
August 14, 2019
Before nursing school, if you had asked me what is “science,” I would have described some bespectacled professional wearing a lab coat perched in front of a microscope and an assortment of beakers. Since becoming a nursing student, that cartoonish image has drastically changed. I now understand that many occupations have the ability to conduct research, including nurses, and in fact, for some nurses, research is a significant component of their practice.

Read More

Cooperation Is Key in the Clinic

Keith | Learning Extension
July 31, 2019
When you’re in nursing school, you are engulfed in nursing culture, so much so that it can be easy to forget about the multitudes of other health care professionals you will be working alongside in your career. Beyond the nursing bubble, you have physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, speech therapists, child life specialists, nursing assistants and patient technicians, among others.

Read More

Join the Club: Why Participate in Student Groups

Keith | Learning Extension
July 10, 2019
Nursing students are a driven bunch, and many of us exhibit traits of overachievers, myself included. For instance, in high school I was part of at least a half dozen student clubs and organizations, including marching band, the National Honors Society, and the high school newspaper, which - in typical overachiever fashion - I led as editor-in-chief. Deriving satisfaction by involving myself in different organizations is a character trait I have retained into adulthood. However, outlets for group affiliation were sparse in the corporate world (though even then I still managed to satiate my desire for club affiliation by co-chairing the city chapter of my industry’s professional association).  

Read More

Shadowing During Clinicals Is Like Nurse Roulette

Keith | Learning Extension
June 26, 2019
Clinicals are my favorite part of nursing school. I love that I get to have hands-on experience with patients and their families. I enjoy the challenge of having to synthesize my pharmaceutical and pathophysiological knowledge with my therapeutic communication and critical thinking skills in real-time. However, one variable that can really make or break a clinical experience is the nurse you are assigned to for your shift. 

Read More

Be OK with Not Knowing Your Destination

Keith | Learning Extension
June 12, 2019
“So, in what area of nursing do you plan to work?” That is probably the most common question I am asked after I tell people that I am a nursing student. I wish I had a better answer than, “I don’t know,” but the truth is that I truly do not know. I am one of many nursing students who entered an academic program with only a vague sense of the various areas of the profession that interest me. While this is understandable for someone with my background, one void of any healthcare experience, I sense a lot of people are a bit bewildered when they hear my uncertain response. 

Read More

Finding Balance Amid the Chaos

Keith | Learning Extension
May 29, 2019
One thing nursing students love to talk about is how little time we have for pretty much anything not related to nursing school. It’s a completely understandable phenomenon given that nursing students spend significant quantities of time per week on nursing school related activities. For example, in my program, we spend approximately 15 hours a week in lectures, 12 hours a week in clinicals, and at least 20 hours studying and reading outside of class. 

Read More

Taking My Education from the Classroom to the Community

Keith | Learning Extension
May 15, 2019
One of my primary motivators to go into the nursing profession is my desire to help people within my own community. Prior to making my career move, I already had a history of fundraising and volunteering for a number of local non-profit organizations; however, the extent of my ability to help was limited by my lack of technical skills. 

Read More

Anxiety Related to Nursing Diagnoses

Keith | Learning Extension
May 01, 2019
When you decided to become a nurse, you expected to be caring for patients with a variety of diseases and injuries. Diabetes, heart failure and cancer are a few of the medical conditions my patients have been diagnosed with. But, as you will discover in nursing school, these are not the diagnoses you will identify and address as a nurse. Yes, my care has helped my patients manage or overcome those medical conditions and others, and that has everything to do with the nursingdiagnoses I have identified for each of my patients. 

Read More

Assessing Like a Detective

Keith | Learning Extension
April 17, 2019
I never thought my journalism training and experience would factor much into nursing. Sure, I knew my ability to write well would aid me in drafting papers for school, but even that skill was criticized by an instructor, who thought I might have trouble with the imprecise sentence structure and brevity charting requires. Thankfully, she and I were both wrong.

Read More

Providing Yourself the Care You Need

Keith | Learning Extension
April 03, 2019
Nurses are known for being excellent caregivers to everyone but themselves. Part of that is the nature of the state of healthcare in which hospital staffing often does not afford breaks and rest periods. But part of that is self-inflicted due to a trait shared among many nurses to prioritize nurturing the sick and injured. It’s an admirable quality, but it’s self-defeating. After all, if you don’t have your own health, how can you manage the health of others?

Read More

No, Nurses Can’t Escape Math 

Keith | Learning Extension
March 06, 2019
Seventh grade was my first introduction to algebra. Initially I found the combination of numbers and letters confounding. “X doesn’t belong with 3! It belongs with Y and Z,” I thought to myself as I struggled to understand the purpose of what seemed like alphabetical arithmetic.

Read More

No Man’s Land

Keith | Learning Extension
February 20, 2019
“Thank you, doctor.” It’s a phrase male nurses are accustomed to hearing. You put on a pair of scrubs, drape a stethoscope around your neck, and suddenly you’re an M.D. It only took three months as a nursing student before a patient accidentally elevated me to the position of physician. This incident highlights an important topic regarding our society’s perception of nurses.

Read More

​It’s Hip to Comply with HIPAA

Keith | Learning Extension
January 23, 2019
One of the major components of any nursing curriculum is clinicals. It’s your opportunity as a student to work in a real hospital unit with real patients. Caring for patients as a student nurse is both exciting and intimidating. It’s the part of your education you most want to tell your friends about over a few cocktails after a long shift. But guess what? For the most part, you can’t.

Read More

Under Pressure

Keith | Learning Extension
January 09, 2019
Vitals are vital. In fact, they are so vital that accurately taking them is one of the first practical skills you will learn in nursing school. By knowing the baseline status of your patients, you can gauge fluctuations in their conditions. Patient’s temperature goes up? Perhaps it’s a sign of infection. Heart rate rising? Could be dehydration. Oxygen levels plummeting? Get your instructor.

Read More

Feeling Like a Dummy

Keith | Learning Extension
November 05, 2018
“Your patient has stopped breathing. There is no heartbeat. He is turning cyanotic. What do you do?”

As the nursing instructor paced in the front of the room, I slouched in my chair, hoping that she wouldn’t call on me. What did I know about basic life support? I didn’t even know the meaning of the word “cyanotic.” My lack of knowledge began to overwhelm me, and I, too, started to feel as if I couldn’t breathe and that my heart was skipping a beat.

Read More