Looking ahead | #3


Even as a new grad, there are hundreds of opportunities for registered nurses varying in clinical setting and patient population. As I enter my final year of nursing school, many of my mentors, preceptors, and superiors ask me what my post-grad plans are. Many of them don’t like what I have to say.

I want to be a research scientist. I want to bring new technologies and information to the clinical setting to improve the lives of patients and their clinicians.  Although my experience in clinical research is limited, I have found great pleasure in participating in a number of projects at the Ann Arbor VA, as part of a lab studying the biomolecular components of CADASIL strokes in order to redesign mouse-models for pharmacological testing.

Nine out of ten times, the nurse responds with “you’re going to be a floor nurse first, right?”

Then I tell them that, actually, no, I don’t think I will be. And in fact, I’m applying to graduate schools this year.

Here are some common responses I get:
“You have to be a nurse for *at least* two years before you do research.”
“You have to know what we do before you decide what we are supposed to do.”
“You have to ‘walk-the-walk’ before you can ‘talk-the-talk.”
“What you learn in nursing school is very different from what we really do.”
“You’ll learn more in one year of being a nurse than all of nursing school.”

I believe these responses are common simply because this is how it has been done for years. Be a nurse first, then maybe do something after if you want to. Whenever I ask for them to elaborate so that I can understand their perspective a little more, it all boils down to experience as a nurse leading to more effective time-management and prioritization of tasks. I totally believe this is true, but I personally don’t see a great ROI for someone that wants a career in research.

I could be a nurse for one year on a floor, and one year on another floor, and the experiences would be completely different. I could work as a nurse for ten years and across a dozen different settings and the experience would be different in each setting. My point is that as an RN, learning never ends.

“You have to ‘walk-the-walk’ before you can ‘talk-the-talk,” really irks me. This statement stems from the concern that a nursing researching will design clinical policies and protocol (the ‘talk’) without considering the role of the RN (the ‘walk’). I don’t believe that these nurses understand that it takes years of data retrieval and analysis in order to make informed decisions. They don’t understand that synthesizing literature and new data in itself is a unique skillset that takes years to develop. The ‘talk’ is in fact another type of ‘walk’, my friends.

In short, I don’t believe that being an RN alone will help me to reach my potential. With experience as a BSN nursing student, internships, and not to mention how easy it is to communicate with large groups, I do believe I have prepared myself to work in research on behalf of clinicians and patients.

As a good friend of mine says- don’t follow the rules.



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