April 25, 2003

Nursing students plan careers after graduation

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John Gore, Ph.D. highlighted the advances with fMRI at the Vanderbilt lecture last week. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Nursing students plan careers after graduation

Graduation is just around the corner, and hundreds of nursing students will be looking for jobs after graduation next month, if they haven’t already landed a job. That’s good news in the midst of the nationwide nursing shortage, but it can mean making tough choices for graduates.

Because of the crisis, and the evolving role of the nurse practitioner, the Vanderbilt School of Nursing is working to educate second-year nursing students on the possibilities facing them when it’s their turn to don the cap and gown and hit the job market in August.

VUSN’s Graduate Council hosted a special program last week on the roles and opportunities facing nurse practitioners. The program was the brainchild of current second-year student, Rachel McDowell, a member of the VUSN Graduate Council. McDowell is hoping to work as an oncology nurse practitioner with an emphasis on pain management after graduation.

McDowell says the topic of jobs is a common theme among her classmates, as well as with her preceptor, Tracy Jurkovich, M.S.N., acute care nurse practitioner for thoracic surgery at VUMC.

Jurkovich, who served as moderator for the discussion, finished her post-master’s degree at VUSN in 2002. “We have spent a lot of time talking about where to go, the job market, interviews, concerns,” McDowell said. “A lot of us are bridge students, so we haven’t worked in the health care field before.”

McDowell, who came to VUSN with a bachelor’s degree in biology, chose the bridge program to pursue her master’s in nursing to work with people and continue to use her science skills. “You can see where genetics, biology, and microbiology come together with nursing. I want to be involved in research, but I also want to have the patient contact,” said McDowell. She says the VUSN bridge program allows her to pursue those goals.

Among the invited speakers offering advice to McDowell and her fellow classmates was Nancy Munro, M.S.N., acute care nurse practitioner and part-time instructor at the University of Maryland.

Munro was asked to speak about resources available to nurse practitioners looking for jobs, and how to market themselves, as well as the range of opportunities in the job market for students graduating as nurse practitioners.

McDowell says Munro’s advice was helpful. “She has a different perspective, being involved on a national level. She really challenged me to think about what it means to be a nurse practitioner, and have that well defined for myself—like what can you offer, what can you bring to a practice that’s different from a physician or a physicians assistant? We all have to prove our wealth at some time to our employers,” McDowell said.

Bonnie Pilon, D.S.N., senior associate dean for Practice Management, addressed how to find positions in clinics and community health centers. Pilon oversees all 10 of the VUSN Faculty Practice Network (VNFPN) Clinics.

Robin Steaban, M.S.N., administrative director for cardiovascular and inpatient medicine patient care center at VUMC also spoke at the event. Steaban recruits and interviews potential nurse employees for VUMC.