ACLS Certification – New Nurses Guide

ACLS Certification – New Nurses Guide

This is a sponsored post with the ACLS Certification Institute. All opinions are my own.

As a new nurse, ACLS certification might be one of your goals. This guide will introduce you to the certification and prepare you for the next steps.

ACLS Certification - New Nurses Guide

*If you are looking for an American Heart Association (AHA) ACLS Certification, which includes a hands-on, practical skills assessment – an ACLS online exam cannot provide this. If you are required to have an AHA ACLS Certification, you will unfortunately not be able to utilize a 100% online ACLS Certification course. However, if you need ACLS certificialtion but don’t have to have AHA ACLS, or you use it for CEUs then online courses work fine.

What is ACLS Certification?

First, let’s start at the very beginning (a very nice place to start).

ACLS stands for Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support and it is used for cardiovascular emergencies.

The certification is what you will earn after you take a course that permits you the ability to practice ACLS in emergency situations. Providers that have this certification can go beyond Basic Life Support (BLS).

If you work in an ED or ICU, this certification is most likely a requirement. You may not be required to have this to land the job, but will probably need to obtain the certification within a certain amount of time. It does look great if you apply and already have it, but it’s not at all a must-have for new grads to attempt to complete between graduation and that first job.

If you’re on a nursing floor, however, you won’t necessarily need this. You will definitely need BLS but may not need ACLS. Basically, if you call a code – only ACLS certified nurses are able to administer medications without a physician order. Many facilities have protocols in which ICU and/or ED nurses respond to codes because of their ACLS capabilities and knowledge of caring for the unstable patient.

ACLS is basically an algorithm one follows during the emergency. The catch is that it’s tough to walk through an algorithm while someone is literally dying right before your eyes.  Practice and being exposed to these situations frequently helps alleviate some code blue jitters.

I explain ACLS in detail on my Cardiac Nurse Crash Course.

There are 4 things we do with ACLS:

  1. Chest Compressions
  2. Drugs
  3. Shock/defibrillate/cardiovert
  4. Treat the underlying cause

Again, if you want to work in emergency or critical care situations, an ACLS certification will make you hireable and an active member of the team, able to jump in and help save lives.

How To Get ACLS Certified

If you are planning to work in emergency and critical care units, becoming ACLS certified will make you a more valuable team member. You will be able to literally help save lives.

So how do you get certified?

Chances are if you are trying to become ACLS certified, you are probably already BLS (basic life support) certified. If that is true, there will only be a few additional courses you’ll need to take and then pass the exam.

Your hospital or organization may provide this course to you, but you can also get it on your own.

Certification Requirements

To be certified, you have to take the courses. These usually last about two days and are pretty extensive. (I’ve been in a class with physicians who failed the exam at the end before!) Then you have to pass the exam. The test is both written and practical. (I’ve been in a class with physicians who failed the exam at the end before!)

This certification only lasts 2 years before you have to renew it again. The renewal course is much shorter than the original certification – so don’t let yours expire!

Where to Take ACLS Certification Courses and Exams

Ask your local hospital if they offer courses at a discount or if they will pay for any part of it. The American Heart Association also offers local courses and exams.

Some employers still require their employees to obtain an American Heart Association (AHA) ACLS Certification, which includes a hands-on, practical skills assessment – something ACLS online exams simply cannot provide. As a result, if you are required to have an AHA ACLS Certification, you will unfortunately not be able to utilize a 100% online ACLS Certification course. However, if you need ACLS certificialtion but don’t have to have AHA ACLS, or you use it for CEUs then online courses work fine.

If you are currently working full-time, consider finding an ACLS Certification course online. The best place for this is the ACLS Certification Institute. They are a highly respected organization and offer the flexibility of online courses.

You can take the course and the exams at home during your time off. It’s the best and most convenient way to become certified.

How much is ACLS Certification?

This depends on where you take the courses. Your hospital might offer to pay for some or all of the course fees.

If you choose to get certified by the ACLS Certification Institute, the course and exam are only $275 total. That’s a fantastically low price for something that could impact your career for years to come.

Recertification is only $175, which is a wonderfully low price. And don’t forget to check with your employer to see if they’ll cover the fee! Many hospitals have a professional development budget for their nursing staff, make sure you utilize if they do.

ACLS Pre-Test

If you are planning on getting certified, I highly suggest you find a pre-test and take it. See what you know already and what you don’t. Then, you can focus your studies on what you don’t already know.

You can find a few different pre-tests online and most of them are free of charge.

What is the difference between BLS and ACLS?

BLS stands for basic life support. When you are certified in basic life support you know CPR and how to use an AED (automatic external defibrillator), as well as how to help a choking victim.

But ACLS goes beyond that. It is extremely thorough. You’ll learn about intubation and IV medications, resuscitation procedures, and airway management.

It’s more complex and in-depth than BLS.

What is PALS?

PALS stands for Pediatric Advanced Life Support. This is another very strong certification you can add to your resume to make you more valuable to the team if you plan to work on the pediatric side of the hospital world.

This is very similar to ACLS except a child’s body is different and there are different dangers to consider.

Just like BLS and ACLS, this certification only lasts two years.

ACLS Certification: A Life-Saving Career Investment

Now that you know what ACLS certification is and how to become certified, go find a course. Any of these certifications listed above will enhance your skill sets as a nurse and give you confidence in your role. You will be able to know exactly what to do and have the certification that allows you to jump in and do it.

Think about these certifications as valuable investments into your career. But not just financial, but intelligent and logical ones too. You want to be able to help your patients as much as you can, and these certifications will empower you to do exactly that.

Save on ACLS Certification

As I already mentioned, if you choose to get certified by the ACLS Certification Institute ACLS Certification Institute, the course and exam are only $275 total! Right now FreshRN readers can save 20% off by using promo code FRESHRN20. Get your ACLS Certification Today!

Remember, if you need an American Heart Association (AHA) ACLS Certification, which includes a hands-on, practical skills assessment – an ACLS online exam cannot provide this. As a result, if you are required to have an AHA ACLS Certification, you will unfortunately not be able to utilize a 100% online ACLS Certification course. However, if you need ACLS certification but don’t have to have AHA ACLS, or you use it for CEUs then online courses work fine.

Get ACLS Certified NowGet ACLS Certified NowGet ACLS Certified NowCardiac Nurse Crash CourseCardiac Nurse Crash CourseCardiac Nurse Crash CoursePALS CertificationPALS CertificationPALS CertificationACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) Survival Card Quick Reference Study Guide (Large 3.5 x 5.5 in., Pocket/Index Card Size) Latest updates - 4 card set - Laminated with hole punched - Water ResistantACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) Survival Card Quick Reference Study Guide (Large 3.5 x 5.5 in., Pocket/Index Card Size) Latest updates – 4 card set – Laminated with a hole punched – Water ResistantACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) Survival Card Quick Reference Study Guide (Large 3.5 x 5.5 in., Pocket/Index Card Size) Latest updates - 4 card set - Laminated with hole punched - Water ResistantACLS Reference CardsACLS Reference CardsACLS Reference Cards

7 Ultimate Nursing Books for Nurses of All Levels

7 Ultimate Nursing Books for Nurses of All Levels

7 Ultimate Nursing Books for Nurses of All Levels

Fill up your shopping cart with these 7 nursing books. They are all you need to help you become the best nurse you can be.

Nursing Books

We’ve outlined some of the best nursing books in this comparison table to make it easier to find the one that is right for you. You can click “Read More” on any of the books in the table to jump to the section in this article outlining more information about it. Or, you can click the “Buy from” button to pick it up immediately.

ImageProductRatingPriceMoreBuy it Now
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End 5.0$Read More
Anatomy of a Super Nurse5.0$$Read More
Trauma Stewardship4.7$$Read More
Daring Greatly4.7$Read More
Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself 4.6$Read More
Getting Things Done4.4$Read More
Fat Loss Forever5$$$Read More

Beyond the How-To

These books are way more than just how to remember meds or policies. They are also filled with more than just nurse stories.

I hand-picked each of these books because they are focused on holistic self-care. How can we possibly care for everyone else if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first?

Put these on your must-read list. Each one has something unique to offer. The information in these books is helpful in acclimating to the lifestyle of being a nurse, which requires mindfulness, self-compassion, productivity, actively preventing weight gain, as well as identifying with nurse stories.

Take some me-time and read through these books. They will help you become a more centered, healthy, and confident person – which will make you a better nurse.

These aren’t in any particular order. I couldn’t prioritize them, they all have something different and vital to offer.

Being Mortal

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Let’s start the list with the Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. This is a book that explores the philosophy of dealing with the end of life. It will really get you thinking and stretch you beyond your comfort zone.

What Its About

Atul Gawande is not only a best-selling author but a surgeon as well. In this book, he explores how those in the medical profession treat the end of life. Often people try to extend life – sometimes at the detriment of the sufferer. Other times, practices like pinning the elderly to the bed to keep them safe – cause the end of their life to be full of isolation and pain.

Gawande explores different models for helping the sick and dependent elderly. He writes about the varieties of hospice care to show that a patient’s last days can actually be rich and dignified.

Why You Should Read It

As nurses, we are focused on healing and preventing death – and rightfully so. However, it is so important to think about what we believe about the end of life and how to help people experience it in an as dignified and peaceful way as possible.

This book has both solid research and heart-moving storytelling that make it a compelling read.

Anatomy of a Super Nurse: Ultimate Guide to Becoming Nursey

Anatomy of a Super Nurse: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming NurseyAnatomy of a Super Nurse: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming NurseyAnatomy of a Super Nurse: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Nursey

The next book on the list is one I wrote for all the new nurses that are feeling overwhelmed or just want a few tips.

What Its About

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Nursey is super easy to read over and over again. It has practical tips for becoming a nurse and is used by hospitals and nursing schools all over the country. The term “ultimate guide” really is spot on. This book is a new nurse’s best friend. It covers everything you need to know as you transition from stressed-out student to a nursing professional.

Why You Should Read It

I wrote this book with the American Nurses Association as a valuable tool for new nurses. In fact, there is even an entire chapter dedicated to surviving nursing school, so buy this while you are still in school.

Everything you need to know as a nurse – codes, procedures, even time management –  is covered in my book. It will be your best friend.  If you want more, be sure to check out my other books.

Trauma Stewardship

Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for OthersTrauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for OthersTrauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others

The next book all nurses should read is Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk. Your feelings will be validated, understanding how depleting your role as a nurse can be.

What Its About

This book outlines all the physical and emotional tolls nurses experience from caring for others nonstop. Then, it shares actionable steps for processing these traumas and nurturing ourselves so we have more to give.

Why You Should Read It

Every single nurse – no matter where they work – will experience some sort of trauma. It isn’t something people admit or talk enough about. All nurses need this book so they can understand how to process emotional trauma. Arm yourself with valuable mental tools you can use before you are emotionally miserable.

Daring Greatly

The book Daring Greatly by Brené Brown empowers people to finally have the courage to be vulnerable.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and LeadDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and LeadDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

What Its About

What is a vulnerability and why is it important in the life of a nurse? In her book, Brené Brown outlines the power of vulnerability based on 12 years of research. With compassion and inspiration, she shows you how to harness the power of vulnerability and make it work for you in big ways.

Why You Should Read It

All nurses have to have those tough conversations – either with other nurses or with patients and family members. This book gives you the courage to be vulnerable and not be afraid of difficult situations. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to stop being afraid to be real and honest.


Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Another nursing book you need to have on your bookshelf is Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Yourself by Dr. Kristin Neff. Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity in high school where it belongs. This book is powerful!

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to YourselfSelf-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to YourselfSelf-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

What Its About

Full of expert advice on how to limit self-criticism and offset its negative effects, enabling you to achieve your highest potential and a more contented, fulfilled life. Psychologists are turning away from an emphasis on self-esteem and moving toward self-compassion in the treatment of their patients. This book offers exercises and action plans for dealing with every emotionally debilitating struggle, be it parenting, weight loss, or any of the numerous trials of everyday living.

Why You Should Read It

This book is useful for anyone in any field – not just nurses. But how many times as a nurse do we give compassion to everyone else, except ourselves? We are so critical of ourselves, and this book takes you through techniques and new ways of thinking that will allow you to be gentle and kind to yourself. It provides a structured way to prevent burnout and maximize your professional enjoyment.

I suggest investing in the workbook too. It breaks down the points in the book into goals and steps you can take immediately.


The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and ThriveThe Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and ThriveThe Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free ProductivityGetting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free ProductivityGetting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

No matter how many hours you put into your job, you need this book for your days off. Getting Things Done by David Allen teaches you how to not be lazy on your days off – even though it is incredibly tempting.

What Its About

David Allen teaches one main theme in this book: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. His methods have helped tens of thousands of people organize their thoughts and achieve their potential.

Why You Should Read It

Our personal lives shouldn’t suffer just because we give so much to our profession. As enjoyable as it might be to let everything go on our days off, it will all catch up to us eventually.

Read this book so you can learn how to accomplish everything on your lists – both at home and at work.

Fat Loss Forever – How to Lose Fat and Keep It Off

Fat Loss Forever: How to Lose Fat and KEEP it OffFat Loss Forever: How to Lose Fat and KEEP it OffFat Loss Forever: How to Lose Fat and KEEP it Off

Make your health and your body a priority. If you have struggled with other diets or weight loss things before, read Fat Loss Forever – How to Lose Fat and Keep It Off by Layne Norton and Peter Baker.

What Its About

This isn’t a diet, this teaches you about nutrition and how to fuel your body efficiently. It demonstrates ways to count micronutrients and how to change your lifestyle so you can have a sustainable way to eat and live.

Why You Should Read It

You should read this book because it works – I and my husband are proof. My husband lost 25 pounds and I lost 14 pounds after a year of not being able to get back to my pre-baby weight. As nurses, our health has a direct impact on our jobs. Discover how to get to a healthy weight so you look and feel your best.

Our job as a nurse is a huge responsibility and privilege. We get to make a real difference in this world. But in all your work, don’t forget to keep yourself a priority. Each of these books was handpicked because they help you become a better nurse by growing into a stronger, more confident person.

What nursing book would you recommend?

My MSN Journey Summary

My MSN Journey Summary

My MSN Journey

My MSN Journey

It seems like so long ago that I started out on my journey to earn my MSN. But in reality, it was just 17 short months ago. My MSN Journey was a whirlwind and I am so pleased with how it all worked out.

*Results vary. The typical FlexPath MSN learner completes the program in about 2 years.

Getting Started

Before I got started I remember checking out a free FlexPath Trial course. This allowed me to get a good idea for what classes were like and what I was in for. This was so wonderfully helpful as I hadn’t been in school for 7
years. I was able to plan how I would complete my MSN.

My first class went well; I just had to remembered how to cite in APA and get into a routine with completing assignments. One of the best things for me in the FlexPath program is being able to set my own schedule and target dates for assessments. Before I knew it, I had completed my first class.

I found that having a process for completing assessments helps me complete each FlexPath course faster. Reviewing what is expected of me for each class is always my first step so I don’t go in the wrong direction accidentally. After ensuring I knew what was expected of me, I made sure to read all of the recommended reading material with each assessment to thoroughly understand the content. Then, I’d sit down to write.

One of my favorite things about FlexPath is that it really does fit into my life. I started this program right after moving from North Carolina to Illinois, and during its completion I started a new job and ran my own business from home.

Moving Right Along

Before I knew it I was done with 5 of my classes. I learned I needed to change how I found sources and actually started off with researching those before I wrote anything, so I wouldn’t waste time. I also learned some things that changed how I did things on the job.

Life decided to throw us another curve and we found out we were expecting another baby. During my 10th class I realized I needed to kick it into high-gear to finish before the baby. I sat down with my husband and decided that it would be important for me to devote more time to its completion to ensure I was completely done before we were taking care of a newborn! We then changed up our childcare routine with our 2 year-old and made sure I had more time to progress faster through the program.

By August of 2018 I was 75% done. I was working on my final classes while getting my practicum set up. Getting that set up was a smooth process, especially because I knew exactly where I hoped to complete the practice immersion hours.

Starting my Practicum and Capstone Project

I then started my practicum. My preceptor was nurse educator who are responsible for the new graduate-residency program at a local hospital. The residency program is accredited and highly successful, and I actually went through it myself as a new graduate nurse eight years ago! It was the perfect fit for my practicum and I learned so much.

In addition to completing 100 hours of practice immersion, I had to complete a capstone project. My capstone project was a 37-page paper creating a specific intervention for a need within a population. I decided to write about caring for patients and colleagues suffering from substance use disorder (SUD). I learned so much from my preceptor, her entire team, and the research necessary to complete the project.

My MSN Journey Comes to an End

Then just as soon as I felt like I had started, I had finished. Just one week before the baby came I proudly updated all my credentials to say Kati Kleber, MSN RN CCRN-K!

I know that without Capella and their FlexPath program there is no way I could have earned my MSN at this time of life. I thought I was too busy and that I couldn’t pause life to fit an MSN into it. But with the flexibility of the FlexPath program and the ability to adjust deadlines, I was able to fit the MSN into my life. I was able to move across the country, start a new job, maintain my own business, and walk through an entire pregnancy all while pursuing my MSN.

What Do Perioperative Nurses Do?  An Interview with an OR Nurse

What Do Perioperative Nurses Do? An Interview with an OR Nurse

Thank you to AORN for partnering with us for this post.

perioperative nurses

So you’re a nurse or in nursing school, and you think you want to work in the operating room… or endoscopy… or the postanesthesia care unit… or interventional radiology. But, what are the important things to know before getting into this specialized field within nursing?  What do perioperative nurses do, exactly?

What do perioperative nurses do?

I had the opportunity to interview Amber Wood, MSN RN CNOR CIC FAPIC, who is a Senior Perioperative Practice Specialist for the Association of PeriOperative Nurses (AORN) and previously an operating room (OR) nurse at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX. She shares what it’s really like to be a perioperative nurse.

Let’s dive in!


Options for a new graduate interested in perioperative nursing

Working as a critical care nurse, I have to admit… I was a bit ignorant to all of the perioperative options. Amber informed me that the options include, not only your typical preoperative (pre-op), intraoperative (operating room, or OR nurse), and postanesthesia care unit (PACU), but also procedural areas like endoscopy, cath lab, and interventional radiology.

Nurses can further specialize in the OR.  Amber noted that, “you can specialize in the OR by service line. For instance, things cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics are all specialties… all of which are are challenging in their own way.”

Naturally, your options are dictated by the size of the institution. If it’s a large hospital or a teaching facility, you’ll have more options. If you’re in a smaller rural hospital, you won’t have as many.

When thinking about OR subspecialties like cardiac surgery, orthopedics or neurosurgery, there’s more to consider than the type of population you’ll be serving. You really have to also consider the team you’ll be working with and the flow of the day. Maybe you love orthopedics, but you don’t really mesh into that group of people well… or maybe you like lots of volume and patient turnover rather than longer cases with sicker patients.  

What’s most rewarding about perioperative nursing?

When I asked Amber about the most rewarding aspect (in her opinion) of the perioperative nursing specialty, she responded by saying, “it’s definitely being able to advocate for patients when they are most vulnerable. Their family isn’t there and they can’t advocate for themselves.”

In the perioperative world, patients are sedated for their procedure. Their family members cannot come back and hold their hand mid-procedure and ask questions. The responsibility to comfort, encourage, and advocate falls upon the nurse.

What’s most challenging about perioperative nursing?

When discussing challenges within this specialty, Amber mentioned how different teamwork looks in the perioperative world.

When I think about teamwork while providing patient care, I connect it to my experience.  For me, I’m used to being on a floor or critical care unit in which I call a physician or healthcare team member as needed to discuss issues. However, this is not the case in perioperative nursing.

Teamwork is elbow-to-elbow. Instead of paging a physician with a concern and waiting for a reply, the physician is right there. While that sounds easy and wonderful, some are not used to it.

Amber stated, it’s “different from working in other areas because everyone on the team is working at the same time, rather than coming in and out. This real-time teamwork and collaboration can be challenging for some. You really have to function within that team and play your roles at the time. This means you have to know and understand everyone else’s roles as well. This can be particularly challenging if you enjoy working independently.”

((Cough-ICU nurses-cough-cough))


A typical day for an OR nurse

Amber went over a typical day for an OR nurse with me. One of the first things she mentioned was that the way your day will look really depends the shift/time of day and if you’re scrubbing in or circulating.  

Amber noted that, “the scrub nurse is more focused on instrumentation, planning, and coordination of that while the circulating nurse would be more focused on positioning, equipment, medications, and ensure any issues with implants, tissues, and/or specimens that are needed is addressed.”  Also, depending on your facility, you may or may not be working with surgical technologists.

A typical day as an OR nurse

  • Receive report
  • Receive your assignment for the day
  • Go over the surgery schedule: the charge nurse will communicate any special needs, requests, or changes to the plan that have arisen
  • Begin preparing the operating room
    • You typically have around 30 minutes before you must get a patient in a room
  • Begin planning the day, getting special equipment ready for surgery
  • Ensure rooms are cleaned and ready to go
    • Check important equipment (like suction!)
    • Ensure you have the appropriate instruments for the day
  • Head to pre-op holding to get your patient
  • Receive report from the preoperative nurse, ensure you’ve got consent, and begin building rapport with the patient – they’re about to put their life in your hands
  • Transport to the operating room
  • Assist as needed with anesthesia
  • Begin positioning, skin prep, establishing a sterile field, and monitoring
  • If everyone else is scrubbed in, you’re grabbing anything that’s needed
  • If it’s a surgery requiring multiple surgeons, you’re coordinating that
  • Documenting everything
  • Once surgery is complete, call report to their destination
  • Get them ready to go and transport
  • Clean the room and get ready to start all over again!

Amber says it can sound a lot like a traffic controller because so much is going on at once – and lives are at stake!

Recommendations for people interested in perioperative nursing

Perioperative nursing is a highly specialized field, therefore you really want to ensure it is where you want to be.  

Amber recommends getting as much clinical experience in perioperative areas as possible during nursing school.  Amber, like myself, completed an externship between her junior and senior years of nursing school and spent time in the OR. She said this further solidified her interest in working in a pediatric OR.

But if you must work in another area of the hospital because you can’t get into the perioperative areas, try to stick to surgical areas within the service line you’re interested in.

Another recommendation is to attend a professional development conference, such as the 2018 AORN annual conference.

AORN Conference

If you’re interested in perioperative nursing, I recommend checking out AORN’s Global Surgical Conference & Expo 2018 in New Orleans, LA.

At the conference, you can:

  • learn the latest in best practice with over 200 continuing education units available
    • concurrent sessions
    • on-demand streaming service for sessions you couldn’t get to
    • poster presentations
    • session in the exhibit hall)
  • network with perioperative nurses all over the country
  • take advantage of the largest surgical trade show in the country by visiting the exhibit hall
  • feel energized from all of the fun events and passionate nurses.

A special opportunity for students

AORN is excited to offer nursing students a complimentary* registration to Global Surgical Conference & Expo 2018!

Students from local nursing programs can come for the entire week, or attend AORN Student Nurses Day on Tuesday, March 27th for a special one-day student program. This conference offers nursing students a unique opportunity to learn more about perioperative nursing and take advantage of superior education developed by leading industry experts.

During AORN Student Nurses Day, AORN will offer special activities. In the morning, students will have the opportunity to practice hands-on activities (like proper hand hygiene, gowning and gloving, surgical prepping, and positioning). In the afternoon, AORN will host an exhibit floor session to explore the complexity of surgical products and equipment. Students will be able to interact with vendors, including multiple nurse recruiter booths.Plus, student nurses who attend will receive a free one-year m


If you are at all interested in becoming a perioperative nurse, you must attend this conference! We’ve partnered with AORN to make that a little easier for you.

AORN has generously donated a 5-night hotel stay to one lucky student to enable them to come to the conference!  As mentioned, entry for students is complimentary and with this 5-day hotel stay, you’ll be able to reduce the cost significantly!

Complete the entry form below for a chance to win.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!



Pharmacology Tips for Nursing Students – From a Nurse!

Pharmacology Tips for Nursing Students – From a Nurse!

Pharmacology is challenging in nursing school, but it doesn’t have to destroy your life, soul, and all that you hold dear.  If you take a few steps in organizing yourself before you tackle this class, it will make it easier to learn and recall later down the line.

Pharmacology tips – just for nursing students

The way nursing school approaches teaching pharmacology varies widely, but the subject matter remains the same. There are different pieces of information to know; some require straight memorization and repetition (dosages, names, antidotes), while others require some deeper understanding (like the mechanism of action, applying it to a clinical situation).

Know that while you’re starting to learn pharmacology, it’s not one method that works for all aspects of this course. One must leverage both memorization and deep thinking to fully comprehend all that encompasses medications.  You can’t just take one study tactic and think you can use that to understand each aspect.  The information is just different.  Also, what further complicates things is that different professors teach this process different ways. Therefore, take some time to develop a routine that works for you and carry this method across different courses.



Focus on the mechanism of action

Whatever it takes, learn the mechanism of action inside and out. If how your professor has explained it doesn’t click, find some good videos, podcasts, or other explanations. Understanding this is helps you to predict side effects, adverse reactions, antidotes, and more.  If you understand the mechanism of action, you have a solid understanding of that class of medications, and be able to troubleshoot questions easier.

Here’s an example of a great, free YouTube video of the mechanism of action behind NSAIDs.

Once you think you get it, try to explain it to someone else.  If you don’t have someone to explain it to, explain it to yourself on your phone and listen back to it to see if it makes sense.

Memorize with intention

There is no short cut around a few things like prefixes, suffixes, generic and trade names, and dosages. You can create flashcards with pen and index cards, color-coding along the way… or, you can download an app.  The wonderful things about apps are that you’re saving paper, can change them easily, organize into categories, and use them on the go.

Some examples of (free and not) apps you can get to create your own and use on the go are: 

Whichever method, devote time to memorizing these things and doing flashcard drills. While you’re memorizing, it can be helpful to make up ridiculous things to help jog your memory. For example, beta blockers are funny so they always make me LOL, or ARB’s are what pirates use for their hypertension because they make them go arrrrrr(b)ggg, or lisinopril has a license to always throw an ACE (inhibitor) down in cards … you get the picture! The more ridiculous, the better. I found that if I could connect something to my favorite books/TV shows/movies, I remembered it better.

Check out the MedMaster podcast on NRSNG – it’s a helpful way to reiterate topics on the go.

Click to Listen to the MedMaster Podcast

Spread your study time out

Don’t just try to cram it all the night before – that’s too much to retain at once.  If you know you have a med quiz in 7 days, use today to create your flashcards and your first time going over the mechanism of action. Schedule yourself for one focused hour tomorrow; part of the time diving into the mechanism of action over again, take a 5 minute break, and then spend the rest of the time drilling cards.

During downtime throughout the day (on the bus, in the elevator, waiting for your doctor’s appointment, whatever) go through some more cards. Bonus if they’re on your phone and you don’t have to remember to bring them everywhere.

If you can devote a specific amount of time each day to this, it makes the task much more manageable than trying to understand and remember it all within a day or two.

Save your notes

Medications come up over and over again and may be applicable in multiple courses. You’ll learn about magnesium sulfate in your OB/women’s health course, but see it again in med-surg and/or critical care as well.  Keep track of notes, paper or electronic flashcards, and memory devices.  Even if they’re ridiculous or inappropriate – if it works for you, it works.

And don’t make the mistake of forgetting the awesome memory device you created – make sure you write it down! That way when you go back to studying for another course, you can pick up where you left off rather than trying to think of another way to remember the information. 

NCLEX® tip! Chances are if you get a medication question on the NCLEX, it’ll be the generic name of the medication and not the trade name. Make sure you know these, which can be a bit challenging since they’re typically longer.

Do what works best for you

Pharmacology doesn’t have to suck. Be intentional and organized with your study time. Focus during this time – close your apps, your phone, and focus. Do this for 20-25 minutes at a time, followed by a break.  Repeat for a few hours, then take a long break.

Leverage resources that work for you, not your friends, your classmates, or your instructor – you! That may look like listening to the MedMaster Podcast during your commute, a flashcard app while you’re waiting for class to start, and the Khan Academy free YouTube vides to solidify the mechanism of action… or that may look like the textbook for the mechanism of action, paper flashcards, writing things out, and quizzing yourself.  Figure out your unique recipe for success and stick to it!


Pharmacology resources

There are quite a few different options here from podcasts to blog posts to courses and even a subscription services.

However, my favorite and one with the most bang for your buck is the NRSNG Academy. Their medication resources built into each course, and it’s pharm course, are incredible. You can use it throughout your entire nursing school journey, not just for pharmacology.  Every single module has NCLEX® points, they also have a simulation NCLEX exam, a massive database of NCLEX practice questions in addition to a huge content review in Fundamentals, OB, Peds, Med-Surg, EKG, Cardiac, Pharmacology, Labs, and my favorite… Test Taking.

Click here to try out all of the below courses, question banks, flashcard app, and more for only $1!

More resources


 Oh, and nursing students…




I know I want to be a Nurse Practitioner, but which program do I choose?

I know I want to be a Nurse Practitioner, but which program do I choose?

Hey all – this week’s guest post is by none other than Sean Dent, MSN, ACNP-BC, CCRN! We realize how confusing the whole nurse practitioner world is right now, especially for those of you just beginning nursing school who know you want to eventually become an NP. Check out this post that outlines the options! – Kati

So you want to become a Nurse Practitioner? Nurse Practitioners (NP’s) are in high demand with an exciting job outlook. But what is an NP?

So you want to become a Nurse Practitioner? Nurse Practitioners (NP’s) are in high demand with an exciting job outlook. But what is an NP?

So you want to become a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse Practitioners (NP’s) are in high demand with an exciting job outlook over the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the employment of advanced practice nurses is projected to grow 31% (source).

This difference between the various roles an advanced practice nurse can have, has caused confusion throughout the nursing profession (and the public) when speaking about, referring to, or pursuing a career in this role.

I will attempt to clear the air by breaking things down into manageable parts. This post is not all-inclusive but should help you define important terms, concepts and ideas when choosing a career as a nurse practitioner. I’ve also included a mind map that helps clarify some of the questions you will encounter. And keep your head up – this is a really confusing topic, even to experienced nurses. The way NP’s are being educated is continuing to evolve as well.

An NP is a registered nurse who possesses an advanced nursing degree in a specific area providing clinical expertise to patients by diagnosing and treating illnesses (source). They coordinate health care services autonomously and collaboratively with physicians and other healthcare professionals.

Different kinds of nurse practitioners – what do all those letters mean?

NP’s have differing nomenclature (acronyms) depending on their given area of expertise and in which state they practice.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of the many acronyms NP’s can have:

  • NP = Nurse Practitioner
  • APRN = Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
  • CRNP = Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner
  • CPNP = Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • NNP = Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • FNP = Family Nurse Practitioner
  • AG = Adult-Gerontology
  • BC = Board-Certified

For example, I’m an ACNP-BC which means I am an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner who is Board Certified.

Important questions to answer

When picking a program, there’s a few important questions you must answer. This may take some soul-searching and doesn’t always come to a definitive conclusion – and that’s okay! It’s important to figure out these answers and take time now to pick the right program instead of jumping in and later figuring out you’re in the wrong one.

What patient population do you want to focus on?

Do you want to work with kids, entire families, adults-only, or neonatal infants? This is arguably the most important question to answer.

This is an important distinction:

  • Family (Primary Care) = all patients of all ages across the lifespan (FNP)
  • Adult = only adult aged patients

Additional specializations options include:

  • Pediatric
  • Neonatal
  • Gerontological
  • Psychiatric
  • Women’s
  • Oncology
  • Emergency care
  • Midwifery

Keep in mind, not all schools offer all specializations. You may need to look around at different schools to see what’s offered to find the specialization you’d like.

We’ve even created this amazing and super handy download that covers all the important questions you must answer before picking a program.

What clinical setting do you mainly want to work in?

Do you want to work in the outpatient environment, seeing patients in a clinic… or would you rather work on the inpatient side of things and treat patients while their in the hospital? Another way to view this is their level of acuity – how sick are they right now? Is it an acute or chronic illness? Is this an acute event?

I use the term “mainly” because while you can pick where you’d prefer to work most of the time, it is possible for these areas to co-exist.

The answer to this question will help you decide on a subspecialty. A subspecialty requires additional training and education with certification. Examples of these include:

  • Acute Care
  • Emergency
  • Neurology

This is further complicated by having these two areas crossover. You can possess both specialty and subspecialty certifications. In some cases you can attain both during a single academic pursuit, while in other cases you have to return for a post-degree certification (yes it’s very confusing). And unfortunately this can vary greatly by state and institution.

As an example, I am an Adult Nurse Practitioner with an Acute Care certification. I care for the acutely ill (in-patient higher acuity) adult-aged patient population. Therefore I cannot legally care for the pediatric or neonatal aged patient regardless of their level of acuity.

There are variations of this care model. You can modify your place of employment based on the acuity and patient age. As an acute care certified NP I can care for the acutely ill in any type setting, this includes specialty offices (which is technically an outpatient setting). Once again, it’s all very confusing and there is not a singular set standard of direction. The free mind map we’ve included also can help bring some clarity to this confusing process.

So after you decide where you want to practice and what patient population you want to care for, the next big decision is what type of degree program to pursue?

We answer this question in the next blog post, which will be on our new site,!

Welcome to FreshNP!

So you want to become a Nurse Practitioner? Nurse Practitioners (NP’s) are in high demand with an exciting job outlook. But what is an NP?

We are creating a website – – and podcast specifically for nurses who want to become a nurse practitioner! From getting into NP school to picking a program, to transitioning to practice, we will cover all of the burning questions, concerns, and needs of prospective and current nurse practitioners.

I, Sean, will be the head writer and content creator. Kati Kleber, BSN, RN, CCRN with 7 years of nursing experience will be the voice of the interested nurse, posing questions to myself and interviewing NP’s from other specialties.

Our goal is to grow new NP’s – stay tuned!

For more info on how to become a nurse practitioner check out:

So you want to become a Nurse Practitioner?  Nurse Practitioners (NP’s) are in high demand with an exciting job outlook. But what is an NP?

MedMaster from NRSNG

NP School and Beyond: Tips For The Student Nurse PractitionerNP School and Beyond: Tips For The Student Nurse PractitionerNurse Practitioner's Business Practice And Legal GuideNurse Practitioner’s Business Practice And Legal GuideNurse Practitioner Wood Sign with Personalized NameboardNurse Practitioner Wood Sign with Personalized Nameboard


Master of Science in Nursing: Choosing a Program for Success

Master of Science in Nursing: Choosing a Program for Success

This guest post is for anyone who may be considering a master of science in nursing program, but doesn’t have anyone to refer to for advice.

This guest post is for anyone who may be considering a master of science in nursing program, but doesn’t have anyone to refer to for advice.

Few nurses hold a master of science in nursing degree, so finding someone to discuss graduate nursing education with can be challenging. Even for myself, I remember many of my questions went unanswered when I first began to consider graduate school, as I knew no one who had pursued that level of education. In the end, I was able to navigate courses and deadlines on my own that first year of graduate studies, but I truly feel that I would’ve benefited from some guidance beforehand. Learning from this experience, I hope to share some of my knowledge with you, the FreshRN reader who may be considering a master program, but doesn’t have anyone to refer to for advice.

Master of Science in Nursing: Choosing a Program for Success

Now, whether you just decided graduate studies interested you 5 minutes ago when you saw this post, or have been contemplating a return to school for decades, I assure you that nothing is more important in this process than taking your time in choosing a master of nursing program. Since requirements to earn a master degree vary greatly between colleges, you must consider how the unique features of each program will impact your life today, and in the future.

To help you in this selection process, I want to outline in this post what I consider to be the top three most important differences between master of nursing programs:

  • Course or Thesis Based
  • Online or Brick-and Mortar
  • Full or Part time

Though these options may seem straight forward, each choice has unique consequences that can hurt or help you on the road to academic nursing success.

Course or Thesis Based?

Choosing between course or thesis work is basically deciding between lots of little projects, or doing one big project. Although variations exist, most master of science in nursing programs offer one year of general course work followed by either another year of courses or a thesis. During your thesis, you will not attend class, but work closely with a faculty member on a research project, and then write a substantial report on the work you did.

A common misconception about thesis work is that only students who want to go onto doctoral work do such in-depth research. I would say this is not true because there are many nursing research positions that only require a master degree, and thesis work would be great preparation for these jobs!



In my opinion, your final decision to become a course or thesis work student should be based on two components. First, you must be okay with writing and problem-solving independently to write a thesis. Realistically, you may only see your supervising faculty member a couple times a month, so you need to be productive between these meetings to finish the project. Second, you need to look at what will be the content of either the courses or thesis project you will undertake, and determine if this interests you. Because honestly, graduate work will be long and difficult if you hate it.

Online or Brick-and-Mortar?

Recently, online master of science in nursing programs have become really popular, and more nurses than ever before are enrolled in online graduate courses. Wondering what the benefits of online learning were, I took a peek at the research and found that graduate nursing students of online programs report less stress related to family and work thanks to the flexibility in their studies. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar students feel their in-person courses provide them with better accommodation for their unique learning styles, and closer relationships with other students.

In my experience, brick-and-mortar programs hold their value for students interested in future careers in nursing education and research, but are not already connected with anyone in those fields. For example, being on campus can provide you with opportunities to teach undergraduate students, assist in faculty research projects, and network routinely with experts in your research field of interest.

For nurses in remote places, you may feel you have no option other than to pursue online education. If true, I would still ‘shop’ around the numerous online programs available to you looking for colleges that have both easy-to-access technical support, and forums to contact other online students and faculty outside of the classroom.

Womens Relax I Have A Master's Degree Graduation Ceremony T-Shirt XL BlackWomens Relax I Have A Master’s Degree Graduation Ceremony T-Shirt XL Black

Full or Part Time?

Depending on who you speak to, the choice to be a full or part time graduate student can be a controversial subject. I have heard some faculty encourage students to take the program at their own pace, and adjust course timelines to suit their personal life. Yet, I have also heard different faculty state, “Get the program done in case life circumstances stop you from finishing”. Even research on this subject is mixed, with students enjoying part time course loads more, but then taking a greater number of education leaves related to caregiving of children or elderly parents.

In my case, the decision to be full or part time boiled down to one question:

Do I have the funds for full-time education?

Graduate school is a ‘catch 22’ situation where the less you work, the more time you have for school. But at the same time, the more you go to school, the less money you have to fund your education. In the end, I did have to get a student line of credit to begin my graduate studies full time. But if you have a mortgage or other debts then part time schooling may be the most financially responsible option.

Another factor to consider when choosing full or part time studies is the amount of time that has passed since your undergraduate education.

If working now:

  • Part time studies are a good way to slowly get back into the groove of academia.
    • Especially if you haven’t written a paper since undergraduate!
  • Full time studies are awesome if you need to take a break from the clinical setting, and decompress from years of practice. I know that may seem strange, as graduate studies can definitely be stressful. But trust me, they can be very therapeutic too.

If in undergraduate now:

  • Part time studies are ideal for many new nursing graduates, as you can get some clinical experience while not falling out of practice with schoolwork. Also, some employers may be hesitant to hire you if pursing full time master studies, as they need a nurse flexible to work.
  • Full time studies are ideal if you are driven to do research. With a master and doctoral degree combined taking over seven years to complete full time, your likely right to just get started!

With all this new information in mind, I leave you with my opinion that no master of nursing program is better than another, and that your decision to enter a graduate nursing program should not be based on the academic prestige of the school. Instead, choosing a graduate nursing program should be driven by your personal characteristics, life circumstances, commitments, and career aspirations. The disadvantages and benefits of different graduate nursing programs discussed in this post are only meant to act as stepping stone in your ultimate decision of choosing a master of nursing program.

This guest post is for anyone who may be considering a master of science in nursing program, but doesn’t have anyone to refer to for advice. About the Author: Crystal McLeod is a master of nursing education student, in her final year, at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. McLeod’s research interests include continuing education for rural nurses, intergenerational conflict in the clinical setting, Indigenous health, and childhood disease. Before embarking on graduate education, McLeod worked for several years as an emergency and obstetrical nurse in rural southwestern Ontario.


Preparing for the NCLEX – 4 Tips from a Nurse

Preparing for the NCLEX – 4 Tips from a Nurse

Preparing for the NCLEX is a daunting task. I took the NCLEX back in 2010 and passed in 75 questions in 1 hr and 20 minutes. I’m not a great test-taker and wasn’t a 4.0 student.  I did, however, do what I outline in this post. I wanted to share my thoughts with you in hopes that it’ll help you in preparing for the NCLEX so you don’t feel like you’re guessing at a good approach in both studying and mental preparedness.  You don’t have to be an A+ student to pass, but there are some important practical steps to take that can make a big difference in whether you pass or fail.  Below are my 4 practical tips for preparing for the NCLEX.

7.5-minute video on preparing for the NCLEX

If you don’t feel like reading, here’s a short video of these tips!

Alright here are the tips I go over in the video, but in more depth!

1. Don’t fixate on 75

A lot of people will get a mental goal of passing in the minimum required (75 questions). However, if you fixate on that and anticipate it shutting off at 75 questions (and therefore consider yourself a failure if it doesn’t) it’ll psych you out unnecessarily.  I’ve never had a patient, loved one, colleague, or… well, anyone ask me how many times I’ve taken the NCLEX, let alone how many questions I answered.

Let go of the desire to live or die by 75

Man, that was pretty poetic wasn’t it 🙂

2. Know how it’s structured

The NCLEX is NOT like other exams. It is a computer adaptive test. What’s that, you ask?  Basically, the first question you are given is of medium difficulty.  If you answer it correctly, you’ll be given a more difficult question. If you answer it wrong, you’ll get an easier question. They will keep asking you questions until they can definitively decide if you are above their predetermined passing standard. The NCLEX does shut off if it determines that you will not be above the passing standard as well.

Here is really informative link on computer adaptive testing from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (yes, the people who write the NCLEX!). And here is a great 6-minute video explaining computer adaptive testing from the NCSBN as well.  Please, please watch this! (I promise it’s not a workout video…)

3. Pick a plan and stick to it

There are a lot of NCLEX review options out there. Whatever you pick, develop a study plan and stick to it. You must be disciplined right now; it is not the time to kick back, do a few practice questions, read a few pages of an old text book, and give it a try. Be active and intentional with your studying. Do not be passive and relaxed.  Focus.


I took Kaplan’s in-person review course in 2010, and answered 25 questions each day (6 days/week) up until I tested 1.5 months later.

There are many companies that you can purchase NCLEX reviews from. Which ever company you go with, I recommend sticking to their information and not overwhelming yourself by cross referencing everything with the 400 textbooks you acquired during nursing school. If you get the NRSNG Academy, stick to those resources and only cross-reference when needed, not with every point. If you get the Kaplan course, stick to the book they provide to you.

Let’s dive deeper into NCLEX reviews…

NCLEX review options and considerations

There is quite a bit to consider when you’re picking out which NCLEX review material you’ll focus on. Let’s chat specifically about types, considerations, and the top options out there.

Types of NCLEX reviews

In-person review (you physically go there), online-review (similar to an online course), written materials (a self-guided book), content review (access to online or print reference material in various media formats), apps (reference material provided in a smartphone application), and the most important aspect.. NCLEX-style question banks.

You MUST get a course with a question bank. No questions asked…


Seriously. Don’t buy a course or resource without one.  The key to success is answering practice questions on a regular basis until you test. Period.

Things to consider when selecting an NCLEX review course

Below are some good questions to ask yourself as you select a review plan.  The questions marked with * are of particular importance!

  1. Do you get your money back if you don’t pass?
  2. *How many questions are in the question bank?
  3. *Do the questions provide rationales?
  4. Can you afford it?
  5. Does their teaching method align with your learning style?
  6. Do they have an option to use their content on mobile?
    • Pro-tip: answering questions on your phone while you’re waiting on a bus, in line at the store, or whatever, is a great way to sneak questions in
  7. Do the provide you with a simulation NCLEX? 
  8. Can I try it out before I buy it?
  9. *Do they also provide test-taking strategies?
  10. Do I know anyone who has used it before? What’d they think?

Different companies

Kaplan, Hurst, and ATI are the big company ones.  They provide similar materials and options, and their prices aren’t terribly different from one another. I took Kaplan as a new graduate in 2010. They provided test-taking skills (essential), a question bank, in person course, textbook, and a pass guarantee.

If you just want the Kaplan content book (which I thought was pretty good), here is an Amazon link:

NCLEX Mastery is a smart phone app.  I personally haven’t used it and not sure of others who have, but it’s got a ton of reviews!

NRSNG / NRSNG Academy is a question bank, large content review, simulation NCLEX, audio files, case studies, image database, and more. You can also get a 7 day trial for just $1.

(Full disclosure, I taught the mental health and OB courses, but I love all of our resources and the thought that goes on behind the scenes… and that they all come from nurses, not big companies!)

4. Bring down your anxiety threshold

The NCLEX is a big deal and creates anxiety in even the calmest of individuals. Spoiler alert: we’re all nervous about the NCLEX, some are just better at pretending than others. Even if you don’t struggle with anxiety, this test will make you worry and anxious. The last 2-4 years culminating into one big scary exam is no fun.  However, there are some active steps you can take to get control of it.

Know what to expect on NCLEX exam day

The more unknowns you can remove from the day, the better. Check out this great resource from the NCSBN (again, the people who wrote the NCLEX!) about what to expect when you go to take your exam.  They go over things like what to bring, what not to bring, acceptable forms of ID, breaks, and more. Click here to check it out. 

Naturally, security and identification is a big deal at NCLEX testing sites. Therefore, they have very strict rules that you must follow. You don’t want to get there unprepared and unable to test.

Plan out your NCLEX exam day

Once you know where and when you’ll be testing, start planning. If you test at 8:00 am in a city that’s 2 hours away, consider that travel time.  Do you have to worry about driving and traffic?  Do you know where you’re going?  The more structured you can be and the more predictable the day is, the better. Maybe you’ll want to get a hotel nearby so you don’t have to stress in the morning about the unknowns.  I tested at 1:00 pm in a city about 2 hours away. My husband drove me, we went really early and grabbed lunch nearby, and was at the testing center about 45 minutes early.  I walked in… and right back out about 1 hr and 20 minutes later!

Figure out where you will go, when, where you’ll park, and any other little details.

Meditate the week before / become a Yogi bear

I know this sounds odd you guys, but it works. If you can meditate for 15-20 minutes twice a day for at least a week before the exam, you can help reduce your anxiety threshold and get yourself in a better frame of mind. Yoga and meditation are a great combo… especially after you sit and stare at a computer for longer periods of time, answering practice test questions.

(If you have medical conditions, please make sure you check with your doc.. however, these are really light exercises and more about mindfulness, so they theoretically should be appropriate for most individuals.)

Here is a great video where you can do this in the privacy of your home, for free.

Trust your plan

Once you’ve read what you need to, planned out your studying and NCLEX exam day schedule – trust in that. Don’t try to over-control it all.  Stick to your plan, be active in anxiety prevention and studying, and trust yourself.  You’ve got this.

More resources

There are a ton of resources out there.  Some great, some… not so much. In my personal experience, one of my favorites and most cost-effective options is the NRSNG Academy.  Every single module has NCLEX® points, they also have a simulation NCLEX exam, a massive database of NCLEX practice questions in addition to a huge content review in Fundamentals, OB, Peds, Med-Surg, EKG, Cardiac, Pharmacology, Labs, and my favorite… Test Taking.

Click here to try out all of the below courses, question banks, flashcard app, and more for only $1!

And, here are some more to check out that were all written by nurses!

And here are some great NCLEX related books!


What was your NCLEX experience?

Talk to me. Tell me what it was like… how’d you study? What were you nervous about? What was your plan, and did it work?

Master of Science in Nursing: Trying Out FlexPath Online Learning

Master of Science in Nursing: Trying Out FlexPath Online Learning

This post on the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) FlexPath program is sponsored by and crafted with Capella University; however, all opinions are my own.

At the beginning of last year Capella University launched a new learning format for their RN-to-BSN program they describe as self-paced called FlexPath. Being a self-starter that style of learning was very intriguing to me, but since I already had my BSN, it wasn’t really applicable to me. However, Capella has just announced their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) FlexPath program*! Capella’s MSN FlexPath program is the first of its kind.  No other university offers an MSN with this type of groundbreaking learning format. Since I am interested in obtaining my MSN with a focus on Nursing Education, I really wanted to learn more about what obtaining a self-paced online degree would actually look like.

Capella allows anyone to try out this format with a FREE FlexPath trial course. So… I tried a course! I wrote this post so you could see my genuine thoughts as I checked out this new style of online learning. It’s important to me to be able to get an idea of what something like this would be like before taking the big plunge into an MSN program.

I am intrigued by FlexPath because my schedule fluctuates quite a bit, so committing to a normal college course timeline and pre-set due dates isn’t really an option for me at this point in my life. I have periods of time where I can get a lot done, but others where I am very busy and probably couldn’t meet the deadlines of a more traditional online format.

I haven’t taken a full online course since 2007 and my experience at previous institutions was less than awesome. The structure of the course made it difficult to find due dates, communications, and documents. Oh, 2007… I was probably waiting in line for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to come out while I was looking at prices for Blu-ray discs to replace my DVD’s on my Blackberry, and missed a discussion post. Typical.


What is FlexPath?

For those of you who are not familiar with Capella’s FlexPath learning format, it is a different way to obtain your degree than the typical online experience. Here are the big benefits FlexPath offers that you won’t get in a more traditional online format.

  1. A new level of flexibility – With this 100% competency-based program, you can set your own deadlines and there are no discussion posts, so whether you finish a course in 2 weeks or 12, it is up to you. You dictate your pace (if you have more time and want to be more aggressive with your deadlines, or have a lot going on and need more time). Once you are done, you move on to the next course without waiting.
  2. Different cost structure – with FlexPath you pay per 12-week billing session, not per credit hour. And with the self-paced structure, you complete as many courses per session as you can, for one flat tuition fee** (which enables me to budget better) for that period of time. Therefore, the faster you progress, the more you save. For example, pace your MSN faster to graduate in 1 year at under $10,000. For a more moderate pace, finish in 2 years at under $19,500.
  3. Your experience matters – There’s nothing I appreciate more than when my existing knowledge is considered. I’m not completing unnecessary assignments that are not beneficial to my specific needs. Every nurse going into an MSN program brings different skills sets and experience to the table, and I like that my unique experience matters as I progress my education. It also means I’m not using my valuable time to do something I already know how to do.
  4. Different levels of support – In any online program, occasionally you have clarifying questions for the professor, but sometimes you just need some pointers, minor clarification, or technical help. I hated sending an email to my professor about something minor (but important) and waiting 4 days to get a response because they were so overloaded with similar messages and tasks. I like that there’s someone specifically for logistic help (FlexPath coach), someone for content assistance (FlexPath tutor), and then my professor. They also have additional resources like a writing center, career center, librarians, and so forth.


Exploring FlexPath Course Structure

This was set up much better than my previous courses. But that’s not terribly shocking since it’s been almost 10 years (gasp!) since I’ve taken one.

The trial course shows you what a real courseroom would look like. You’ve got navigation on the left side with links to your progress within the course, required assessments (essentially your major assignments), the syllabus, notifications, and tools. It looks like you spend most of your time under the assessments tab, which is where your assignment-specific information is located.

Here is a screenshot of the trial course home screen:

An unexpected surprise was the classroom’s ease of use and the intuitiveness of the online platform:

  • When you click on links or buttons, it opens a new tab. I know that’s a small thing, but when you’re doing this a lot, it makes a big difference to have necessary pages or documents in their own tab.
  • The scoring guide is really obvious. I can easily tell what is expected of me.
  • The syllabus is part of the navigation. This means I can quickly access it and am incapable of losing it. (Score!)
  • When I need to look up a resource from a journal or database, it’s within the dashboard. This subtle feature makes things substantially more convenient because I don’t have to log into another website to get what I need.
  • You can chat online with a librarian during specific hours. Guys. I hate the phone… like, with a passion. The ability to do an online chat when I need help compiling resources (which I needed many times during my undergrad) is simply magnificent.

Setting Your Deadlines

We chatted a bit about setting deadlines, but I wanted to show what that actually looked like. Remember, you read your assessment and then you decide how long you think it will take you? Here’s what it looks like when you set your deadline:


Submitting a FlexPath Assessment

For each assessment, you are given an overview of the requirements and what success looks like. It reminds me of the prompt for a paper. How many of us have Googled our assignment just to get an idea of what the professor was talking about?


Writing a paper? Compiling APA resources? Discussing my knowledge? No 50 question timed exam over 400 pages of material? No test anxiety?

I think assessments are my new love language.

After you get your mind around what’s expected, you then set your target completion date. If you’ve got questions, there are links to connect with a facilitator, tutor, or instructor. No, not sending emails back and forth, thank gosh… my inbox is already fuller than the trashcan outside of an isolation room.

They also provide a scoring guide, which again, is really helpful. I’ve written some papers but not been aware of how I was actually going to be graded.

I wrote my trial course assessment and uploaded it per the instructions. It stated that I would have facilitator feedback within 2 business days. I received my feedback and a grade about 2 business days later. There was an entire page-long written response to my assessment, followed by a grade… which was kind of cool to see, even though it was just a trial course.

What Everyone Cares About Most – How You’re Graded

Writing is my personal strength, not taking tests. I’m what you’d call a poor test-taker. I’m a terrified tester. Tumultuous test-taker. Turbulently tearing tests…. Okay I’ll stop now.

I’m bad at tests.

Even things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt… I doubt under pressure. (You pull out your calculator on your phone for 8+6 too? Great.) I would much rather leverage resources and synthesize my thoughts into an authentic assessment based off of my timeline versus taking an exam to demonstrate my knowledge.  I think that’s a much more effective way to learn because I’m showing that I really have mastered a concept and haven’t simply memorized facts for a test. I’m leveraging my resources available to me to come up with an appropriate response… sound familiar? It reminds me of when I’m working at the bedside, utilizing what I have at my fingertips (policies, procedures, medication references, other member of the healthcare team, online databases, and quite a few more things) to deliver the best care possible to my patients.

Here’s a little more in-depth about how learning is assessed:

After really diving into the trial course, I feel like this is a step up from the regular online learning options out there in terms of personalization and accountability. So if you are motivated, focused and self-directed, this would be a great fit for you. However, if you need more structure, FlexPath may not be the best option. But don’t worry, Capella also offers the MSN in their more structured online format: GuidedPath, so you have options.

When I was fresh out of high school, this probably wouldn’t have been ideal for me because the transition from high school to college was a steep academic learning curve for me. But now, this learning format is ideal for my learning style.

My Final Thoughts on the Master of Science in Nursing FlexPath Option

I was pretty blown away at FlexPath after trying the trial course. I have been putting off getting my MSN because I simply haven’t had the time and was overwhelmed at the simple thought of the pre-set deadlines. However, after really jumping in and seeing what it would practically be like, I’m ready to take the plunge. I’ve actually decided to go ahead and begin my MSN with a focus in nursing education in the next coming months at Capella through the FlexPath format.


Try FlexPath For Free

If you would like to try out the FlexPath trial course at Capella for free like I did, click here.

Capella has both an RN-to-BSN FlexPath option and MSN FlexPath option.

If you’d rather do more of a traditional-style of online learning, there is always Capella University’s GuidePath option. This option includes due dates set by the instructor, discussions, and/or other assignments.

Also keep in mind that the BSN, MSN, and DNP degree programs at Capella University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Have you taken any FlexPath courses? What did you think?


* This offering is currently not approved for federal financial aid by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

**Books, supplies, and other fees may apply.

See graduation rates, median student debt and other information at



Curious about Nursing Informatics?

Curious about Nursing Informatics?

This post has been sponsored by Alvernia University.

Please see my disclaimers page for more information on our partnership.

What is Nursing informatics and how do you get a start in this exciting field? If you enjoy the science of nursing, you may love Nursing Informatics.

New nurses enjoy a model of care that provides increased quality, safety and efficiency, thanks to The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Gone are the paper charts; we practice in an era of electronic health records and electronic prescriptions. (Thank gosh, says this nurse!)

Nursing Informatics

Healthcare is managed, used and shared in a whole new way. In order to properly support these developments, and to continue increasing the quality of patient care, new specialized nursing roles are needed.

What is Nursing Informatics?

Nursing informatics are defined as the “specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information management and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice,” according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

Imagine combining your nursing science with computer science and information science to communicate and manage data. This allows us to advance healthcare, provide high levels of patient care and develop more efficient processes.

Several areas of nursing practice can benefit from the use of nursing informatics. Clinically, this could include technologies and monitoring devices that take measurements and place them directly into a patient’s medical record. Informatics brings solutions like electronic health records, automatic billing and computer-generated client documentation. For nursing administration, this may include cost analysis, quality assurance, communication solutions, and even automatic staff scheduling.

The Role of an Informatics Nurse

Job Description

According to Cheryl Parker, chief nursing informatics officer at PatientSafe Solutions in Dallas, Texas, “Informatics nurses of all levels practice at the intersection of technology and clinical practice,” in HIMSS.

Informatics nurses working at a healthcare facility may be involved in evaluating and selecting the technology; determining end-user requirements and customizing functionality; and designing and delivering training.”

In general, a nursing informatics job will incorporate information technology into clinical environments, such as medical facilities, doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. The nurse will select, customize and offer training on the new technological solutions – and then evaluate and research the effectiveness of same. This will include the development of security and storage methods, training other nurses and managing the medical data.

I’m a little bit of a computer geek. I love it when software is updated, making our job at the bedside easier. I’m frequently looking for faster ways to document, or ways to leverage the latest technology to provide better patient care.  While the informatics nurse isn’t at the bedside, they’re the ones facilitating these changes, updates, training and so forth, behind the scenes.

Educational Requirements and Qualifications

If you’d like to enter the nursing informatics field, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree as well as clinical experience. Many healthcare employers and hospitals are now requiring all registered nurses have a bachelor’s degree.

“All informatics nurses are registered nurses with a clinical background, which is critical to understanding the workflow of clinical nurses as well as the working environment of the various care settings,” said Parker. Over 75% of respondents in the HIMSS 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Study entered the specialty with at least six years of clinical experience. Critical care and medical-surgical nursing were the most common backgrounds, totaling 82% of respondents. Nursing informatics offers additional advancement opportunities with continued education.

To further define the roles, the American Nurses Association’s Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practices explains the difference between an informatics nurse and informatics nurse specialists.  They state that an informatics nurse is “a generalist who has informatics experience but does not have graduate level of education on the subject,” and an informatics nurse specialist has been “formally prepared at the graduate level in informatics or a related field.” Each type of nurse is included in the 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, where almost 2/3 of all respondents had at least a master’s degree education.

Pursuing a Career in Nursing Informatics

The Introduction to Healthcare Informatics course offered at Alvernia University provides a strong foundation in this specialty. Alvernia’s online RN to BSN degree Completion Program prepares students for management-level positions and other nursing specialties, such as nursing informatics. The program offers a convenient and flexible online learning environment, accommodating the personal and work schedules of students. Alvernia also offers a Post-Master’s online DNP Clinical Leadership Program. For more information on nursing informatics, check out What is Nursing Informatics.

A Complete Guide to Nursing Credentials and Degrees

A Complete Guide to Nursing Credentials and Degrees

This post has been sponsored by Alvernia University.

Please see my disclaimers page for more information on our partnership.

Congratulations! You’re an RN or an LPN. However a nurses education never truly ends, and you may desire to pursue learning for new nursing credentials.

Congratulations! At long last you have achieved your goal – you’re an RN or an LPN. But there is so much more out there. A nurses education never truly ends, and once you’ve decided on your specialty, you may desire to pursue learning for new nursing credentials, or even an additional degree. To help you, as well as other professionals understand them all, we offer this clarification.

Nursing Credentials

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association, has created a standard to help understand the significance and the value of nursing credentials. Their preferred order for the letters that follow a nurse’s name is as follows:

  • Highest Degree Earned. Educational degrees may be associate degrees (AD, ADN), bachelor’s degrees (BS, BSN, BA), master’s degrees (MSN, MS, MA) and doctoral degrees (PhD, DrPH, DNS, EdD, DNP).
  • Credentials include registered nurse (RN) and licensed practical nurse (LPN).
  • Individual State Requirements or Designations. These identify that a nurse practices at a more advanced level. Credentials may include advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), nurse practitioner (NP) and clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
  • National Certifications. These are earned through certifying bodies (such as the ANCC), and may include registered nurse, board certified (RN-BC) and family nurse practitioner, board certified (FNP-BC).
  • Honors and Awards. These are distinctions for outstanding nursing achievements, including FAAN (Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing) and FCCM (Fellow of Critical Care Medicine).
  • Other Recognitions. These may include certifications that denote skill levels (non-nursing) such as EMT-Basic/EMT, which is awarded by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, and BELS (Board-Certified Editor for the Life Sciences).

There may be more than one type of the same nursing credentials, so you may list them either in the order in which they were obtained, or in order of relevance to your particular practice. When listing your multiple degrees, begin with your highest or most relevant first.

Nursing Degrees

  • Associate Degree. You may receive an associate nursing degree in two years, the fastest method of becoming an RN.  Some employers may now require a bachelor’s degree in nursing, so the associate degree nurse may have to pursue higher education. (The Associate Degree in Nursing is the most common at this level).
  • Bachelor’s Degree. You may receive a bachelor’s nursing degree in four years. As associate degree nurse may choose to enter a bridge program (RN to BSN) to complete the bachelor’s in two years while continuing to work.  Earning your bachelor’s degree helps you achieve continuing education requirements at work, improve your salary and offer career advancement. Often, leadership roles and nursing specialties will require a bachelor’s degree. (The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the most common program at this level.)
  • Master’s Degree. You may receive a master’s nursing degree after two additional years of graduate study. A nurse desiring a management position or an advanced specialty may benefit from, or be required to attain, this degree.  For example, a nurse wishing to achieve family nurse practitioner or certified nurse anesthetist is required to have a master’s degree.  (The Master of Science in Nursing is the most common program at this level).
  • Doctoral Degree. You may receive a doctoral degree with an additional four to six years of study.  While several doctoral programs are available, two are most common. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is research driven and is most appropriate for a nurse researcher/scientist or nurse faculty position.  The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is best suited for positions of leadership in nursing practice or management positions.

Licensure Credentials

  • A diploma or certificate is required to become a licensed practical nurse; this takes one to two years. Working under the supervision of doctors or registered nurses, an LPN may administer basic medical care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median wage for LPNs is $43,170, and the field is expected to increase 16 percent by the year 2024.
  • To become a registered nurse, you must earn at least an associate degree, however, the standard minimum educational requirement is expected to become a bachelor’s degree.  An RN may choose one of many specialties and will be involved in all aspects of patient care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median wage for RNs is $67,490, and this field is also expected to increase 16 percent by the year 2024.

Advancing Nursing Education

Alvernia University has an online RN to BSN Completion Program as well as a Post-Master’s online DNP Clinical Leadership Program that may be perfect for furthering your education. For more information on nursing credentials, check out Alphabet Soup: A Guide to Nursing Credentials and Degrees.

5 questions you should ask yourself when looking at nursing graduate programs

5 questions you should ask yourself when looking at nursing graduate programs

This post has been sponsored by Capella University.

Please see my disclaimers page for more information on our partnership.

nursing graduate programs

Continuing your nursing education is an exciting time. Making that decision is a big deal! Congrats! However, a lot of thought should go into which school and program you choose. Deciding you want an MSN, applying to a few schools, and then going with whoever accepts you first could cause you to spend thousands of dollars unnecessarily and leave you with a degree that does not enable you to do what you ultimately want to do.

Here are five important questions to answer before applying to nursing graduate school programs.

1. What do you ultimately want to do?

This may sound simple, but it is a bit complex. Think about what you’re passionate about and how can you pursue it so your path is as direct as possible. Think about what that job would look like practically and that the demands and schedule are sustainable. If you want to be an acute care nurse practitioner, but you don’t want to work weekends and holidays, you may want to do some research about what positions fit that schedule. Or if you are really interested in teaching, would a DNP be best for you… or should you look at a PhD? Define what you’re passionate about and decide which program would best enable you to purse that.

2. Do you want to go to school online, on-campus, or a hybrid program?

Online is a wonderful option – if that works for you. If it doesn’t work for you, location would be a major factor. Figure out what will work best for you, and no one else. If your BFF is doing an online program, but you always did poorly in your undergraduate online degree and truly need to be in a classroom – be in a classroom! There’s no shame in your schooling game! Set yourself up for success! I personally would prefer an online program, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to learn. Hybrid programs combine in-class and online teaching methods.

3. What’s the school’s reputation and accreditation situation?

It’s important to know if the program you’re looking at is accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process where a school’s faculty and leaders demonstrate that they meet specific quality standards. It may be important to future employers and to schools you may be interested in attending in future degrees.
Also, check out the professors on the school’s website. What are their passions? What is their focus? Does it align with yours?

4. How much will it realistically cost?

Figure in all of the costs when you’re looking at the financial aspect. Include tuition, fees, as well as a high estimate for textbooks each semester. Thoroughly research discounts through employers, professional nursing organizations, and other avenues. Check out scholarships – there are a lot out there! Also, don’t forget to figure in any application costs!

5. What are the requirements for acceptance?

Some schools require the GRE (a very common graduate school entrance exam) and some do not. If the school you’re interested in requires an entrance exam, make sure you figure that into your costs and timeline. Other commonly required items for admission include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school (and transcripts!), minimum GPA, verification of your RN license, and possibly an application fee.

Other potential requirements can include immunization requirements, interviews, essays, letter(s) of recommendations, CPR certification, drug screens and background checks. International students may have additional requirements.

I hope this list has been helpful to you! A perfectly matched graduate student and graduate school is a beautiful thing.

If you loved this list of questions and are pining for more, check out my newest book! It is ALL about nursing professional development! It is called What’s Next? The Smart Nurse’s Guide to Your Dream Job. It’s available on the American Nurse’s Association Publications page and Amazon. (Psst – there’s a discount for ANA members if you buy it on their website!)

And as many of you know, I’m a Capella fangirl and they are a wonderful graduate school option. Here’s some information about their Empowering Nurses scholarship.

See graduation rates, median student debt, and other information at


Nursing as a Second Career, Bring Life Experience to Nursing Profession

Nursing as a Second Career, Bring Life Experience to Nursing Profession

This is a guest post. 

All opinions in this post are that of the guest author and not those of his employer.

Nursing as a Second Career, Bring Life Experience to Nursing Profession

One of the first questions I get asked by people who find out I changed careers to become a nurse is, “What did you do before?” When I tell them I was a journalist, among other things, they think I’m crazy to go into nursing. Long story short, I was burned out. I didn’t feel like I was making a difference and it was time for a change.

Nursing as a Second Career, Bring Life Experience to Nursing Profession

When I made the decision to change careers (my wife suggested nursing), I was fortunate in that some of the credits from my previous degree transferred. I did, however, spend more than a year taking per-requisite science courses at community college before transferring to Radford University as a junior. Typically, if you have a previous degree within 10 years, universities will transfer most, if not all of your previous credits. For me, it had been 17 years, so they transferred all the non-science courses.

And that brings us to the topic of the day – what is it like going into nursing as a second career? The answer, of course, isn’t one-size-fit-all. Every second career nurse’s experience will be different, but I’ll share mine and hope that it helps those considering a second career.

If you are considering nursing as a second career, I believe you need to fully understand what is involved. Yes, the pay is generally good, but you will earn every cent. Nursing isn’t all codes and drama; there are some less desirable tasks nurses (and doctors) must perform. Two words: manual disimpaction. Go ahead, Google it. I’ll wait.

And then there is the heartbreak. Patients will die. Some will die peacefully. Others, depending on which unit you work, will die a chaotic, horrible, nightmarish death. And you, a stranger, will be among the last people that person will see.

During my pediatric clinical rotation, I discharged a 14-year-old terminally ill cancer patient home to live out his final few days. I am a father of two. I went home and cried for that boy and his family. Nursing is physically and emotionally challenging.

Which brings us to our next topic; some of the challenges facing second career nursing. Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list, so I’ll tackle this subject in generalities. If don’t have a lot of computer experience, typical of older nursing students, you’ll have a significant, but manageable learning curve. Some courses are online; you submit assignments online; and almost ALL your research will be done online. You’ll also need to learn to use APA format for your papers. Your younger classmates have grown up with technology and won’t have many issues adapting.

The other major challenge is leaving behind an established career and paycheck. This can be a major obstacle. Money was tight for us and we had 18 months to plan. Leaving behind that paycheck, though, came with a lot of pressure to succeed. I could not fail. Having to support a family is not something most younger students worry about.

And that brings us to our final topic; life experience. I was 38 when I entered nursing school. My classmates were typically 20. I had 18 more years of adulting experience. I’ve learned how to be more patient, to see the bigger picture, and more.

The “life experience” can be both an asset and a liability depending on how you apply it. My advice? Allow it to help you make decisions, but keep your mind open to gaining new experiences – it’ll help you learn and become the best nurse you can be.

There are challenges with nursing as a second career, but that doesn't mean they cannot be overcome. Second Career Nurses Bring Life Experience to the Nursing Profession.Gary Cope, BSN, RN, is an ICU nurse at a Magnet hospital in Southwest Virginia. He is a proud Radford University graduate and sits on the Nursing School’s Nurse Advisory Committee. He is married and the father to two boys. Cope is also a second career nurse after leaving his career of being a journalist. Most recently, Cope received a C.A.S.E. Grand Award in the category “Writing for the Web.” It is his fourth C.A.S.E. award. He also has three Virginia Press Association awards; one for feature writing and two for layout and design. You can read more from Gary at his blog Mursing Managed.

Are you a second career nurse? Do you have any advice for anyone considering the switch?

A Nurse Practitioner’s Medical Mission to Africa

A Nurse Practitioner’s Medical Mission to Africa

This week I am featuring an interview with my sister in-law, Elizabeth Fields.  She recently went to Bora, Ethiopia with the medical mission group Health Gives Hope.  Last week, I interviewed their founders, one of whom is actually a Nurse Practitioner!  Click here to check out the previous post.

To give you a little background about Bruce and Elizabeth Fields, they are quite the athletes and world travelers.  Bruce played professional basketball in Europe for 9 years and now works at State Farm in the Chicagoland area.  Elizabeth played volleyball at Parkland College (where I played basketball for a short time!) in Champaign, IL and then completed her BSN at Indiana Wesleyan University while continuing to play volleyball.  She has worked at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for the last ten years as a registered nurse, working the last two years as a Nurse Practitioner.  She obtained her FNP from Walden University.

These two crazy kids.  They met in Austria some odd years ago and have traveled to the following countries either together or separately:  Turkey, Switzerland, Austria, Thailand, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Spain, England, Philippines, South Korea, China, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Canary Islands, Romania, and Canada.  Oh, and Bruce has lived in a handful of them as well!  Clearly they know a bit about traveling!  Me, I’m more of anxious traveler (think Monica Gellar going to London).

I decided to interview them to give people a look into the practical side of what going on a medical mission looks like.  As you read, Bruce is not medical.  However, what he lacks in nurse-ness, he makes up with hard work and height.  (He’s 6’5″.)

Please note, answers given below are from Elizabeth, unless otherwise indicated.

Why did you decide to go on a mission?

I went to Bora, Ethiopia because they don’t have access to health care, and this was something I could not only make a difference doing, but I knew it would grow my knowledge and stretch me professionally. I also went on a mission trip to live out something I was taught and believe in deeply: you should use any talent you are given to bless others.  Nursing is a talent that was given to me and I am passionate about sharing it.  

What was the travel there like? 

This is from the HGH website: The team flies from the US to Addis Ababa, and then drives south through the lower rift valley into the Guge Mountains of southern Ethiopia.  The team will then hike 6 miles, ascending nearly 2,000 feet, from where the road ends in Chencha to the village of Bora.

Travel in Africa is entertaining and challenging. We were on planes, boats, buses, and on foot – our baggage traveled up the mountain by donkeys and our road was often congested with cattle, camels, and people.

Tell me what was going through your mind the first time you saw their set up for medical care?

The clinic set-up is smart, efficient, and well planned – their resources are growing – but the first thing you think is – “WOW – they have access to SO LITTLE compared to what we are used to; how am I going to make it work?”. But then, you make it work, and realize how MUCH we have in the States and how profound your assessment skills are!

What are some of the biggest differences between the care you provided there versus in the USA?

We had no access to running water, internet, or specialty consults. We had no diagnostic testing. I had to be excellent in my history and physical taking, and in my assessments so that I could determine differentials and treat appropriately. The creativity needed to get medications into infants, translate reasons, times, importance and information to patients was profound. The translators were amazing, but I have to hand it to the nurses – they had so many amazing ideas to help make these challenges ones we could overcome.

What were your meals like?

AWESOME and different! It was a mix of American food and authentic Ethiopian foods. The people there are extremely hospitable and loved cooking for us. We got to observe and help them cook in a “cooking hut”, and experienced what is like to cook without any modern conveniences. Some of the meals they made for us I have tried to recreate here, and have been moderately successful in accuracy.

What were the sleeping conditions?

We slept in mud huts, on straw, in our own sleeping bags. At first I struggled with the conditions – it is exactly like you would see it in the National Geographic! But looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted to sleep anywhere else; I lived and experience it in the most authentic way possible.

Tell me the bathroom situation, STAT.

Bathroom? You mean tell you what it was like to squat on a gorgeous mountain side and hope no animals or humans saw my southern regions? Two words: wet. wipes.

Tell me about some practical cultural differences.

One of the things that hit us hardest was the reverence and respect for elders that everyone had.  Here in the states the elderly population is often viewed as a burden, while in Ethiopia they are  cherished and consulted for their wisdom. Another shocking difference was how hard the women worked.  The Ethiopian people often refer to women as “provider”. You will see in our pictures that women do the heavy lifting there.

Elizabeth, walk me through one day as an NP there.

I had two interpreters assigned to me. Each patient would come in my exam room, tell me their complaints/history, and symptoms.  I would do an examination, diagnose their problem, and prescribe medications (pending availability). When I had a patient that “stumped” me, I called upon the other practitioners and nurses for their expertise. Because we had no diagnostic testing available (labs, X-ray machines) collaborating was our lifeline; we all needed each other to make each day in clinic work and it was an incredible experience!

Bruce, walk me through one of your days there.

 Every morning we wake up and walk from our hut down the mountain to a place we called “the cliff”. It was an incredible time to enjoy a beautiful view and reflect on our days there. We then returned to our compound to have breakfast that was made for us by the locals.  It consisted of grains, potatoes, sauces, and amazing Ethiopian coffee (FYI, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee). We hiked up the mountain a mile to the clinic every morning, with the village children holding our hands the entire way — this experience melted my heart.

My time in the clinic consisted of building shelves, setting up a privacy tent for the bathroom over a hole dug by a previous team, working in the pharmacy dispensing the medication prescribed by the practitioners, and helping teach patients how and when to use them. I often made lunches for the entire team with another group member and did what was necessary to ensure a good flow at the clinic. I was concerned that because I’m not medical I wouldn’t be very useful, but when I got there I found the opposite to be true. We each had a role and without each other it would’ve been impossible for the clinic to be successful.

How much did it cost?

About $2500 a person, and this included flight, ground transportation, lodgings, food/water, two days of sight-seeing. It was the cheapest 2 weeks abroad!

How do you feel this impacted your marriage?  Do you recommend married couples going together?

YES! GO TOGETHER! My husband isn’t medical, but the need is so great and watching him use his gifts in service by building shelves, working in the pharmacy, making team lunches, setting up privacy tents, and playing with the kids was  – well, SWOON. I can’t exactly bring him to work with me to see patients here in the States; watching each other in our own elements was amazing. It gave us greater respect for one another, and made me want to encourage him more in what he excels in.

I know these experiences are hard to predict how they will affect you.  What did you anticipate versus what did you experience?

I didn’t expect to want to stay there longer – but I was so sad to leave. There are days at work when I find myself in the grind of the day, burnt out and discouraged; to feel so needed and impactful in Bora, Ethiopia was priceless, and it took me off guard. I didn’t know I would fall in love with medicine again – I didn’t know that I needed to be there for my own benefit, just as they needed me there.

What did you learn that has changed your practice as an NP in the US?

Because I had to rely so heavily on my assessment skills and collaboration with the team when I was faced with a questionable diagnosis, I have worked much harder to perfect those areas since I’ve been back.  Those areas include knowledge and differentiation of various heart and lung sounds, alternative treatments, and preventative medicine. My desire to be a better provider has substantially increased since going to Ethiopia.

Would you do it again? 

We would go back tomorrow. Without blinking. It was professionally and personally something that humbled us, empowered us, and revitalized my passion for medicine and nursing.

Health Gives Hope: An Interview with a Nurse Practitioner Who Co-Founded a Medical Mission Organization

Health Gives Hope: An Interview with a Nurse Practitioner Who Co-Founded a Medical Mission Organization

Last month, my nurse practitioner sister in-law went on a medical mission to Ethiopia with her husband.  She had an unbelievable time!  I have been asked about medical missions before so I thought I would do an interview with the founders of the organization and my sister in-law.

An Interview with a Nurse Practitioner Who Co-Founded a Medical Mission Organization

This post is my interview with the founders, Amber and Jerry Kaufman.

All answers below are from Amber, unless otherwise noted.

(Also, please note Jerry’s solid beard.)


Amber and Jerry!

Amber, I know you are a nurse practitioner.  Where did you get your nursing degree and your NP?  Do you still work in the USA as an NP, if so, where?

I got my nursing degree from Purdue University. I initially became a Pediatric NP from the University of Central Florida. I later got a Post-Master’s Certificate for adult NP from University of Massachusetts – Boston. I currently work as an NP with One Medical Group.

Jerry, what is your professional background?

I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago. My areas of interest are health, globalization, race and ethnicity, and organizations.

Why did you both start going on medical missions?

Amber: When I was in high school I heard a woman speak about doing medical mission work in Papua New Guinea – from then on, I knew that I wanted to do it. As soon as I had my first clinic day in India, my first medical trip, I knew I was hooked. Little did I know that I would be where I am today in 8 years!

Jerry: I’ve been involved with international nonprofits for over a decade, so I’ve been interested in international work for a long time. I got into medical mission because, well, my wife!

Where was both of your first medical missions?

Amber: My first medical mission trip was to India.

Jerry: My first medical trip was to Ethiopia.

Why that particular region of Africa?

Honestly, it just fell into place. We were set to go to another country with a medical team and the trip fell through due to political unrest. The other co-founder, Dan, happen to know someone from college that was teaching in Ethiopia. We asked if we could bring a medical team in 5 weeks to Ethiopia and she said yes. She introduced us to Israel, who is now the Health Gives Hope Program Director in Ethiopia (4 of his siblings also work with us). Israel was our leader for the trip. Amber knew right away that Ethiopia was were we were suppose to work. And here we are 7 years later with a health center and teams going twice a year. Amazing!

What are some practical differences in the way you provide medical care in Ethiopia versus the US?

You have to make due with less. We have solar powered lights but that’s it for modern conveniences. No running water and limited supply of medications. We don’t have access to labs and diagnostic testing. In emergencies or for critically ill patients, we will transport them to the nearest hospital. But for the most part you use the patient history and exam to make your diagnosis and treatment plan. It is a challenge, but rewarding.

What do the villagers do day-to-day for medical cares/concerns when you do not have a group there?

We have a nurse that travels from a nearby town, Chencha, and works at the health center we run in Bora (Hidota Health Center). She works 3 days/week to provide care. If she is not there, the people either have to walk 6 miles to Chencha or they don’t go, which is usually the case.

IMG_9368 2

Hidota Health Center

 Every nurse also has a patient experience that they can look back upon and say “I am a better nurse because of this person” or “I am a better nurse because of this particular patient experience”.  What specific patient experience from Ethiopia has made you a better nurse?

On the 2nd trip to Ethiopia, we had our clinic set up in a local church and we were seeing patients there (the Hidota Health Center was still a few years away!). A father came frantically to the clinic and asked if I would come see his wife who had just given birth during the night. He just kept saying she was sick. I packed my backpack full of medical supplies – trying to think of every possible scenario I might encounter. We hiked down the mountain about a mile to their hut. A woman was lying there and clearly not doing well. After a quick assessment and history, I determined that she was severely dehydrated (she hadn’t had any water in about 36 hours – and delivered a baby in that time!) and she had a possible early infection. I gave her IV fluids and IV antibiotics. We stayed with her much of the afternoon until she turned the corner and started feeling better. I assessed the baby who was happy and healthy! By the time we left, the mom was able to sit up and drink water on her own. The family then told me that they decided to name their baby “Amber.” It was an incredible moment. I was so thankful we were there – otherwise, I am not sure that mom would have made it.

In nursing, we learn tricks of the trade in our day to day practice.  I have a feeling that tricks of the trade in providing nursing care are a bit different in Ethiopia are different than in the US!  What are some tricks of the trade or pro tips for nurses providing care with HCH in Africa?

Your face and tone says a thousand words! Since you are using 1 or 2 translators (sometimes you need translation from the local dialect to the national language to English), the people are really looking at your expressions. It really does make a huge difference. Also flexibility is a must – in all things, all the time.

Tell me some common rookie mistakes that nurses make during their first medical mission?

Honestly, there aren’t too many. It’s not a mistake but it’s common for nurses to feel bad about the times where we can’t provide the care that is needed (for example, medications or treatments that we don’t have). It can take time to realize that this is just part of working in a rural setting.


Providing patient care!

Tell me your biggest reality shock as a nurse when you first started serving missions?

I don’t know if I would call it a shock…but maybe an area of growth.. For me, learning to slow down and have patience. Things just don’t happen as quickly as I am used to or that I want them to. I have finally arrived at patience, for the most part.  

Do nurses need to have a certain amount of experience to serve?  

No – new nurses and seasoned nurses are welcome. As long as they are willing to serve, they can join!

My sister in-law (Elizabeth Fields) is second on the left. She's an NP, the other three young ladies are nurses with about 1 year of experience!

My sister in-law (Elizabeth Fields) is second on the left. She’s an NP and the other three are nurses with about 1 year of experience!

Can nursing students serve?

Absolutely. I have also had NP students and I was able to serve as their preceptor for clinical hours. 

What is the average cost?

The cost is $1500 for your land package (everything except souvenirs and vaccines) plus airfare. Airfare tends to run between $1300-1600 depending on your departure city.

When many people hear medical mission, they may connect it with a faith-based organization. Do you need to be of a certain faith to serve with your group? Our organization usually calls our trips “medical service trips.” No, you don’t need to be a certain faith.

I noted that you are based out of Chicago.  Do people interested in serving need to be from that area? No – we have travelers from all over the country join us!

If I decide I want to serve or learn more, what are my next steps?

Email Amber at The next trip is November 9-20, 2016 (then in April, 2017).

Next week, I’ll post an interview with my sister in-law (Elizabeth Kleber, MSN NP about her trip!

For those of you that may be interested in learning more, check out their website!  Please note that while these trips are extremely rewarding, the travel can be very challenging physically.  Upon arrival to Addis Abada, Ethiopia, you take a 10-12 hour bus ride, followed by another half day drive, then hike for half a day at an altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level up mountains.  If you have specific questions/concerns about the travel and if it would be a good fit for you, shoot Amber an email!  You’ll hear more about my sister in-law’s experience, both with the travel and her entire time, next week!

Have you ever been on a medical mission?  If so, please comment below with where you went and which organization you worked with!

How Changing Demographics Affect Nursing Practice

How Changing Demographics Affect Nursing Practice

I personally have noted that as a nurse you run into people from tons of different cultural and socioeconomincal background.  And as a nurse caring for an adult population, I’ve noted that taking care of a 42 year-old patient is quite different than taking care of an 85 year-old patient and it’s important to be aware of their specific needs.  

Please enjoy this sponsored guest blog post, written by Tricia Hussung at Campbellsville University

Recent demographic shifts will have major implications for the U.S. healthcare system, both in terms of the delivery of patient care and the practice of nursing. According to experts at Kansas State University, improved public health and clinical care have led to an increase in the average life span, meaning that by the year 2020 more than 20 percent of the population will be age 65 or older. In fact, individuals over the age of 85 make up the fastest-growing group. This will lead to extended treatment of long-term chronic conditions, challenging the healthcare system’s ability to provide efficient care.

In addition, the diversity of the general population is a relevant topic on the minds of many nurses. Because multiculturalism affects the nature of illness and disease as well as morbidity and mortality, nurses must learn to adapt their practice to various cultural values and beliefs.

Such changes in the population are significant for nurses. Nursing practice, education and perspectives must adapt and respond to changing demographics because nurses play an increasingly important role in healthcare delivery.

Understanding the Aging Population

As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of older adults in the United States is expected to increase exponentially. Combine this with a longer average life span, and the healthcare system needs to adapt — quickly.

The National Institute of Health estimates that about 80 percent of people over the age of 65 have at least one chronic illness, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis. In addition, the number of older adults with multiple chronic illnesses is substantial. Chronic illnesses are one of the most central issues facing nurses in terms of the aging population because they impact quality of life for patients and garner considerable expenses.

Key considerations for elder care delivery include the following, according to Grady:

  • Identifying ways to improve healthcare and quality of life for older adults across care settings, from the nursing home to the community
  • Interpersonal interactions, either between older adults and family members or nursing staff, or among different levels of staff in a nursing home, which can influence older adults’ quality of life and health-related outcomes
  • Nurses as integral members and leaders of interdisciplinary healthcare teams to solve complex health problems and provide for older adults
  • Assessing multiple types of intervention, analytical parameters and environmental settings to fully understand the complexity of healthcare issues facing older adults and to produce the most positive health outcomes

In general, nurses will be required to provide care for more adults (and older adults) than ever before — patients who have complex healthcare needs. However, nurses are also in an ideal position to communicate with older adults about self-care strategies to prevent further illness while maintaining their independence, functioning, and mental and physical health.

Diversity and Multiculturalism

Another critical element involved in patient demographic shifts is diversity. In today’s healthcare system, the relationship between culture and health is central to delivering quality patient care.

The National Student Nurses’ Association encourages nurses to provide customized, culturally specific care that fits with a patient’s values, beliefs, traditions, practices and lifestyle. The association promotes diversity awareness, which is defined as “an active, ongoing conscious process in which we recognize similarities and differences within and between various cultural groups.” Diversity awareness also involves cultural assessment and cultural sharing among healthcare professionals with the overall aim of understanding the complex definition of diversity, as based on the writings of Marianne R. Jeffreys, Ed.D., RN.

While there are many factors to keep in mind, ignoring diversity may lead to unequal nursing care and negative patient outcomes. Under the Process of Cultural Competence in the Delivery of Healthcare Services Model, nurses are encouraged to use the following mnemonic, ASKED, when caring for any cultural group.

Have I ASKED Myself the Right Questions?

  • Awareness: Am I aware of my personal biases and prejudices toward cultural groups different from mine?
  • Skill: Do I have the skill to conduct a cultural assessment and perform a culturally based physical assessment in a sensitive manner?
  • Knowledge: Do I have knowledge of the patient’s worldview?
  • Encounters: How many face-to-face encounters have I had with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds?
  • Desire: What is my genuine desire to “want to be” culturally competent?

Looking Ahead

Providing high-quality nursing care to an aging, diverse population is no small task, but it is one of the most important responsibilities of nurses today. You can gain the advanced skills you need with the online RN to BSN degree from Campbellsville University. With an experienced faculty providing real-world knowledge and understanding of nursing, Campbellsville’s program is the ideal opportunity to advance your nursing career.



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