We Are the Change: Welcome to a New Semester

Dean of the UT Austin School of Nursing

Dean Alexa Stuifbergen

It’s been said: Don’t expect to see a change if you don’t make one. Well, we’ve made quite a few since my last blog. It’s been a very busy and productive time. We’ve changed physically and have launched some great new programs and services that I know will enhance your learning experience.

Just a few months ago, we celebrated the graduation of 139 graduate and undergraduate nursing students, and here we are today, about to launch a new semester by welcoming beginning and returning scholars. But there’s a lot more news, so I’ll get right to it.

First of all, I am pleased to announce that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has approved our application for a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree program. As a result, after several years of planning and preparation, the School of Nursing will now offer this professional doctoral program designed to prepare graduates for today’s increasingly complex health care practice and clinical leadership roles. Click here to learn more about the UT Austin School of Nursing’s DNP Program.

The degree program will begin January 2016 and will complement the current professional practice doctoral programs at UT Austin, such as the Pharm.D. and soon-to-be-offered M.D.

Professor Jane Champion is director of the program and will be joined by a strong cadre of tenured and clinical faculty in research and education efforts. As a result, I’m confident our DNP program will help meet the demand for more nurses who are able to provide leadership at the highest levels of health care in Central Texas and across the state.

Just in time for the fall semester, the simulation and skills labs have been transformed into a source of even greater learning opportunities, partly as a result of new grant funding and partly to accommodate the School’s commitment to inter-professional education.

The grants include $150,000 from the THECB under the Nursing Innovation Grant Program: Building Lab and Simulation Capacity, and a $50,000 curriculum innovation award from UT Austin to develop and launch “Integrated Simulated Nursing Skills Mastery Using Video Peer-to-Peer Team Review,” a video-based project designed to increase the amount of time undergraduates can practice clinical skills.

Another goal of the update was to ramp up to meet the demands of providing inter-professional education — including nursing, pharmacy, social work and medicine — in a simulated setting. A major part of the overall renovation was supported by the Dell Medical School, which allowed for the enlargement of the simulation lab patient bays to make room for the added disciplines. This included adding a pharmacy area and debriefing rooms as well as purchasing new mannikins, beds and defibrillators.

The lab was designed to include national best practices of inter-professional simulation education, making it one of the finest simulation labs in the country.

We’re now offering new and improved career services featuring an expanded offering of workshops, employer information sessions, guest speakers, career events, job postings and a career services blog. Also included are two new powerful systems: one to facilitate interview sign-ups, career activities and on-campus recruiting; a second to coordinate appointments for career advising, mock interviews, and resume and cover letter reviews.

A new webpage is being developed and will provide current career services information and links for easy access to Nursing Career Services resources. In addition, students can reserve an office in the School of Nursing’s Career Services Center to be used for phone interviews with employers. For more information, please contact Carol Riazzi at criazzi@nursing.utexas.edu or 512-471-8563; or Sherry Reddick at sreddick@nursing.utexas.edu or 512-232-4777.

construction cranes over the UT Austin School of Nursing

In the beginning: construction of the UT Austin medical district

This time last year we were surrounded by dirt and dust and machinery with very little progress to show for it. Now the medical district is rising to new heights every day, and we’re beginning to think — hope! — that an end to the construction is in sight. Our soon-to-be neighbors the UT Austin Dell Medical School and Seton’s new teaching hospital are closer to completion. Red River Street will open soon — promise! — so it will no longer require a valiant effort to gain access to the School of Nursing’s front door.

construction of UT Austin medical center

The new medical district takes shape

In the midst of this changing landscape, the School of Nursing continues to grow, improve and find new and better ways of providing the best quality nursing education to our students and public health care to our community.

So, welcome back to a place where change happens and is embraced. We hope you are returning refreshed and ready to bring your own renewed sense of enthusiasm and curiosity to your nursing courses. It’s a new day, a new semester. Let’s explore the possibilities together.

Three Life-changing Days

students at symposium in Washington, DC

Mary Pomeroy (far right) and some of the 40 graduate students this summer in Washington, DC

If given three days to learn from some of the greatest public health influences of our country, be provided with evidence-based tools and resources for professional growth, and to receive a mini-grant for planning a community program, how would you choose to address a health issue in your community?

This was the challenge posed by program recruiters for a unique leadership program — the Paul Ambrose Scholar’s Program — named after a heroic medical doctor who fell victim to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Along with 40 other graduate students from other health care professions, I recently had the opportunity to attend this leadership symposium in Washington, DC, where we spent three days engaged in learning, communicating, and sharing our experiences and ideas for potential improvement in health care.

students in Washington, DC

Graduate students attending Paul Ambrose Scholar’s program in Washington, DC

After attending multiple presentations on topics including health policy advocacy, program planning and development, prevention, health literacy, funding, and social determinants of health, my colleagues and I were given multiple opportunities to engage in roundtable discussions focusing on how the content provided might be applicable in addressing real world issues found in our communities. Bringing together individuals from various disciplines from around the country with one common interest — to address the health disparities through prevention and promotion — highlighted the necessity of taking a multidisciplinary approach when working to make meaningful and sustainable improvements within a population.

I returned to Austin with a renewed sense and better understanding of how my peers and I possess the potential to impact and influence change in the very city in which we reside. Through thoughtful communication and advocacy, careful planning and consideration, and evidence-based research, we future public health nurses and other health care providers, have the ability to serve as catalysts for positive change.

Having the opportunity to attend the Paul Ambrose Symposium was invaluable and worthwhile, and the relationships made with fellow scholars will be lasting. I look forward to sharing resources and additional opportunities with my peers during the upcoming semester, as well as beginning my community project in addressing perceptions of HIV testing and prevention among inmates in a local correctional facility.

As a current Alternate Entry Master’s in Public Health Nursing student and a former educator, I found great value in this program and want to encourage health care graduate students to look into it as an opportunity for growth. I feel fortunate to have received support from School of Nursing professors and instructors, such as Dr. Alexandra Garcia and Whitney Thurman, who have played instrumental roles in my personal growth and interest in public health.

For anyone interested in applying to this program for the upcoming cohort, please visit www.aptrweb.org/?page=pasp for more information, or contact me at mary.pomeroy08@utexas.edu.

The Paul Ambrose Scholars Program (PASP) is planned and implemented by the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. PASP is sponsored by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mary Pomeroy is a second-year student in the Master’s in Public Health Nursing program at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing.

Did You Hear the One About …

Humor, noun, hyü-mer, the amusing quality or element in something

Woman with little girl

Alumna Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Humor is important in nursing. Some may argue that there is no place for silliness in such a serious field, but I would have to disagree.

Humor is a natural stress reducer and symptom reliever that has been related to improved health, increased life expectancy, and overall well-being. Malchiodi, C. (June 26, 2008). The Human Gift of Coping and Survival.

A study conducted by Abel Millicent explored relationships between sense of humor, stress and coping strategies. The results supported the role of humor as an effective coping strategy in stressful situations.

Humor can ease those uncomfortable moments that inevitably arise in nursing. Nearly all nurses have experienced that patient with uncontrollable gas. It’s the white elephant in the room. We don’t won’t to embarrass our patients, yet it is impossible to ignore. Making a funny comment can help your patient laugh, protect his/her dignity and offer a moment of smiles.

Nursing students can appreciate the value of humor. It can help them survive the rigors of nursing school. Hours and hours of studying can take a toll. Seeing the lighter side of taking tests, learning new skills, attending class and preparing for the licensing exam can ease the tension.

Humor amongst coworkers can encourage social interaction and reduce the staff’s stress level. Some days are filled with monotonous tasks: doling out meds, changing sheets, giving baths, taking vital signs, preparing patients for surgery or discharges, and the list goes on. Nothing helps curb the anxiety of all these important nursing duties than a good laugh. Humor does not always have to come at the expense of others either. It is suggested we should be able to laugh at ourselves.

As nurses we forge this path together; we learn from one another’s experiences and skills. Some nurses have a talent for finding humor in all that we do and share their viewpoint via the web.

The next time you are feeling unusually stressed, try laughing.

  • Check out Pinterest and browse “Nursing Humor” to find jokes and funny photos and quotes.
  • Make time to seek out that whimsical coworker who always has a humorous way of looking at things.
  • Search YouTube for funny videos for a guaranteed laugh.
  • Consider printing out a funny photo and posting it at the nursing station.
  • Offer a silly picture or joke to a patient.
  • Sign up to receive blog postings from a witty nurse.
  • Visit a medical website designed with humor in mind.

The web is a petri dish of humorous nursing accounts, stories and experiences. The fact that there is always a shred of seriousness or truth in the mockery is the irony in the humor. In most cases only nurses can truly appreciate and enjoy these medical moments.

Here are some of my favorite Internet finds:

Do you have a site, blog or Pinterest board you think others would enjoy? Please comment below so we can laugh together.

—Shannan Needleman, alumna (BSN 1994)

How to Be New on the Job

UT Austin School of Nursing alumna alumna

Peggy Adams, MSN, RN

Many years ago, my nurse mentor told me, “You’re only new once, so make the most of it.”

She was right — it’s important to maximize the advantage found in those first few weeks or months on the job when no one expects you to function independently as a professional nurse. Most likely, you will be working alongside a preceptor, adding to your clinical knowledge and skills at a rapid pace during this period. This is the time to ask lots of questions and sponge up every ounce of information about your new job.

During your orientation period, your seasoned teammates will recognize that you are on a steep learning curve as a new clinician; however, from day one they will have certain expectations about you as a new co-worker. If you exhibit the behaviors of a responsible co-worker, you will increase the support from the experienced nurses and ease your transition onto the team.

What are those valued behaviors?

  • Be punctual. In the world of health care, on time is late. If report starts at 0645, you should arrive at work by 0630. This gives you time to put your belongings away, get your assignment and prepare to receive report according to unit protocol. The off-going nurses are ready to finish their shift and go home. Nothing will ruin your reputation faster than delaying report due to tardiness.
  • Be respectful. The experienced nurses on your team deserve your respect for their knowledge and skills. Your preceptor will be your main source of training during orientation and you should express appreciation frequently for her expertise, patience and time. Other nurses will be helpful and available to you both during and after the orientation period. But there may be some nurses who are not easily approachable or welcoming to novices. Your respectful attitude will be key in developing relationships with these folks. If you seek their expertise at the appropriate time and express your appreciation sincerely, you may open the door to mutual respect between novice and expert.
  • Be a good listener. During orientation, your preceptor and others will help you build on the clinical knowledge and skills that you learned in school. As a general rule, the person who knows the most should do the most talking. Listen closely, take notes, review and study after work as needed. As a good listener, you should put your phone away during work hours, even if the experienced nurses do not.
  • Be resourceful. Identify the people, their roles, and the hierarchy in your organization so that you know who to go to for questions and help. Locate the policies/procedures/standards of care so that you may refer to them and answer many of your questions yourself. Find the available resources for clinical and pharmacological information so you can access them as needed.
  • Be organized. Each workplace will have its own daily routine and rhythm. The experts know how to manage their assigned work as well as planning for interruptions and circumstances that will occur throughout the shift. Follow your preceptor’s guidance for organizing her workload. You will share in her patient care responsibilities, so continual communication is essential. Review your work with your preceptor throughout the shift to make sure all patient care is completed correctly. Near the end of your shift, you should practice giving report. Shift report is the time when experienced nurses will “evaluate” your progress as a new nurse. They may give you feedback directly or provide it indirectly via your preceptor. Either way, be appreciative of correction, take action immediately to make improvements and continue to grow.
  • Be a follower. There is no shame in being a follower instead of a leader. In fact, it is your duty to become an excellent follower when you are a novice. Watch, listen and learn from the best nurses on your team. Focus on achieving the goal of providing exceptional patient care and customer service. Become a dependable team member who is committed to excellence.
  • Be positive. It takes courage to be the new person. At times, you may feel awkward or even overwhelmed. Expect to encounter “bumps” in the road because your new workplace will not be perfect and your orientation will not be completely smooth. You may run into Negative Nancy or Crabby Cathy along the way but don’t be disheartened. Stay focused on your development as a professional nurse and celebrate your achievements. Commit to maintaining a positive outlook by taking care of yourself so that you can provide first-rate care for your patients and their families.
  • Be flexible. Most likely you will be on a pre-arranged schedule during orientation in order to work alongside your preceptor and attend all required classes. Attempting to make schedule changes for your personal needs will not be appreciated during this time. Your coworkers have made a commitment to get you “on board” and you should reciprocate by exhibiting flexibility and compliance with the orientation schedule.
  • Be productive. Even though you will not have your own patient assignment for the first month or more, you can still contribute to the team effort in many ways. Perform all the tasks and skills that you are permitted to carry out. Seek ways to get “checked off” on competencies as soon as possible and practice new skills at every opportunity. Read and study about the common diagnoses and medications for your patient population.
  • Be responsible. The success of your orientation and your continual development as a new nurse is ultimately your responsibility. Work along with your preceptor to assure that orientation checklists, documents, classes and other requirements are completed on time. Discuss your strengths and weaknesses and make a plan for improvement as needed. You are embarking on a lifetime of learning and growing as a professional nurse.

Congratulations to all of you on your upcoming graduation! It is my hope that these tips are helpful to you now as new nurses starting your careers, and in the future as experienced nurses helping the next wave of new grads who will be counting on you to show them the way.

About the author:
Peggy Adams received her BSN at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing in 1978 and her MSN at Texas Womens University in the Texas Medical Center in Houston in 1987.

She worked for 10 years in pediatrics at Hermann Hospital (now Memorial Hermann) in Houston. She currently has a consulting business (Adams Consulting) that specializes in individual and group training for those in nursing leadership and management positions. She also coaches new graduates who are seeking their first professional nursing position. Her interview preparation strategies are based on:

  • firsthand experience interviewing and hiring nurses as a supervisor,
  • personal knowledge of the professional nursing culture of many health care institutions, and
  • carefully honed writing and speaking skills.

Let’s Raise Our Horns (and Some Money!)

40 hours for the Forty AcresA lot can happen in 40 hours!

You’ve not heard from me as a guest blogger before, but I can’t think of a better time to ask for your help for nursing education.

This week the School of Nursing will participate, along with the rest of the UT Austin campus, in a time-sensitive fund-raising campaign: “40 Hours for the Forty Acres.” From the wee hours of the morning of April 8 through late evening on April 9, members of the Longhorn Nation will be asked to rally in support of their favorite program on campus.

We hope that you’ll choose to support the School of Nursing. Click here to donate to your favorite school of nursing.

Whether you’re an alumni, member of our faculty or staff, current student, or friend or loved one of a nurse, you know how critical the nursing profession is to health care delivery. Providing a quality education — with plentiful learning and research opportunities — is part of our mission here at the School of Nursing, and we need your help!

During the 40 hours between 4 a.m. on Wednesday and 8 p.m. on Thursday, we are asking for you to choose to support one of the following areas of Nursing with your gift of any amount. Every gift counts!

Student Services/Student Activities: Funds raised will support our newly enhanced career services offerings, including resume-writing workshops, mock interviews and job search seminars. Additionally, funds donated to this area will assist in producing other enrichment events and activities like our AE-MSN Pinning Ceremony, Honors Day, Welcome Back events and Gone to Texas.

Simulation/Skills Lab: We are very excited to start work on the facelift to our 4th floor simulation lab area over the upcoming summer. However, the skills area needs a little more assistance in the spiffing-up department. Funds raised for this area will support the purchase of everything from hospital gowns to medical equipment, skills training modules to enhanced technology — all to provide our students with the most realistic simulation and skills experiences possible.

Area of Greatest Need: Did you know that if UT Austin had to operate on tuition dollars alone that the university would be forced to shut down classes each year in early November? Philanthropy is the key game changer in this equation. Your gift to the Area of Greatest Need within the School of Nursing may go to support our students as they travel to professional conferences to present their research, to bring in speakers and lecturers to enhance learning, for technology upgrades, or to support critical health care delivery in one of our clinics.

As the cost of education continues to increase and the need for private support grows, every dollar helps ensure the future of this university and the School of Nursing. Together, all gifts — big and small — will help us reach our goal. Your participation is key.

So long for now and remember to make your gift. A lot can happen in 40 hours!

Click here to donate to your favorite school of nursing.

—Andria Brannon

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 3.40.26 PMAndria Brannon, MS, JD, is director of development and external relations at the UT Austin School of Nursing. Her responsibilities include oversight of all external relations and fundraising activities of the School, including major gifts, endowments, grants, foundation relations, events, marketing/communications and alumni relations.

Previously, Andria served in various non-profit administration positions with The Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas, New Beginning Center, Inc., Children’s Medical Center and fulfilled a one year appointment as the research attorney for the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association. She’s currently involved as a volunteer with numerous agencies and causes including  the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, UT Elementary School, Oak Hill United Methodist Church, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Crime Victims Services Division and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing – Nursing Advancement Professionals. In her spare time, she hangs out in southwest Austin with her dog Ace, delights friends and family with her canning and pickling abilities, and reads like there’s no tomorrow.

Getting Hired (part 2): Preparing for Interviews

UT Austin School of Nursing alumna

Peggy Adams, MSN, RN

Your job search may include both phone interviews and face-to-face meetings. Be sure to schedule these at a time when you are well rested and at your best. Spend some time thinking about what you want the interviewer to know about you as an entry-level nurse. Your preparation should include formulating answers to the most commonly asked interview questions:

  • Clinical challenge: Tell about a challenging patient that you cared for during one of your clinical experiences.
  • Problem solving: Give an example of your ability to use critical thinking skills.
  • Teamwork: Give an example of your experience in working as a part of a team.
  • Conflict resolution: Tell about a time you had to resolve a conflict with a peer or someone else.
  • Cultural differences: Tell about a time when you cared for a patient with a cultural background different from yours.

Note that these questions are all open-ended, which is meant to encourage the candidate to express a full and complete anecdote for each answer. Detailed, accurate and clinically correct answers will translate into high scores during the interview. A complete answer includes five elements: problem identification, data collection, plan for improvement, plan implementation, results/evaluation.

When I help my clients prepare for an interview, I ask them to write down “scenarios” to answer each of five frequently asked questions. A scenario is a complete answer that includes all five elements usually presented as a beginning, middle and an end to the story. Example (not a true story):

  • I took care of a pediatric burn patient who was terrified every time we had to change his dressings. Pain medicine was given before the dressing change but it didn’t seem to help. I looked up the dosage and it was correct for his weight. But we were giving it 10 minutes before the dressing change and the drug really needed 20 minutes to take full effect. So we adjusted our plan of care and the result was that the patient was much more comfortable when we waited the full 20 minutes. This was documented on his MAR and plan of care so that all caretakers were informed.

You can see that a patient care “scenario” like that could be used to answer a variety of interview questions such as how you dealt with a clinical challenge or solved a problem. Having several real-life scenarios that you can easily speak about will help you feel confident with a variety topics that may come up during the interview. The best scenarios involve a complex clinical challenge; a detailed discussion of the diagnosis, signs/symptoms, medications and therapies; and a thorough description of the patient’s outcome.

Finally, if you are scheduled for a face-to-face interview, you should review these reminders about what to wear and personal appearance:

  • First of all, “wear” your good manners.
  • Choose clothes that help the interviewer envision you as a professional nurse. You don’t need to wear scrubs or a nurse uniform, but you should wear conservative clothing that meets the dress codes in most organizations. This means no denim.
  • Wear solid colors such as navy blue or gray, which connote trust and loyalty. Collared shirts in solid blues or white are preferable.
  • Closed toe shoes with low quiet heels will help you appear stable and secure.
  • Limited accessories are a wise choice. One earring per ear and no dangles.
  • Style your hair so that it is away from your face just as you would wear it on the job.
  • Make sure your nails are trimmed and clean.
  • No perfume or cologne.

These small suggestions add up to an overall trustworthy and professional first impression. Your well-groomed conservative appearance will allow the interviewer to focus on what you’re saying without being distracted by what you’re wearing.

In addition, be punctual when meeting with the interviewer. Actually, this means you should arrive about five minutes early because on time is considered late. Punctuality connotes that you are prepared and organized, as well as respectful of the other person’s time. These are highly valued traits in nursing.

Try to keep your hands free of clutter and accessories other than a purse. Your phone should be turned off and put away. Do not carry a water bottle or other refreshment. If offered a cup of water or coffee, I usually decline. It’s just one more thing I might knock over if I’m nervous!

Finally, when you walk into the office or conference room, you should stand as introductions are made, use a firm handshake if one is offered to you, and be seated when you are told where to sit. Keep your hands lightly on the table or in your lap if you are not at a table. Sit up straight and keep both feet on the floor. Make good eye contact and get ready to wow your interviewer with the wonderful story of you!

About the author:
Peggy Adams received her BSN at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing in 1978 and her MSN at Texas Womens University in the Texas Medical Center in Houston in 1987.

She worked for 10 years in pediatrics at Hermann Hospital (now Memorial Hermann) in Houston. She currently has a consulting business (Adams Consulting) that specializes in individual and group training for those in nursing leadership and management positions. She also coaches new graduates who are seeking their first professional nursing position. Her interview preparation strategies are based on:

  • firsthand experience interviewing and hiring nurses as a supervisor,
  • personal knowledge of the professional nursing culture of many health care institutions, and
  • carefully honed writing and speaking skills.

Vaccines and the Retreat from Common Sense

vaccineThis thing of American parents refusing to vaccinate their children makes about as much sense to me as countries that don’t educate their female children. Both are choices based on ideologies that defy reason; both can cause irreparable harm.

We all know by now of the measles outbreak of more than 100 cases since January including five babies from a suburban Chicago daycare center who were too young to be vaccinated. How the (expletive) could this happen after measles was declared eliminated in the year 2000?

Truth is, I could see this coming. When I began working as a staff nurse in neonatal intensive care in 1980, all my co-workers got the flu shot every year. All the babies got their immunizations. No questions, no doubt, no hesitation. Boom.

The ax fell in 1998 when the British medical journal The Lancet published a study by Andrew Wakefield, who now lives in Austin. His study, which had only 12 study subjects, linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine with autism.

As we now know, news of his study ricocheted around the world and use of the vaccine plummeted worldwide. An anti-vaccine movement was ushered in. The Lancet reassessed the scientific methods and financial conflicts of Wakefield and in 2010 retracted the study; his medical license was subsequently revoked. But the damage had been done.

In 2004, I had no trouble getting parents to immunize their children. That year, only 0.09 percent (just under 3,000 kids) of Texas’ overall school-age population had nonmedical exemptions to school immunization laws. But in the 2013–14 school year, that percentage jumped to 0.75 percent (more than 38,000 kids). That’s almost a 13-fold increase in 10 years, and that aligns with my experience in neonatal.

In 2009, three years before I retired from neonatal, Central Texas experienced a large pertussis outbreak, the first in 50 years. Pertussis in our hospital! With a shiver, we feared it was the canary in the coal mine. It was. About the same time parents began to refuse to sign vaccine consents, and nurses even began questioning flu shots.

I’ll never forget a prescient 12-hour shift in the winter of 2009. I received report from a night-shift nurse who was wearing a mask because she had refused the flu vaccine. Rondah Kentch, a nurse with a limp from polio she contracted at age 4, and I cared that day for eight premature babies in our neonatal intensive care bay. All of them were adorable, nearing discharge and had unsigned immunization consents on the fronts of their charts.

With 65 years of neonatal nursing experience between us, Rondah and I could handle the babies. The tough part was obtaining consent from the parents to protect their children from communicable, deadly diseases. The poor, uneducated parents didn’t hesitate; they were grateful their children could receive the vaccine. It was the educated parents, those empowered with all of the information in the world at their fingertips, who balked. Scientific reasoning did no good. It was obvious at that point what the future held: a retreat from common sense.

But wait. The story gets better. Since I retired in 2012, the same ilk of parents who refuse vaccines is also refusing the vitamin K injection to prevent hemorrhagic disease and antimicrobial eye ointment to prevent blindness. I’m glad I’m not there to witness that.

Measles is awful. It makes you very sick. It can kill you. It can blind you. Pregnant women exposed to measles can miscarry or give birth to infants with deformities. Are pediatricians justified in closing their practices to children whose parents refuse to immunize? Absolutely. Are schools justified in requiring unvaccinated children to stay home for 21 days (the length of time between exposure and the beginning of the rash and fever) after an exposure? Of course.

What I don’t understand is … every baccalaureate degree requires passing basic science courses. Yet it’s the educated parents (and some health care workers) who are refusing vaccines. Immunization science is 65 years old and about as basic as evolution science. Resistance is especially odd coming from people with degrees that have the word “science” in the name.

About the author:
Toni Inglis, MSN, RN, CNS, FAAN, retired neonatal intensive care nurse, is a writer/editor with the Seton Healthcare Family. She writes a monthly opinion column for the Austin American-Statesman editorial page. She received a BSN from The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing in 1979 and her MSN in 1992.

Getting Hired (Part 1): Maximizing the Online Application

UT Austin School of Nursing alumna

Peggy Adams, MSN, RN

Good news: Soon you will graduate from a highly respected nursing school and then you will pass the NCLEX with flying colors.

Bad news: Other top notch recent grads, as well as experienced nurses, will be competing with you for nursing positions in many excellent health care centers.

How do you get the position you really want?

Navigating the pathway to landing your first job can be daunting. The process may include online applications, telephone interviews, group interviews and one-on-one interviews. The competition is tough in places where there are few job openings. But you can prepare yourself to stand out among those who are vying for the best residencies, internships and other coveted positions. Here’s how…

Conquering the Online Application

For most large institutions, the gateway to the job search process is the online application. Start early and become familiar with the required forms, questions and documents since they are similar for most health care career websites. Formulate your content carefully so that it can be adapted to various formats. At this point, you may find that your amazing nursing experiences and skills seem flat and banal as you insert the information into the online structure set up by each employer. How can you set yourself apart from the other excellent candidates when all you have is an electronic application that consists of your resume and some generic information and short essays?

Powerful writing and customization

Remember that you are introducing yourself to an organization, so make every word count. Perfect grammar, strong verbs (not “being” verbs), concise wording and clear messaging are all important. The ability to present an accurate picture of yourself in words is critical to making a good first impression.

Another key to a superior written application is to make it customized even though it is a standardized process. This means that you will include your most important strengths, skills and experiences so that a complete picture of you is created even though the system may seem to limit these opportunities. You can do this by strategically using every option available: cover letter, resume, references and short essays. On all your documents and forms, thoughtfully fill up each space with meaty information that exhibits your current clinical knowledge and abilities and your capacity to learn and grow.

The nurse everyone wants to hire

What are the basic qualities that every employer is looking for in a professional nurse? Think about the nurses you most admire and would enjoy working with and then make a list of their outstanding attributes. Hopefully, some of these qualities also describe you! Select a few of these qualities and sprinkle them throughout your application documents. Here’s a list to get started:

  • Passionate about clinical excellence
  • Intelligent, teachable, good listener
  • Critical thinker, analytical, able to “connect the dots”
  • Energetic, healthy, not afraid of hard work
  • Organized and detail oriented while also aware of the big picture
  • Safety conscious
  • Attentive to customer service

Know your strengths

Make a list of your own personal strengths. Canvas your peers, teachers and family to get an accurate snapshot of yourself. Then weave these personal strengths into your application so that the reader can picture you as an individual. For example, a recent UT Austin School of Nursing grad noted that she could be calm during a crisis, looking for solutions in the midst of chaos. What a valuable asset in her new PICU position!

Know your potential employer

Educate yourself about the health care institution of interest to you. Look at its mission statements, values, model of patient care, professional statement about nursing, and ongoing opportunities for growth and development. Make sure that your values align with those of the institution so that you can truly support them if you decide to work there. Then select one or two values and integrate them into your written application.

Appreciate the investment

Understand the cost of hiring a new nurse. The institution that hires you will be making a huge investment in you throughout your orientation as well as your continual development and education. What will you give back? Take time to state what you intend to contribute to the organization; such as, loyalty to their mission and values, longevity in years of service, plans for career growth or other goals. Although they won’t ask you directly, your interviewers will want to know how long you plan to work for their organization. In other words, will you be a good investment for their institution? Make sure that they know you are committed to their success as well as your own.

Preparing for an interview

Once you have opened the door with your outstanding online application, you will embark on the path of interviews both on the phone and in person. What questions will employers ask? What is the best way to formulate an answer? What questions should you ask? What questions should you avoid? Stay tuned for the next blog…

Peggy Adams received her BSN at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing in 1978 and her MSN at Texas Womens University in the Texas Medical Center in Houston in 1987.

She worked for 10 years in pediatrics at Hermann Hospital (now Memorial Hermann) in Houston. She currently has a consulting business (Adams Consulting) that specializes in individual and group training for those in nursing leadership and management positions. She also coaches new graduates who are seeking their first professional nursing position. Her interview preparation strategies are based on:

  • firsthand experience interviewing and hiring nurses as a supervisor,
  • personal knowledge of the professional nursing culture of many health care institutions, and
  • carefully honed writing and speaking skills.

Notes from the Jungle: Construction Update

The Law of the Jungle: a system or mode of action in which the strongest survive, presumably as animals in nature or as human beings whose activity is not regulated by the laws or ethics of civilization.
construction site

It’s a jungle out there! Red River Street (facing east)

Construction continues near the School of Nursing — in every direction — so that finding a way to and from the building has become increasingly challenging.

We’ve always been situated in what can only be described as the hinterlands of UT Austin, but now we’re completely encompassed by a growing jungle of construction and mayhem.


The former Centennial Park, looking south

These days students, faculty and staff must gingerly traverse unchartered territory, past chasms and barriers, dodging cranes and bobcats (diesel-powered ones, although it could hardly seem more dangerous than if they were of the animal kingdom variety).



Two cranes sighted near a river (Red River, that is)

Pity the unsuspecting, but intrepid visitor who must scout the terrain and follow the confusing signage in order to arrive safely at the School of Nursing. Even Hansel and Gretel would be hard-pressed to navigate this ever-changing landscape.

But never fear! It’s business as usual in these hallowed halls. We are gearing up for a new semester beginning Tuesday, January 20. Soon students and faculty will once again be on hand to beat back the darkness of ignorance, search out nursing science concepts and blaze a trail to improved health care.


Tennis, anyone? Not any more! (Former site of UT Austin tennis courts, looking west)

And we’ve been told that Red River Street may actually rematerialize in a few months.

Check back in a couple of months for another update and photos of the, gulp!, progress.

Background: In November 2012 Travis County voters approved a proposal to increase the tax rate for Central Health, the countywide hospital district, to support a new medical school on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin.

Soon after the UT System Board of Regents committed $334 million for construction of the medical school, which was later named the Dell Medical School. In addition, the Seton Healthcare Family committed $295 million to build a new 211-bed teaching hospital to replace the aging University Medical Center Brackenridge.

Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas will serve as the medical school’s primary clinical in-patient teaching facility and enhance services to residents of Central Texas. The medical school, teaching hospital and supporting buildings will be located along Red River Street and west of the School of Nursing


What a Difference a Semester Makes

Dean of the UT Austin School of Nursing

Dean Alexa Stuifbergen

It seems like only yesterday I was welcoming you to a new school year, one that I felt would be full of promise for the future. And it certainly has been!

We got off to a great start in September when several hundred visitors and UT Austin colleagues attended a soiree at the School of Nursing welcoming Dr. Clay Johnston, the inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School. Our guests braved road closures and construction debris in order to hear Dean Johnston share his inclusive vision for the new medical school. By all accounts, it was worth it, and we look forward to a fruitful collaboration with our new neighbors.

Academically, we have a good report on all fronts — from undergraduate to master’s to doctoral programs.

  • Our new freshman admissions policy made a seamless transition. As you may know, in the past students were admitted into the nursing program as juniors. This fall, freshmen admitted to UT Austin who declared nursing as their first choice major were admitted directly into the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. The newly revised curriculum has students taking nursing courses earlier than in the previous degree plan and feeling a part of the School sooner rather than later.
  • We recently observed the 25th anniversary of the Alternate Entry Masters of Science in Nursing program. Twenty-five years is hardly “old,” but we were one of the first schools in the nation to launch a program that opened nursing education opportunities to people from all walks of life. Several of our alumni came back “home” on a cold and rainy Saturday in November to help us celebrate the program’s success.
  • And last but not least, I am very pleased to announce that the School of Nursing has received approval from the University of Texas System Board of Regents to launch a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree program. This professional doctoral program is designed to prepare graduates for today’s increasingly complex health care practice and clinical leadership roles and will help meet the demand for more practitioners able to provide leadership at the highest levels of health care and for highly prepared clinical faculty for schools of nursing.

This semester 85 students will graduate. Of those, 64 will receive a bachelor of science in nursing, 17 a master’s and three a doctorate. Congratulations to these scholars and nurses. I’m proud of each and every one of you.

But it hasn’t all been a bed of roses: We’ve experienced our share of inconvenience as well, with construction encroaching on us from every side. I’m grateful for how students, faculty, staff, and visitors have continually adapted to the many barriers and frequent rerouting in order to make their way to the School.

Change is rarely easy. However, in keeping with everything else at the School of Nursing these days, the situation is looking up, and I’m happy to tell you that Red River Street will reopen in early 2015.

It’s been a wonderful semester. As it draws to a close, I would like to say thank you to the faculty and staff and our donors and friends for making it a stellar one. I can hardly wait to see what next year brings!

In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy new year.