Nurse Practitioner School: Online VS Brick and Mortar

Online schools get a bad rap, especially regarding healthcare. On one hand, I understand the criticism and on the other, I disagree.

When I refer to online schools, I mean schools that have no physical building for students to attend.

The biggest critique of online schools is the acceptance rate. Many online schools are willing to accept incredibly low GPAs (2.5), and don’t require admissions essays or references of their applicants. Most brick and mortar schools require a minimum GPA of 3.0, an admissions essay, and 3 references with one being in the role in which you’re applying.  

The argument can be made that since the admissions requirements are so lax for online schools, the education provided would be sub-par, thus producing incompetent nurse practitioners.

Some argue that jobs won’t hire online students because of this, but I’ve never known this to be true. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard the complete opposite.

 In addition to the lack of any real admissions requirements, accreditation of these schools come into question as well.

To sit for boards, you must graduate from a CCNE accredited school.  CCNE accreditation is becoming easier to achieve due to changing requirements. Also, schools can begin enrolling students without CCNE accreditation, and achieve accreditation later down the line and the students who graduated before accreditation will be able to sit for boards.

This does not sit well with a lot of NPs and MDs who attended schools with a rigorous admissions process. Another accusation of online schools is being a “degree mill”.

Because online schools can accept much larger classes than a brick and mortar, the likelihood of students being able to have one on one time with their professors when needed is rare.

The required clinical hours of some online schools are quite questionable when compared to those of some brick and mortars. There is a consensus that you should have at least 800 clinical hours under your belt before sitting for boards.

Upon doing my research, I’ve seen some online schools require around 500 or so precepted clinical hours. A common characteristic of online schools is the requirement of students to find their own preceptors.

This can cause a dilemma for students, as their graduation can be delayed if they are not able to find a preceptor in a timely manner. Also, most preceptors charge the student, so that is an additional fee that students have to pay in order to graduate.

So, what does this mean for you as a prospective student? Well, the choice is yours. Personally, I believe that you can attend any school and be the best at that school. No matter what school you choose, it is the responsibility of the student to take charge of their education to become a successful nurse practitioner.

If attending a brick and mortar school is something you’re not willing to waver on, you may be in luck. Many brick and mortar schools offer online options to accommodate different lifestyles and service students in other states.

As far as education quality, I’ve heard horror stories of students from brick and mortar schools who were less prepared for their role as an NP compared to their peers who attended an online school.

Now-a-days, many schools are taking a holistic approach to their admissions process, so applicants with a GPA slightly lower than a 3.0 can get accepted.

Also, upon research I’ve learned that some online schools have the same, if not more required precepted clinical hours as those of online schools.

Additionally, in doing my research I learned that in some states, brick and mortar schools are requiring students to find their own preceptors as well.

Basically, what it boils down to is YOU! Do your research and choose the school that best fits your needs and lifestyle. Be it brick and mortar or online, focus on being the best student you can be and take charge of your education!

I hope this post helps you in choosing the school that’s right for you! Make sure you sign up for emails, so you never miss a post!

Getting Your Foot in The Door: How To Get Experience Without Experience

Don’t you hate when you try to apply for a job you’re really interested in, and you see they require 2 plus years of experience to be considered? How are you supposed to get experience if they won’t give you a chance?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “there’s a nursing shortage”, or people bragging about having secured a job before even finishing nursing school.

As great as those statements are, it’s not always easy to secure the job you want. Some units are easier to get into as opposed to others. For example, getting a job on a med-surge unit would be easier to obtain than a job on the NICU. This is because units like med-surge typically have more openings due to a higher turn-over rate when compared to the NICU.  

Below you’ll find 3 tips I used to land jobs in areas that aren’t the easiest to get without previous experience.  

               TIP 1: Networking

This is a lot easier than it sounds. If you’re like me, you’re not very social and don’t have a relationship with the managers you work with. I’m here to tell you that it’s OKAY!  

Usually, networking is simply asking someone to give you a chance.  When I wanted to work on the NICU, I emailed the manager outlining my desire to work on the neonatal unit. There weren’t any available positions at the time, but she allowed me to shadow a nurse on the unit. I made sure to send her a follow up email, thanking her for the opportunity.

A few weeks later she emailed me with instructions on applying to a newly opened position.

               TIP 2: Resume Building

Building your resume is extremely important! You can be the best candidate for the job, but still get looked over because someone else looks better than you on paper. You want your resume to contain experience relevant to the job title.

For example, you don’t need to put your dog walking experience on your resume as a new grad nurse. When building your resume, the right wording is essential to stand out to employers.

I’m not saying lie – I actually strongly discourage lying.

However, you want to make sure your resume aligns with the responsibilities of the job. Initially, I had a difficult time landing a job as a telephonic case manager because I didn’t have any previous case manager experience.

The thing is, I did have case manager experience, but I didn’t convey that in my resume. As a bedside nurse I performed assessments, educated my patients on chronic illnesses, participated in interdisciplinary rounds, and assisted social workers with patient placement to a SNF or rehab.

That’s exactly what telephonic case managers do! Once I reworded my resume to describe how my role as a bedside nurse was similar to that of a case manager, I started getting interviews. Inevitably, I landed my first CM job within weeks.

               TIP 3: Referrals

A referral can go a long way in helping you land the job you want. Getting a referral is very similar to networking, except your letting someone else do the praising for you.

I know what you’re thinking, what if you don’t have a friend who works in the area you’re looking to apply? So what?

Most establishments offer their employees a small bonus for referrals that end up accepting an offer.

In most cases, all you have to do is ask someone to refer you, you don’t have to know them very well – or at all.

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7 Side Hustles For Nurses

Become A Tutor

You can make some serous money as a tutor (upwards of $45/hr). These jobs are very flexible, as you can set your own, pay, hours, and they can take place in-person or online. You don’t have to limit your self to nursing students, either. For example, if you’re excellent at math, you can tutor grade school and college students alike. You can even sign up to be a tutor to those in different countries to help them learn to speak English.

Working PRN

Picking up per-diem hours can be a great way to make extra money. These positions usually pay more per hour than regular staff positions. You also get to make your own schedule for the most part, and depending on the need, you usually don’t have an issue working as many hours you want.

Starting a small business

As nurses, we often forget that we are great at things other than nursing. Starting a small business can be fun and lucrative at the same time. I would implore you to start your small business doing something you love, even if its not related to healthcare. For example, you could sell your home-made pottery, artwork or even sell homecooked dinners. You’d be surprised how you could turn your side hustle into a full-time gig.

Telehealth – triage nursing

This is a wonderful way to make extra cash no matter your schedule. Triage jobs are usually always in high demand, especially during these times of COVID-19; I see a lot more of these jobs available. Triage nurses can work for doctor’s offices and insurance companies. These jobs often have evening/overnight, weekend and holiday hours. This opportunity allows companies to have a 24hr availability to their patients. The flexibility of these positions is a perfect way for day shift or night shift nurses to supplement their income.

Investing

I encourage everyone to invest! While this won’t bring in a ton of money immediately, it’s a great way to prepare for your future. I don’t know about you, but the thought of learning how to invest puts me straight to sleep. Typically, if you’re looking to make some extra money, you don’t have a lot to spare for investment purposes. I use the ACORNS app to do my investing for me. I love how easy and user friendly this app is. The best part is that I’m only investing my spare change, so I’m not breaking the bank.

Immunization Nurse

This is another great side hustle for nurses. As an immunization nurse, you can work virtually anywhere, providing immunization shots to patients. These positions are very flexible! You don’t need a bachelor’s degree, and you can even start working these positions right out of nursing school.  

Freelancing/Consulting

These positions are great for veteran nurses with a lot of years under their belt. Not only can you set your own hours, but your own pay as well. The more experience you have providing direct patient care, the more you can charge your clients.

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How I Got Into Nursing School With A Low GPA

For as long as I can remember, my dream was to become a nurse. However, in high school a lot of poor decisions on my part caused me to ruin my GPA, putting me at a 1.9 at graduation.  I still was determined to become a nurse, I just knew it would take a lot  of work to rebuild my GPA. I won’t try to sell you some story about how GPA does not matter, and tell you that you can get into nursing school with a low GPA if you just do x, y, and z. The fact of the matter is, nursing school is rigorous, and entry is competitive. Therefore, if your GPA is suffering (less than 2.5) you are going to have a nearly impossible time getting accepted unless you raise your GPA. The journey will be difficult, but worth it if you really want to be a nurse.

Step One: Raising your GPA

Depending on how low your GPA is, raising your GPA may simply be a matter of taking 1 or 2 courses and getting an A. For me, there was no saving my GPA and I had to start over by attending community college. I went to community college for 2 years and took all of the pre-requisites for the nursing school I was interested in (you can do this even if your GPA is not low if you’re looking to save money).  If you decide to go this route, make sure your credits will transfer to your desired school(s), as not to waste time (and money). Do well in your classes! My GPA from community college was a 4.0!

Step 2: Prepare a letter of explanation

If your poor GPA was more than 10 years ago, then this step is not needed. Otherwise, you’ll want to have this letter to add to your application. A letter of explanation does just that – explain what caused your low GPA. Armed with your improved GPA, this will let your prospective school know that you’re serious about your education. In your letter, be sure to outline that the obstacles that previously stood in your way are no longer an issue.

  • Examples of reasons for low GPA: being young and not focusing on school, personal health issues, family hardships, financial troubles, etc.

Step 3: Letters of Recommendation

This is a necessary step for most schools, but if your GPA is lacking you want great letters of recommendation. I was still pretty young when I applied to nursing school, so I used my high school teacher and my community college professors for my recommendations. If you’ve been out of school too long to use your teachers, I would suggest using a manager/supervisor, and/or a mentor. You want to be certain that your recommenders can speak to your ability to be a successful learner and can attest to your passion for becoming a nurse.

Step 4: Nail Your Admissions Essay

Your admission essay should make you stand out from other applicants. You want to highlight your strengths, as well as emphasize your desire for becoming a nurse. In my essay, I discussed how caring for my ailing mother solidified my dreams of becoming a nurse. If your story isn’t similar to mine, don’t worry! Everyone’s call to action is different, just be sure to accentuate yours in your essay! You also want to tell the admissions committee why you are choosing their school. You want to focus on how the school’s mission, vision, and values align with those of your own.

Step 5: Going above and beyond

I will not go into too much detail on this step, as its pretty self-explanatory. I will, however, discuss some of the ways I went above and beyond to help strengthen my application. One thing I did was volunteering. The school I applied to values caring for the underserved populations. Knowing this, I volunteered at the free clinic, blood drives, and feeding the homeless during the holidays.

I also sought out shadowing experiences at my local hospital to get a feel of what a typical day in the life of a nurse is like. Schools like to see that you’re taking the initiative to be in charge of your education. Nurses are lifelong learners, so you want to show your potential school that you’re willing to do what it takes.

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Float Nurse vs. Staff Nurse

There are a few different names for float nurses: flex nurse, pool nurse, etc.. What ever the title, the description is the same – you show up to work and “float” to whichever unit is understaffed for that shift. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little biased because I LOVE being a float pool nurse. For me, the benefits outweighed the drawbacks which is why I’ll never go back to being a staff nurse. That being said, float pool isn’t for everyone. In this post, I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of float pool nursing to hopefully help better your understanding.

Please take this post with a grain of salt – my pros may actually be cons in your opinion, and vice versa. Also, keep in mind that every hospital has different policies and requirements for their nurses.

Pros of Float Pool

  • THE PAY! As a staff nurse, I made 25.76/hr on night shift – at the same hospital I make 35/hr as a float RN.
  •  You get to go to all the units in the hospital (except PEDS, NICU and L&D usually)
  • You don’t have the responsibilities of a typical staff nurse. i.e. unit meetings, committees, etc.
  • You get to make you own hours for the most part. For example, at my hospital we are required to work 24hrs a month with one major (ex: Christmas) and one minor holiday (ex: 4th of July).
  • As an added perk, we can break up our hours. For example, I’m not required to work 3 12hr shifts like a staff nurse, I can work 4, 8 or 12 hours as long as I work 24 hours in a month.
  • I can work as many hours as I like (actually, I think the cap is 80hrs/week, but I’ve never tested this theory!)  
  • Skill expansion: becoming a float pool nurse has helped me expand my knowledge and hone my critical thinking and interpersonal skills.

Cons of Float pool

  • No shift differential pays. Most hospitals pay more for night and weekend shifts. As a float nurse, I don’t get this added benefit.  
  • No insurance coverage. At my hospital, float nurses are considered PRN, meaning you don’t qualify for health insurance coverage through the employer.  
  • Some nurses take comfort in knowing their co-workers and knowing what unit they are going to be on for their shift. As a float nurse, I don’t find out what shift I’m going to work on until an hour before my start time.  
  • Mid-shift floating. This is definitely my biggest con of float pool. Mid-shift floating is when you work part of your shift (usually 4hrs), then you are floated to another unit to work the rest of your shift. My hospital’s policy is that we only get floated mid-shift once per 12hr shift, but they also state that we aren’t supposed to have more than 3 patients on critical units *insert side-eye*.  
  • Getting a “bad” assignment. Now, as a nurse I resent the term “bad” when referring to patients, but please bear with me as I try to make my point. As a float nurse, you are usually new to the unit, so you run the risk of getting patients that none of the staff nurses want. Examples are getting all total care patients, combative/sundowning patients, and/or patients that are borderline critical care patients. This has never happened to me, but I’ve heard many horror stories.

I hope this post helps make your decision a little easier when deciding whether to join or leave float pool. As always, please let me know what you thought of this post by leaving a comment, and sign up to receive emails so you never miss out!

How I Made 90k With My BSN Degree In 2020

You didn’t read the title wrong and no, I’m not exaggerating.  By the end of this year I will have made over $90,000 (before taxes) as a registered nurse – with my BSN! The best part is, I’m going to show you how you can too! You’re probably thinking I’m full of it right now, but I promise you I’m not. I’m going to give you my pay breakdown, in addition to hours worked so you can actually see the calculations.  

 Now, I need you to keep an open mind before I dive into the details. You may think that what I did is not feasible for your lifestyle. I’m here to tell you that you CAN do it! I was able to manage my workload and still be a mother to my toddler.

Okay, lets face it, unless you want to go back to school to get an Advanced Practice degree of some kind, your BSN won’t make you 90k with one job. Now that we’ve all stepped into reality, with our open minds 😊 lets get into the breakdown of how I make this moneyyy!

To make 90k, I hold a total of 3 jobs. WAIT! Don’t hit the X just yet! 2 of the 3 jobs are 100% from home!

Job 1: Float Pool RN at local hospital

  • This is a PRN (per deim/as needed) position. My hours for this job are 24hrs/month  
  • Pay rate: $35/hr  x  24hrs  =  $840/month —————– 10,800/yr         

Job 2: RN Case Manager

  • This is my full-time job, I work this job Mon-Fri 8hrs/day
  • This job is salaried 75,000/yr

Job 3: Utilization Review

  • This is also a PRN position, requiring 16 hrs/month
  • Pay rate: $35/hr  x  16hrs  =  $560/month———————$6,720/yr

$75,000 + $10,800 + $6,720 = $91,800/yr

So, there you have it! 90k with my BSN degree! On paper it may look like a lot of work, but honestly its not! I actually prefer working 3 jobs to having 1 full time job as a bedside nurse! In my next post I’ll be discussing how I manage 3 jobs and a busy toddler! I hope this post was helpful, please feel free to ask me any questions!!

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