Pre-nursing students shed light on different nursing pathways, give advice for others
When pre-nursing student Haley Eichhorn was a freshman and sophomore, the prospect of getting an internship seemed impossible. After visiting the Internship and Career Center, though, volunteer opportunities were suddenly closer than ever.
“I started with [the ICC] and got an internship [in the Emergency Room] at the Medical Center (UCDMC) and I loved it,” Eichhorn, now a third-year human development major, said. “It was a perfect way for me to learn. They have so many options — you can do oncology, the cardiac unit, the ER, the pediatrics unit, like you can literally do the internship anywhere. It’s not super hands-on, and it’s good to see these environments because you think you want to work there and then you find out very fast if you like it or not.”
As a pre-nursing student, not only is it important to take the appropriate nursing school prerequisites, but experience is also important because it demonstrates competencies and passion in a nursing school applicant. Eichhorn, for example, has interned in the ER in the past. Now she works with a clinic in Davis as a sexual and reproductive health educator and also takes classes to become a doula at the Woodland Hospital.
“As far as getting experience, everyone does the same [kinds of things],” Eichhorn said. “They do research and do ‘this’ and do ‘that’ for anything pre-health, but I have done very off-the-wall kind of outside experience, which has been super cool and I want everyone to know that there’s so many options.”
UC Davis students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in any major can choose a number of pathways, the first being to move on to obtain a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) and registered nursing license (RN) at another institution. Some choose to stop there, but others will gather a few years of nursing experience after this and then return to school to pursue a master’s in nursing (MSN) or a doctorate program. After undergraduate, though, some students choose to immediately move on to a longer program to obtain their MSN and RN before gaining nursing experience or entering a doctorate program.
“Right now nursing is one of the biggest growing fields out there and there are couple different routes to become a registered nurse,” said Tiffany Lung, a fourth-year human development major and president of the UC Davis Nursing Club, via email. “Since UC Davis does not offer a nursing undergraduate degree, most students will apply for a two year program to get their second bachelors in nursing. However, most are now moving to masters program.”
The third pathway is similar to the second one; the difference is that after receiving an MSN and RN, students can choose a specialization as well, go off to gain experience, and have the option to return to a Doctorate Program. There are many MSN degree specialties, one of the most common ones being the Nurse Practitioner (NP). Other options include becoming a critical care nurse, a nurse anesthetist, and more.
“I think a lot of people probably have an idea of what they want to do, but become surprised by what they end up actually doing,” said Brooke Talkington, a second-year international relations major. “I think a lot of people go into [nursing] thinking they’ll do one thing and then finding out they actually really want to do something else. It’s just like going into college with a major you like and then realizing it’s not for you, you just kind of have to experience it and figure out if it’s suitable for who you are.”
This is precisely the dilemma Talkington experienced herself, as she’s in the process of switching her major from international relations to human development so she can pursue her interests in pre-nursing.
“You can pretty much do any major really as long as you fulfill the requirements but it is smarter to choose a major that has more science-based classes,” Talkington said. “If you choose something like international relations, you’re not going to be taking [the required] classes and might exceed your unit limit. I’m interested in being a pediatrician just because I really love kids and working with kids. I think they’re so much fun.”
Lung has similar interests to Talkington, as she’s interested in working with children too. This is something she learned about herself through her volunteer experience, another reinforcement of why pre-nursing students recommend having experience in order to find what kind of job works for each individual.
“I want to become a neonatal nurse practitioner,” Lung said. “Neonatal nurse practitioners work in neonatal intensive care and care for sick infants or premature babies! Like many others, I knew that I wanted to work in the medical field but didn’t know what I wanted to do. As I was volunteering in UCDMC and Willow Clinic, I realized I preferred working with children and infants more and found that being a neonatal nurse practitioner would be perfect for me.”
As the president of the UC Davis Nursing Club, Lung is full of advice for students interested in nursing or any health field in general. The club meets Wednesdays in Olson 106 from 6:10 to 7 p.m.
“You don’t need to be pre-nursing to be involved in our club,” Lung said. “There are many students who come are curious about nursing and will just check us out for one or two meetings. There are also people in our club who are deciding between being a PA, nurse or doctor!”
Although nursing schools are competitive, Lung, Talkington and Eichhorn all recommend three basic ingredients to be successful: it’s important to do well in school and get involved, experience is the best way to learn what works and what doesn’t work for each individual and that meeting people and seeking opportunities will always be of benefit.
“Try to get in touch with people that are on the same path as you,” Eichhorn said. “I’m sure if you got into a room of 20 pre-nursing students, we’d all have some great internship or some great advice to give. [Get] in contact with people who are doing the same thing and network.”
Written by: Marlys Jeane — firstname.lastname@example.org