The Student Newspaper of Highline College

Nursing professors offer a prescription for becoming a nurse

T. Walker Staff Reporter May 20, 2021

So you want to be a nurse. Take care of yourself, and find a balance, Highline nursing faculty say. 

Speaking amid National Nurse Week (May 6-12), Highline’s nursing professors and students offered a glimpse at what their task is like, and what it takes to join the profession. 

Nursing is one of the hardest programs to get into at Highline. The college offers degrees in registered nursing, including a licensed practical nurse to RN program. More than 90 percent of students finish the program, with 100 percent placement after graduation. 

Being a nurse is not the same as being a doctor, program members said. 

Doctors treat the medical conditions of people, while nurses treat the human response to those medical conditions, nursing professor Christine Couch said.

 “The high-level answer is problem solving, emotional support, and untangling things,” said professor Kathryn Stevens said. 

“Nurses use a problem-solving approach called ‘the nursing process’ to holistically provide care to individuals, families, communities, and populations. Nurses can be found in literally thousands of places, but most commonly work in hospitals, care facilities, schools, and clinics,” she said.

Becoming a nurse takes some time and effort, Highline professors say. 

 “A nursing program can be completed in about two years (six quarters at Highline), not including prerequisites. However, it can take a lifetime to become a nurse,” Stevens said. “This is because you are constantly growing as a person and a professional as you encounter both frightening and inspiring situations every day.” 

It takes a lifetime to further develop the right skills to help as many people as possible and stay up on current events within the health community, Professor Couch said. 

Nurses are not all women. 

“Do not automatically assume a male who is providing your care is a doctor. In Washington state, 10.5 percent of nurses are males,” said Highline nursing professor Maria Carpenter. 

The profession is not without its challenges, nursing faculty said. 

“For me it is trying to comfort a family who just lost their baby,” Stevens said.

 “Losing a patient despite best efforts, feeling helpless and overwhelmed with staff to patient ratios and unrealistic expectations from employers and the health care system,” said Teri Trillo, Nursing Program  coordinator, said. 

For Couch, the hardest part is having to witness the illness of patients, the grief of others, and the pain that both are going through.

Even though there are difficult aspects of being a nurse, there are also enjoyable aspects of it as well. 

Knowing that what she does makes a difference is the easiest part of being a nurse for Couch. 

For Trillo, finding one’s favorite best area of nursing is the key to unlocking one’s potential. 

But none if it is easy.

“I don’t know that there is an easy part about being a nurse. Well, maybe coordinating your socks and earrings to your scrubs, but even that can be hard depending on the day,” Stevens said.

Ordinary folks can show their appreciation for their local nurses, Highline professors said. 

“Take care of yourself and practice healthful habits. Chocolate and coffee are always welcome. And wash your hands,” Stevens said. 

“Be kind. Be respectful. Be healthy,” Couch said. “Along with chocolate and coffee, potlucks are also popular and appreciated.” 

“Follow directions nurses give you on discharge to prevent or delay need for further care. Pay attention to what is going on in health care legislation at state and national levels,” Trillo said.

“Vote to help protect nurses who are taking care of too many patients with too few resources. Support nursing education, donate to scholarships. Give nurses the professional respect they deserve at all levels and areas of nursing,” she said. 

So, if you still want to be a nurse, you need to take care of yourself. 

“Self-care and a new term I just learned from the workshop I did a few weekends ago is ‘self-stewardship,’ in how we balance our lives and jobs and practice self-compassion and self-care to avoid burn-out,” Highline nursing professor Sandy Szalay said. 

“Develop your interpersonal skills along with your technical skills. If you find that you enjoy touching, listening, comforting, and caring, you have a great start,” Trillo said. 

According to the UW Center for Health Workforce Studies 2018 study results, the average salary for RN’s is $80,000. That makes the career “Hard work, but meaningful and financially rewarding,” Carpenter said.

Becoming a nurse is not easy, but once you’ve done it long enough, it becomes your life, Couch said.

“Be curious and work hard,” Stevens said. “Reflect on why you want to be a nurse and hold on to that when things get difficult. It is definitely worth it.”