Symposium emphasizes preparedness

Nurses articulate responsibilities, planning ahead


Cody Casares / The Advocate

Registered nurse Mia Johnson (left) and Samuel Merritt College representative Sheri Holbrook speak to students about the challenges of entering a nursing program during the Nursing Symposium event in HS-101 on April 8.

By Marlene Rivas, Opinion Editor

A nursing symposium was held on April 8 in HS-101, providing new and continuing nursing students with advice from nurses and doctors on educational planning and expectations for what is to come after graduation.

“We wanted to get them at the beginning of their journey and give them advice beforehand instead of hearing about students’ regrets at the end,” counselor Kim Blackwell said. “We wanted to support and encourage students and provide them with more information. We care about our students and want them to succeed.”

This event had not been put together for nursing students before, she said. Students in attendance appeared eager to take in as much information as possible as they took notes during the discussions and participated by asking the panelists questions.

“A lot of us don’t know what direction to go. This was very helpful and could benefit a lot of us,” nursing student Kamya Cook said.

The students present included a group from Los Medanos College in Pittsburg. There were even some from schools outside of the Contra Costa Community College District.

Some of the panelists worked within Contra Costa County, while others came from Cal State-Sacramento, Stanford Hospital and Samuel Merritt University.

“We wanted to represent different areas,” Blackwell said.

The jobs of the panelists vary. Some are involved in more hands-on care while others hold administrative positions. All of them have nursing backgrounds.

Blackwell started off the event by asking the panelists to talk of how they became interested in nursing, where they obtained their degrees, what are their previous and current jobs and to explain the road between where they started and now.

Hearing about their paths allowed students to understand the effort required to achieve a career in a medical field and the different options available for students to get to their destination, Blackwell said.

The panelists also did not hesitate to list in detail the struggles they faced during their academic journey.

Middle College High School junior Meily Reyna said the discussion was insightful, hearing the struggles of people in the field she plans to enter.

“Most people do not want to talk about the struggles,” Reyna said. “They will tell you about how great the job is and the paycheck, but they won’t tell you the struggles they had.”

The next question for the panelists was about the skills they used in their daily work.

A lot of the skills the panelists mentioned were personal qualities they possess or are needed to be a nurse. They mentioned organization, critical thinking and empathy .

Advice on juggling responsibilities as a student was also covered.

Another objective of the event was to encourage students to create an educational plan with a counselor and do more personal research, counselor Andrea Phillips said.

Nursing department Chairperson Cheri Etheredge discussed the importance of planning ahead and insisted that students who plan ahead of time do better.

Dr. Etheredge said this field of study comes with sacrifices and other things in their lives may need to be rearranged in order to meet the needs of their classes and work.

Biology professor Ellen Coatney said students should follow their strengths and maintain realistic expectations in all that they do. She pointed out this can be done, starting with their course planning.

“We all fail when we have too much on our plate. But anything worth doing is worth doing well,” Dr. Coatney said.

Coatney mapped out some of the prerequisite classes needed in order to pursue nursing. She also made the connections between the relevance of the material taught and how it will be used in the workforce.

Nursing schools build on what students learn in their prerequisites, Etheredge said.

“You need to know your stuff. Not knowing your stuff will reflect in your work,” Stanford registered nurse Mia Johnson said.

Samuel Merritt University certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) Shawna Holbrook said it is important for students to seek tutoring and get to know their teachers.