Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Letter to My Students on the Occasion of Their Final Exam

To The Students of the 2005-2006 Evening LPN Program,

Well, folks, here we are at the end of our nine months together, and I am truly sad to see you go. You’ve been a great class, and I’ve learned a great deal from all of you. As was said by some famous person, the roles of student and teacher are often reversed.

I wish I could affirmatively say that I have sufficiently prepared you all for the NCLEX, covering every detail that might confront you when you sit in front of that dreaded computer screen, but alas, it’s not my place to say whether you’re prepared or not, nor can I affirm that we did all that we needed to do. The fact is, we covered a great deal of ground but could never do it all in nine months no matter how hard we tried. It will now be up to each of you to prepare for that last major hurdle before you can officially enter the nursing profession.

That said, I want to leave you here with a few pieces of advice.

Nursing is called a “practice” because, in my opinion, it takes constant practice to be the best nurse you can be from day to day. As your practice develops, you need to be continually willing to learn and grow---both professionally and personally---or you’ll stagnate. Continuing education credits are something that many of us dread fulfilling, but continuing education is crucial to staying abreast of what’s new and different out there in the world. Medicine is constantly changing and evolving, and we need to evolve with it if we want to be up to date and savvy in our work. So, to that end, be interested in learning. When something doesn’t make sense, look it up, ask someone, or try to discover more about it. Let your curiosity lead you to always learn just a little more. It’s the exceptional nurse who’s willing to ask why and then find the answer.

I can’t emphasize enough that you must continue to increase your comfort with technology. By this I mean computers, the Internet, search engines, email, chat rooms, blogs, databases, spreadsheets, on-line research, on-line journals, etcetera. Many hospitals (and maybe nursing homes, as well) now employ laptop computers on wheels that the nurses must use for orders, notes, and other documentation. Some facilities are moving in the direction of electronic medical records (EMRs) and you have to be ready to deal with this reality. If you’re already skilled and comfortable with some forms of technology, include this on your resume under the heading of “Skills”. Potential employers want to know who can sit down at a computer and need only a little coaching to get started. If you have the ability to take some computer classes at MCDI or another school, take advantage of that opportunity as soon as possible. You can mark my words that being conversant with technology will only increase your ability to find a job you like, the caveat (remember that one, Lindsay?) being that lack of understanding of such information can be a professional liability.

There are many places on the Internet for nurses to surf for information and I want to point you in the right direction. As I may have mentioned in class, if you need to find something out about anything, go to Google and simply type in what you’re looking for. I use it daily and have rarely been disappointed.

Medscape is a great free resource on the Web, and I recommend that each of you sign up. Just go to You can create an account and then come back as often as you like to look for articles, support, links to other sites, and updated information, as well as conferences and on-line CEUs. You can sign up for various Medscape email updates, or you can just check the site at your leisure.

Other sites of interest: General nursing site A blog registry site. Find blogs on nursing or anything A great way to start your own blog. my blog where I mostly write about my work, and link to many other medical and nursing blogs of great interest and variety.

I recommend you collect letters of recommendation from anyone you work with that would be willing to write one for you. Keep a file of these, and also ask those individuals if they’ll serve as references for you when you apply for jobs down the road. Also, keep an updated resume on your computer at all times, changing it as necessary depending on the job you’re applying for. After you accumulate more experience, you can have several versions of your resume on hand and you can target them towards different types of facilities.

Once you have some experience under your belt, start to look around and find out what facilities and agencies are hiring LPNs. Dialysis units, doctors’ offices, schools, some VNAs---there are many places open to hiring LPNs. I know for a fact that ____________will hire skilled LPNs for their HIV/Mental Health, Pedi, and MedSurg teams. This is something to look forward to.

I know most of you would rather not think about it, but furthering your education is also something that you can consider. Being an LPN is great, but if you want to broaden the scope of your practice, consider eventually becoming an RN, if not a BSN. While it of course involves more loans, more studying, more sacrifice, and lots of work, it also involves greater ability to pick and choose your work environment, as well as larger paychecks. It is only food for thought, but definitely worth considering.

Nurses Eat Their Young
You may have all heard the phrase, “Nurses Eat Their Young”, and I have heard a few stories from some of you who already have experienced the callousness and rigidity of some of those nurses out there. No matter how poorly you might be treated by some of those seasoned nurses, be careful to not repeat history when it’s your turn to mentor someone new. I always try to be exceedingly kind and helpful to nursing students, because I remember that “there but for the grace of God go I”. It was not long ago that I was in the same boat, and it’s no fun when all you want to do is learn to do your job and someone seems to go out of their way to make you miserable while you try. If we each decide to break that cycle, many more novice nurses will stay in the profession and pass that kindness along to the next generation.

The Future
As your teacher, I feel a responsibility to be available to you if you do indeed need a letter, some advice, or another form of support over the next few years. Since I don’t plan to continue teaching at ________at this time, below is an email where you can reach me.

You have all done a courageous thing, and I am so impressed that you have done it. Between raising children, owning and renting homes, working 11-7, maintaining family obligations, getting ready to have a baby, or saying goodbye to your parents and loved ones, you have all undertaken a huge task and should be very proud of yourselves.

Congratulations, good luck, and please keep in touch as you enter the world of nursing. I look forward to hearing about your successes and challenges, and will entertain any questions you have along the way.


Keith Carlson, RN, BS


Anonymous said...

Dear Keith

We (& I believe I speak for the entire class) were so incredibly blessed to have had you as our teacher. Tonight we took a mock Nclex exam. I think everyone passed, although in my case it wasn't pretty. I wish you had shared your site with us earlier in the year - it is fantastic!
Your pooch is one lucky canine.

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