When things are happening that are out of your control, you feel powerless. You may have a range of emotions similar to the ones identified in 1969 by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While these are grieving stages, they are also associated with challenging events that are out of your control. Think about when you first heard your clinical experiences were being suspended or your coursework was moved to 100% online delivery. I bet you said, "No way, they will never do that." When the inevitable happened, maybe you got a little angry, "What do you mean I cannot get my clinical hours? How will I graduate?" Then the discussion moved to, "What can I do to get clinical hours? I am supposed to graduate in a month." I would guess that many of you, like my students, haven’t reached the acceptance stage yet. I want you to know these feelings are okay. We all need to process what is happening. It is unprecedented and brings challenges we have never faced in my 30-year career.
There is one question I'd like you to ask yourself today: How can I change this situation so I have more control over my future as a nurse? I'm so glad you asked! I have a few ideas. In a recent study I conducted, I used a theoretical framework rooted in positive psychology; it's called hope theory. Hope theory asserts that hope reflects individuals' perceptions regarding their capacity to clearly set a goal, develop pathways to achieve that goal, and sustain motivation over time using agency thinking. The short version of that is, "I can do this, and I will do this." So, what can you control?
- How you react to the situation: This is a challenge at all levels. Know that nurses are working hard to provide quality patient care, and educators are continuing to provide exceptional nursing education.
- What you are doing: Make a plan for each day. Attend your online classes and work on practice NCLEX questions and online simulations. While there may be a delay in taking the exam, it is still in the future, and you need to be ready for it.
- Focus: Keep your eye on the prize. Remind yourself why you want to be a nurse. I would encourage you to start a journal and reflect on that very topic. Understanding your "why" is a powerful tool that can help you through almost any challenging situation.
- Learn from what you are seeing: Read nursing blogs and check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your local public health website each day. Engage in the discussions and ask questions, or as I tell my students, get curious! Think about if you were assigned a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19―what would that plan of care be? What would be your priority for this patient? What are some therapeutic communication techniques you can use for a patient in isolation? How can you provide support and comfort to their family?
- Stay positive: The world NEEDS nurses! You likely have chosen this profession because you are intelligent, strong, confident, caring, and have a desire to be in the service of others. I see that in you! Keep your thoughts positive and remind yourself that your possibilities are unlimited, and success as a nurse is your destiny.
I hope that you remember you CAN do this, and you WILL do this. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a train! It is the sun shining through, reminding you another day will come and give you the opportunity to crush it!
A few years into your career, you’ll be able to reflect on the pandemic where you learned so much about our profession, the resilience of nurses, and the power of positivity. As nurses, these qualities are our superpowers. I look forward to watching you flourish.
Marianne Biangone, MSN, RN, PHN, is the Prelicensure Academic Director at Samuel Merritt University in Sacramento, California, USA. She is a member of Sigma’s Upsilon Theta Chapter at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA.