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 This page was last updated on 15-Jun-02

Main Menu / Community Forums / Ask-A-Nurse
 The Q&A Column for Students
sk-A-Nurse is our Q&A column for students and other individuals interested in the nursing profession. Research and education questions are answered by the site leader, and questions related to nursing practice are answered by one or more members of our nursing panel.  Do you have a question about the field of nursing you would like to see addressed on this site? Use the form below to send your questions to the site leader (Submission Form). Previous questions are listed on the side bar - click on any question you would like to read to be taken to the archives.  

Important Note:  This forum is intended to address questions from nursing students related to nursing education and professional practice.  It is not a medical advice column.  If you have a concern about your health, please seek the advice your physician or healthcare practitioner.

Current Questions

I am hard of hearing - is it still possible for me to become a nurse?  My college counselor said I should consider another career instead.  Are there any resources you know of for students with disabilities?

Shame on your college counselor!  There are many excellent nurses in the profession who have hearing disabilities, and with the assistive technology available today, there is no reason you cannot have a successful, fulfilling career in nursing, too!

There are several amplified stethoscopes on the market for the hearing impaired, including some that can be used with hearing aids.  Finding the right stethoscope for your needs will be critical for doing accurate assessments of blood pressure and vitals, listening to breath and bowel sounds, etc.  Most medical equipment vendors will be able to get these for you.  Also, you may want to enroll in a lip reading course.

Exceptional Nurse ( is a web site devoted to nursing students and nurses with disabilities.  It has a comprehensive listing of educational, legal, technological and employment resources, as well as links to discussion groups and message boards where you can connect with other nursing students with disabilities.  

Another good resource is Deaf Nurse web site (, which has an active message board.  You may also want to check out the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss ( which "provides information, promotes advocacy and mentorship, and creates a network for individuals with hearing losses interested in or working in health care fields."

Network with other nurses and students who understand the challenges you may face, research the resources available to you and follow your dream of nursing.  You can do it!

Why do we need to know algebra for nursing?
- Meghan

I get a lot of questions about why a particular prerequisite course is required for nursing.  Sometimes, when you are struggling with a difficult course, it helps if you can understand the connection to see how it will apply to your future nursing practice!

Courses like biology, anatomy, microbiology, nutrition and physiology fit with nursing in an obvious way, but the rationale behind other courses is not always so clear.  Here are the most common courses I am asked about and how you will use them in nursing school and as a nurse:

Algebra - A solid understanding of mathematical principles is needed for drug dosage calculations, figuring IV flow rates and other nursing math.

Chemistry - Many of the concepts learned in chemistry are needed to understand the body's physiology and teleology.  Think Kreb's Cycle, ECGs, cell depolarization and repolarization, cellular respiration, perfusion, etc.  It is also necessary for understanding how medications affect the body and how they interact with each other.

Developmental Psychology - Many students used to the structure of the sciences have a hard time with this class, which tends to be very elastic.  However, understanding the stages of human development, both physically and from a psychological standpoint, will help you better understand the needs of your patients. Think holistic practice.

Statistics - This one is required of BSN students.  It applies directly to nursing research and being able to critically evaluate scientific studies, medical trials, risk factor analysis and community health statistics.

Philosophy, History and other Humanities Courses - It is helpful here to think in terms of a well-rounded education.  The broader your knowledge base, the more you bring to your professional practice.  These courses are also good for expanding your critical thinking skills and for personal development.

I hope this has helped explain how these courses relate to your nursing education.  Keep up the good work and don't get discouraged with your math - it will pay off in the long run!

I was wondering if you had any information about nursing student extern programs for the summer of 2002. I know that some hospitals offer these programs for upcoming seniors. I was hoping to maybe get to travel out of state to do my externship and wanted to know what my options were. Thanks!
- Ashleigh

I applaud your initiative and enthusiasm!  Student nurse externships are a great way to get experience over the summer before entering your final year of nursing school.  They allow you to apply what you've learned and perfect clinical skills, while giving you valuable guidance and support from an experienced nurse mentor.  As an added bonus, you'll have the opportunity to evaluate the facility, and if you like it, you'll have one foot in the door for your first job when you graduate!

Many hospitals offer both internship and externship programs as part of their recruitment program.  An internship provides supplemental training for licensed nurses, while an externship offers students the chance to work in the hospital environment in an unlicensed capacity.  It's a win-win situation for employers and students, as employers have the opportunity to recruit future nurses to their team, and students gain valuable experience.

You mentioned that you would like to travel out of state for your externship.  While I am not aware of a national listing of externship programs, you can safely assume most hospitals in large population centers will have externship programs in place - you'll just need to do a little research to find a program that's right for you.  Well-known hospitals, such as the Mayo Clinic, have benchmark extern programs, allowing students to work in a variety of areas to provide a well-rounded extern experience.  Lesser-known hospitals also offer high quality programs you can look into.  Another option is to check with nursing schools in locations where you wish to extern - they will be able to point you in the right direction for quality extern programs.

Keep in mind, however, that you will be responsible for your own housing and relocation expenses.  Externs are paid for their work, but the expense of moving and the higher cost/lower availability of short-term apartment leases may be hard to meet on this wage alone.  Additionally, while going to a new city can be an exciting adventure, it can also be emotionally isolating - especially if you do not know anyone outside of your work environment.  Don't overlook great opportunities in your own back yard.

Finally, whether you decide to extern locally or in another city, start making contact now.  The sooner you get started, the better, as these programs tend to fill up fast.  Best wishes for an enriching extern experience this summer!

I am struggling with my A&P class, as are several other classmates, and was thinking of starting a study group.  Any advice for making it work?

A study group is an excellent idea for getting through A&P!  I do have some suggestions for making your study group work effectively:
Keep it small - Limit the group to no more than 5 people.  Three to four members is best.  Larger groups are harder to coordinate and are more prone to getting off track.
Define your focus - Decide on the function and goals of the group up front.  Agreeing on a group purpose, organizing a plan of action and setting group goals will help you form a cohesive team.
Mark your calendars - Schedule regular meetings throughout the semester, preferably in the same place and at the same time (i.e., every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in the campus library).  This will make it easier for group members to plan ahead, whereas irregular or sporadic meetings will decrease the likelihood of attendance.
Agree on format - You may, for example, want to review lecture notes and help each other with assignments during the first half of the meeting, then quiz each other to prepare for exams during the second half.  Most importantly, reserve chit chat and fun for the END of the meeting, after your work is done.

These tips should help your study group work more productively and effectively.  

A final suggestion: Build in some fun.  Games are a great way to reinforce class material while decreasing stress.  Develop a Jeopardy-style quiz game, or play "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire Nurse."  If you have access to anatomy models in your lab, try holding an anatomy treasure hunt.  Make a list of 10 nerves, for example, and see who can find all the nerves on the list first.  Try histology pictionary when you are studying tissues.  The possibilities are endless - use your imagination!  Good luck to you!

 Do you have a question for Ask-A-Nurse?  Use the form below to send us your questions!

Important Note:  This forum is intended to address questions from nursing students related to nursing education and professional practice.  It is not a medical advice column.  Questions pertaining to personal health concerns or medical conditions will NOT be answered. If you have a concern about your health, please seek the advice your physician or healthcare practitioner.

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