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A Conversation with Jenna Sanders, President of the National Student Nurses’ Association

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By Melissa Wirkus, staff writer

Jenna Sanders was elected president of the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) for 2008-2009 this past March. A junior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at the University of Saint Francis, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sanders is a dedicated leader and an ambitious nursing student. She brings many years of leadership experience within the student nurse community to her new position as president of NSNA.

Jenna Sanders is the newly elected president of the National Student Nurses Association.

Q. What sparked your interest in becoming a nurse?

I have three children, each of whom has had some form of minor (though not minor to us!) surgery. When I was the most scared and had to hand my children over to the surgeons, it was always the nurses who gave me the strength and reassurance that I needed most.

I stayed home with my children for six years, and then needed to start thinking about what was next when they were in school. I had never really thought of a career in health care before children, but it was the only logical choice for me at that point! I wanted to be able to give my patients and their families what the nurses had given to me.

Q. How did you become involved with NSNA?

A very good friend of mine spent a lot of time trying to convince me to run for treasurer of my school’s Student Nurse Association. I just wasn’t sure I had the time! In the end, I am so thankful that he convinced me to get involved. Within two weeks, I was also elected President of the Indiana Association of Nursing Students and I was hooked.

Being able to be actively involved in the future of nursing and nursing education is an exciting and empowering position. I could never have imagined how much I would learn, and look forward to how much I continue to learn through my involvement.

Q. Why did you decide to run for President of NSNA?

I served as vice president of the NSNA for 2007-2008, and had one year of eligibility left. At the beginning of that term, I thought that one year would be enough for me. By the end of the year, however, I simply couldn’t imagine not continuing to be a part of this organization. The students, faculty and professionals that I have been able to work alongside are nothing short of inspiring. I got into nursing to make a difference in people’s lives and through NSNA, I believe that we are doing that!

Q. What issues do you intended to focus on as NSNA president?

Beyond traveling to represent our organization, I intend to work alongside an incredible Board of Directors to advance resolutions that have been passed in our House of Delegates. Issues range from education to public health to legislation, and have been heavily researched and presented by our student members to the House of Delegates. Our House votes on these resolutions and our Board of Directors works to advance them to the greatest degree possible.

Q. What are your future goals in regards to your career in nursing?

I plan to attend graduate school to become a Certified Nurse Midwife/Family Nurse Practitioner. In nursing school, I’ve really expanded my passion for Women’s Health and Labor and Delivery. I work part time as a student tech in our local hospital’s postpartum unit and love going to work. I also really enjoy teaching and expect that to be a definite part of my future career.

Q. Do you find it challenging to be in nursing school, president of the NSNA and a mom all at the same time?

My life is a crazy one, for sure, but I can’t imagine it any other way. You make time in your life for what you are passionate about. I am passionate about my children, my education, and NSNA—so somehow it just fits! I have a very supportive faculty and family who help to make it all possible.

Q. What are some of the specific challenges or obstacles that student nurses face today?

Getting into a nursing program is half the battle! We hear so much about the nursing shortage, but it is the faculty and clinical site shortage that leaves tens of thousands of qualified nursing school applicants denied each year. Working to increase the pool of qualified faculty and availability of clinical sites is critical to easing the nursing school shortage.

Additionally, navigating a huge variety of educational and health care career opportunities can be confusing at best. One of the current activities of NSNA is working towards educating students on all of the different educational options available, along with what options provide the most in the way of career mobility.

Q. What advice do you have for student nurses?

Stick to it! Nursing is an incredible career path with all but unlimited opportunities. Find yourself a mentor in your chosen specialty and open yourself up to the chance to become involved in your community and/or SNA. Nursing education and nursing as a career can be a wild ride—strap on your seatbelt and see where you end up!

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