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Joseph Twitchell, President of the National Student Nurses' Association in Bozeman, Mont.

March 2012

Q. When did you decide to pursue a career in nursing and why?

A. I was a latecomer to the nursing world. I knew at a young age that I liked caring for people and animals, but I didn't consider nursing a career option. I became a massage therapist but didn't want to stop there, so I started looking at medical schools after earning my bachelor's degree in Biochemistry. I did some shadowing but never really felt that being a MD would fit well with who I was. I took a CNA class to make money while applying for medical school – I spent one day on the floor and knew nursing was where I needed to be.

Q. What have you enjoyed most about your nursing degree program?

A. My nursing program has been an amazing journey of self-discovery. It is hard to pick just one thing. I may be the exception and not the rule because I find such joy in all aspects of nursing. If I have to pick one thing, I will say I really have enjoyed the feeling of making a difference on so many different levels in so many people's lives.

Q. What has been your favorite part of serving as an elected NSNA official?

A. I have way too many favorite parts to mention in one article. It has been one of the best experiences of my life. NSNA has given me a better understanding of how nursing affects the whole world. Nursing has an impact that very few people realize, and NSNA has given me the opportunity to see that.

Q. What nursing specialties are you interested in pursuing and why?

A. I am really interested in a dual specialty. I love psychiatric nursing. In psychiatric nursing I get to help people whose whole world or their perceptions of it has been so drastically changed. I get to help people who could barely function in their daily lives and get them to the point of being a member of a community. The second specialty of interest is forensic nursing. The two specialties combine in advocating and caring for people in the worst days of their lives. With the combination, I'd be able to work with patients who have suffered, and help them regain control and stability in their lives.

Q. What advice can you give to prospective student nurses?

A. Get a planner that breaks time down into 15-minute blocks, and write out your whole schedule for the semester. This has several benefits because you have to manage your time very well in nursing school. The next thing would be to take care of yourself – take one day a week to do something that is not nursing or school related. You have to care for yourself before you can care for others. The next piece of advice would be to be flexible. Be willing to look at several specialties going in, adapt to changing schedules, and respect the beliefs and opinions of others. The last piece, and possibly the most important, is to become involved in the profession locally, statewide and nationally. It helps you to understand the impact you truly have on not only one person's life but the whole world.

Q. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now in your career?

A. I would like to see myself with a DNP in psychiatric nursing and a MSN in forensic nursing and just beginning my first term as one of the first men to become president of the American Nurses Association. I don't know if I can do it in 10 years, it may be 20, but I think it is fully attainable. I think the world of nursing is starting to evolve, and young nurses have an opportunity to step into the roles of leadership to shape the field.

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