2017 has been quite the year for Jennifer Kalenkoski, RN, who was recently elected as 2017-2018 president of the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA). After graduating with an associate’s degree from Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schecksville, Penn., in May, Jennifer moved to Rochester, Minn., to begin her career in the Cardiac Progressive Care Unit (PCU) at the Mayo Clinic this fall as she completes the Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at Central Methodist University (CMU) in Fayette, Mo. We recently spoke to Jennifer about her nursing journey and how she manages her busy schedule, as well as NSNA’s plans for the upcoming academic year.
Nursing Notes (NN): How did you first get into nursing?
Jennifer: After high school, I went to a university in Pennsylvania, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. No one really told me, and my guidance counselor at my high school did not offer very helpful information. However, during my third year my aunt, Marie, became very sick and my family had to decide if we should put her in a full-time care facility or if a family member could take care of her. I had no idea what I was doing with my life, so I decided to move home and take care of my aunt.
NN: How did the nurses you interacted with affect you?
Jennifer: Through taking her to various doctor’s appointments, and occasionally to the hospital, I was able to meet some really good nurses, and some not-so-good nurses, and observe how their interactions deeply affected my aunt. If a nurse wasn’t providing her the best care, she wouldn’t want to go back to that hospital. I got to see how one person’s actions can really have an impact on the patient.
NN: Could you describe how you became involved with NSNA?
Jennifer: I first got involved at the local level with the Student Nurses Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP). I joined during a building year, so I really learned a lot during this time. I also went to a state meeting and, through encouragement from fellow students, I ran for the state board and was elected.
NN: What are your plans for the coming year as NSNA president?
Jennifer: A lot of our members want more membership engagement opportunities. We are trying to address this and ensure we have activities so that everyone feels like they are a part of the organization. In May, I attended the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Congress in Barcelona, Spain and learned about the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how organizations are using these to work towards global initiatives. My goal for this year is to bring what I learned from different meetings and boards back to the members of NSNA to move the organization forward.
NN: How do you balance your commitment to NSNA with the demands of nursing school?
Jennifer: I have good time-management skills. My dad always says, “When you wake up each day, think about what matters today, not what matters next week.” I have tried to live by this by doing small things, at first, to improve how I manage my time. It doesn’t happen overnight. I use a planner and recommend that everyone use one! During nursing school, there is a lot going on with classes and clinicals, and you have to prepare differently for each of these tasks, so I live and breathe by my planner.
NN: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Jennifer: I want to finish my RN to BSN program and then go onto grad school and get my Ph.D. Recently, I have becoming involved in nursing research, which I really enjoy, as well as legislation and policy initiatives. I don’t know where I will be in five or 10 years, but I hope I am doing something in nursing for the greater good.
NN: Do you have any advice for someone who may be considering a nursing career?
Jennifer: If you have an interest in nursing, go for it. It will be difficult at times but once you get through it, it is totally worth it.
NN: Is there any advice you have been given and will take with you as you start at the Mayo Clinic this fall?
Jennifer: “You don’t have all of the answers, and ask questions.” That is what I will take with me, so I can make sure I am asking all of the questions before I do anything.
To learn more about NSNA and how to get involved, visit NSNA.org.