Flourishing in Nursing School: The Value of Research & Faculty Mentorship

Featured Article | April 12, 2016 | By Alexander Salinas, Traditional BS Student

Alexander Salinas (R), Traditional BS nursing student, with faculty mentor Yu-Ping Chang, Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship, and My Lan Le (L), DNP student.

Research is one of the backbones (maybe the cervical, thoracic or lumbar) of nursing. I see it as “behind the scenes,” where big ideas and clinical questions are answered. It is the reason why patients have increased quality of life or why the average lifespan of a person with a disease is now improving.

Nourishing Curiosity

Last summer, I entered the Nursing Undergraduate Research Summer Experience (NURSE) at the University at Buffalo School of Nursing under the mentorship of Laura Anderson, PhD, director of PULSE Healthy Weight Research Team. After the summer experience, I thought that I should continue during the school year, and was luckily recruited as a PULSE Healthy Weight Research Team Member.

This research experience has opened opportunities for me that I would not find if I did not go beyond the classroom experience. When the school year started, I was also offered the opportunity to work under Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, assistant dean for research and scholarship.

Dr. Chang has allowed me to work both collaboratively and one-on-one with a Doctor of Nursing Practice student. Through research, I was able to partake in participant recruitment and the collection of raw data. Every Friday, I look forward to meeting with Dr. Chang and DNP student My Lan Le.

Reaping the Benefits of Experience

Research is an amazing opportunity because it enables you to be mentored by a faculty member who is expert in his or her field and, above all, wants you to grow professionally.

Dr. Chang would always ask me, “When are you getting your PhD? You can apply to this nursing organization and submit an abstract. You can present here! Why not present? You can read this article and tell me what you think. What else can I do to help you learn?” These moments make me reflect upon my career, and the wide array of options in nursing.

It may seem intimidating at first to be one-on-one with a professor, but this has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my undergraduate study experience: being mentored and taught by a faculty researcher who gets to know you as a person and wants you to truly succeed in your career. One time I had to meet with Dr. Chang to write an abstract and she found out I had an exam. She told me, “Go study at my research assistant’s desk upstairs; here’s a donut and grab a drink. I’ll take care of the rest.”

Planting the Seeds of Lifelong Learning

Research has taken me to many levels of learning: interacting with a research participant, working with a doctoral nursing student, getting free food (YES!), attending training at the Center for Translational Research Center, and learning how to code data through a statistical program (SPSS). Research has given me opportunities to become a Ronald E. McNair scholar and attend different conferences like the Pittsburgh Eastern Nursing Research Society Conference next month!

Of all the knowledge and skills I acquired, the nursing essence of critical thinking is still applied in many different forms, such as finding correlations between different data variables or managing data input. It has pushed me to exceed my own expectations and continuously learn as a student.

Valuing Your Own Growth Potential

To any student who might feel intimidated, don’t be! Research has allowed me to grasp the whole picture of academia and meet faculty who are some of the best and most passionate educators you will ever meet!

Comments

Great article, Alexander! I enjoyed reading it and learning about your experience! Keep the good work! 

-Carleara F. R. Silva

Hi Alexander,

Thank you for sharing your experience. I am a nursing student as well and go to a school in the southwest. I recently submitted a PICO paper and based on my topic, I was asked by my professor if I would consider a research mentorship in my last semester to pursue my topic. I was taken a back by this because I've never been asked to assist in research and I'm not exactly sure how to approach it. Should I take it as a good sign? Are these opportunities rare? I would greatly appreciate some advice, if you have the time.

Thanks!
-Ray

_______

Hi Ray,

Thanks for reading about my experience. Congratulations on your PICO paper! This is not a good sign, but a great sign! Your faculty most likely saw great potential. Only a few usually pursue research while in nursing school, so it is rare. You should ask yourself, "Is this something for me?" Are you willing to work during winter break, springs break and multiple meetings? Working with faculty one-on-one is probably one of the best things that happened to me while in nursing school. They will support, guide and mentor you to be successful. My experience made me feel more advanced and prepared before graduating.

Ask the faculty member what the experience would entail and what the commitments are, but I anticipate that this experience will be something worthwhile.

I hope I helped and good luck!

Best,
Alexander Salinas

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