My Advice to Future RN/JDs: Keep Your Foot In All Doors

A student from Howard School of Nursing called to ask me to donate and I politely declined because in the words of my Twinnie, “I ain’t got it!”  She followed up with a few questions about becoming an RN/JD and 20 minutes later I had given her advice that I wished someone would have given to me.


In the end, I would not have done things differently, but I would have done things better.

1.  Keep your job in healthcare, even if it is just PRN.

If I would have kept my previous position, I would have had 6 years of active nursing experience instead of just 3.  I also would have had an easier time finding a position in that current healthcare system as a long-term employee.  I could have increased my hours after I took the bar, to help me in my post grad transition.  I quit my job because it was difficult balancing school and work initially and the administration convinced me that I could not work and do well my first year.  Do not listen to that.  Staying busy sometimes helps you focus and properly prioritize your time.

2. If you have a specialized career path, go to a school that has the resources to assist you with breaking into that field.

Although my law school had a previous RN/JD & have quite a few alumni in healthcare positions, I did not connect with them until I was in the middle of my job search.  There are a few law schools that have health care law certificate programs, concentrations in health care, or a course load that allows you to get more in-depth knowledge with policy and healthcare.  I did not think that my path was that special or that I would need a lot of assistance in obtaining a policy or healthcare associate position, but a different school could have possibly expanded my potential opportunities.

3.  Make time for extracurricular activities that can connect you with people in your future field.

I cannot make any excuses as to why I was not more involved in the ABA or other organizations that had a host of healthcare lawyers.  Although I was encouraged to join them, I did not feel that I had the time.  One thing you forget in law school is how to balance and in doing so, you can miss out on very important connections that you may need in the future.

4. Your career path is special and you should highlight that often.

One thing I could have done better was highlighting my transferable skills clearly.  Many people see my resume and do not understand why a nurse would want to be a lawyer, despite the millions of current issues that intersect with healthcare, policy, and the law.  People need to understand the why although you think that it is obvious.  Being able to have practical patient  experience that involves very calculated decision-making and collaboration is key to being in policy or in legal positions.  Do not shrink yourself to seem normal when you are not.

5. Do not be afraid to ask for help from those who have been hired to help you.

I made the mistake of not reaching out to Career Services until I had put in over 60 plus applications.  I thought that I would be able to land a position with the resources I had.  The Career Services Office is there to help you and connect you with the right people.  It is all about who you know, even more so in this current job market.  Although you may look great on paper, people may not even look at that paper if they don’t have a reason to pull your resume.

6. Keep an open mind.

Although my back up plan was to go back to nursing, I never though that I would really go back into nursing.  I know that some people may see this as a step backwards, but financially it is 10 steps forward and now I am apart of a healthcare organization that may be able to use all of the skills that I have obtained over my 8 years of schooling.  Do not be afraid to take an untraditional path to the right position.  You will always be a nurse and your  skills will always be valued.  Make sure you don’t keep yourself from a great opportunity because you have a plan that you do not want to deter from.

I wish someone would have told me a few of these things.  I may have listened or learned on my own but I want the next person to know better and do better.

Keep your foot in all doors.  Always think ahead and of the potential issues that can arise.  Maintain your nursing license.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Law School. Check. Bar. Check. Job…

Everyone has their life planned out in their head to work out perfectly at every stage of their life.  Once we finish high school we plan to get into the college of our choice without having to worry about how to fund our education.  After we finish college we plan to land the perfect job that pays great and makes all of those late nights, exams and stressful moments worth it.  We plan to grow at our jobs or obtain all of the skills we need to get a better job and build our career.  After enjoying our early 20s we decide we want more and go back for an advanced degree to open even more doors.  After obtaining our post-graduate degree, we plan to walk into our dream job, make a difference and save the world.  Many of these plans work out but we are never prepared for the bumps along the road.

Many of these things were possible pre-recession and actually happened for a lot of people who are only a few years my senior.  Those of us entering into the market post 2008 experienced many unplanned bumps that derailed many of these well-intentioned plans.  Throughout undergrad, I was able to obtain jobs fairly quickly and build up my resume.  I  landed my dream job out of college.  I left that job and immediately started another job in DC.  I went back to law school thinking that we had passed over the roughest part of the downturn and we have, but the market will never be back to the pre-recession glory of jobs and opportunities galore.

I left my job as a bedside nurse so that I would have more autonomy over decisions that were being made in healthcare and for my patients.  I loved my job but I did not like the politics.  Politics in healthcare harm patients and undermine the mission and values of the healthcare industry.  I left my job because I wanted to be happy and I decided that my next job would be something that I loved, doing what I love and building up to my forever job.

This mindset kept me from applying to just any job, taking just any salary or just doing something to get a check.  I made great money coming out of undergrad, so I know that I cannot make any less than that, but additionally I know my value.  The issue is getting others to see my value and getting the position that will allow me to use my skills while growing as a health care advocate.  I just want to be happy and to grow within an organization.  It sounds simple but I know that it is so much more complex.

Everything does not work out as planned but that does not mean that we made any missteps or should have done anything differently.  We have to believe in the good times and bad times that our steps are ordered and the desires of our heart will lead us to the right place.  I am not here to just build my resume but to actually achieve my goals of changing the world and improving the healthcare industry.  This time is just a test of my patience and to see if I will stick to my guns or fold under pressure.  I know the right opportunity is coming and when it does, I will be glad that I waited.

Throughout life we can plan with the best intentions but bumps will come, foreseeable and unforeseeable.  Through these moments we have to hang on tightly and stay focused on our end goal.  Having a support system in place is vital and helps to maintain your sanity, stay encouraged and stay the course.  After you have checked off all of your goals and one remains, know that the last check is coming in due time.

Focused. Check. Patient. Check. Grateful. Check.  Job…soon to be checked. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Job Seeker (Entry level risk management, healthcare policy, healthcare advocacy, healthcare law): www.linkedin.com/pub/irnise-fennell-williams-jd-rn/52/304/b60/

When I Want to Give Up, I Remember the Why

Over the past 9 1/2 weeks, I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions.  It all started with the excitement of beginning the first steps to completing the final hurdle to complete freedom.  This soon glided into the endless feeling of being overwhelmed with the amount of information that I needed to consume daily, which then lead to mental exhaustion that made me fly back to feeling overwhelmed.  Then a sudden breath-taking drop came with the death of my grandfather, followed by the slow progression back to a level of focus that I needed to be productive and progressing towards being polished.

During many of the unproductive, completely overwhelmed and paralyzed due to exhaustion days, I wanted to throw in the towel, close the books, stop writing essays and stop practicing multiple choice questions, because I clearly was not going to make it to the end of this process better prepared than when I started.  I did not see the progress.  I felt that I was getting the same types of questions wrong and missing the same issues on the essays.  I decided that I would just go back to my old life, my old career, because I was never going to be ready for this daunting exam.  I kept telling myself everyday, “You are behind. You will never catch up.”  When I needed to rest all I could think was, “I am behind. I can sleep when I pass!”  I was angry at myself, at my lack of progress and at the idea of having to tell people that I quit.

Then after going months without seeing my son and days where he wouldn’t talk to me on the phone, we were able to connect with him on the iPad and I saw his precious face.  “Hi mommy. Hi daddy. Mommy. Daddy. Daddy. Mommy.”  In that moment, all of my stress, anxiety and fear melted away.  The only thing that was important was our special gift.  His smile, his laugh, his kisses…all of the things that I missed and the exact thing I needed to see to get my mind back in order.  After speaking with him and seeing his face, I realized that I cannot quit because I have someone watching my every step; basking in my successes and pushing me through my failures.

My son is my WHY.  For some people it is a car, a job or a vacation spot. For others it may be their mother telling them that she is so proud of them or standing next to their father who was sworn in as an attorney at the same place 30 years ago.  What your WHY is does not matter, knowing what your WHY is does.  If you do not have a WHY, you will give up during a breakdown MOMENT, instead of waiting a MOMENT longer and reaching your breakthrough.

After refocusing on my WHY.  I stopped telling myself that I was behind, and instead I told myself that I was where I needed to be.  Suddenly a burden lifted from my shoulders and I had renewed energy to make my WHY proud and complete the mission I set off to accomplish.  When you reach that moment where you cannot go on anymore, stop focusing on the negative, pessimistic or potentially disastrous outcomes and focus your energy on the positive, optimistic, and successful outcomes that you have worked hard to reach.  Focus on your WHY.  Keep pushing for your WHY.  Never give up because your WHY is waiting for you on the other side.

Your WHY won’t ever let you give up, so don’t give up on your WHY.  Why you do this.  Why this matters.  Why failure is not an option.  Why you can.  Why.  Stay the course.  Persevere.  Push through the pain.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Why I Am Perfect

Job hunting in a recovering economy is a job in itself.  Many of my classmates have worked diligently and found positions that will lay the foundation to their career.  Then there are the people like me: the one who passed over many positions instead of just applying and starting somewhere, to find a position that is idealistic.  I left my last career because I wanted to make a greater impact on people and patients outside of a hospital environment.  But over the last few months I have realized that there isn’t a job out there that encompasses all of the things that I desire to do, so I need to put my idealism to the side and find a job.

The hunt is on.  I am open to opportunities that will help me grow as a young attorney, while still giving me a great work/life balance.  Those two things I cannot compromise and will clearly express them in my interviews…when I get one.

One of my favorite questions is,”What makes you perfect for this job?”  As I enjoyed my moment of peace today, I started thinking about what makes me perfect for any job.  As we have progressed professionally, many of us have forgotten that degrees, resumes and life experiences alone don’t make a person perfect for a position, but their chemistry, their personality and their drive is what people are going to look at once they are at the table.

So for me, when I answer this question, I am going to speak to all of the things that make me perfect.  I am dedicated.  I have always taken the time to learn the necessary skills to be a great employee at every job that I have ever had; from Shop Rite, to being a server, a teller all the way to my job as a nurse.  I love being right, so I am going to do what is necessary to make sure that I am doing my job to the best of my ability.  I show up early, stay late and go above and beyond because I know that it is necessary for my growth.

I am a fast learner.  I love being right (clearly), so I try to learn my job, as well as other people’s jobs just in case I have to step in during a time of need.  When I first started as a student nurse at Hopkins, I was in Urology (shout out to the best team at the Johns Hopkins Hospital), and I learned all of the skills I needed to do those surgeries and took any opportunity available to learn from other technicians and nurses who worked in other specialties.  I enjoyed the challenges that came with learning new things.  My first weekend out of orientation as a nurse was one filled with trauma and emergencies, and no one could tell that was my first time at the rodeo.

I love to learn.  I love challenges.  I love people.  I love to be right (just in case you didn’t know, now you do).  I am perfect because I invest my all in everything that I do, which makes me right for any job that I am applying for.  These characteristics are not written on a resume, in the descriptions of any of my positions or clear through my transcripts (grades aren’t everything so beat it).  I am perfect for any job because of who I am.  My genuineness. My fortitude.  My passion.

This is a reminder to us all to look beyond what we have done and start to expressing who we really are outside of the obvious.  We are greater than the sums of our applications or any individual accomplishment or failure that we have experienced.  Our distinct differences are what makes us great people to be around, to learn from, to grow with.  We are all perfect in our own respects.  As long as you are only trying to be the best you that there is, there is no real competition out there that can challenge you or step to you for that title.  In a busy city setting, we are so used to passing out business cards, but we are immune to getting to know who people really are.

As we enjoy the sweet weeks of summer, challenge yourself to get to know people beyond their business card, job title or financial status.  For those of us mounting up to get back on the saddle and ride to our dream job and for those who have been on that road too long, know that you are great and all you need is an opportunity to get to the interview to tell them who you really are.  When asked this question, make sure you are not harping on just your experiences, but those unique details that set you apart from the rest.

Be perfect. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

My FREE Nurse/Lawyer Advice

As a recipeint of two very vital degrees, I have come to realize that people will call you at random times, on random days for random things.  And that is okay because that means they value my opinion and trust that I will provide sound advice.  But there are a few things that I would like to share from a nursing perspective and from a legal perspective that everyone should know.  This is very basic information that is available on the internet, told to us in various ways, but yet we still don’t listen.  So here goes my free advice that is neither legally binding or information you should solely depend on but key information to consider.

Nursing Advice

1. If you are having an ache, pain, weird feeling or just have not been to the doctor in a long time, please GO TO THE DOCTOR.  If you call me with a mystery disease, I am going to tell you, “Go to the doctor!” I will not be held liable for anyones misdiagnosis and failed opportunity to treat because they listened to me as I Googled their symptoms.

2. If you or your loved one is in the hospital for 30 seconds or 30 days, please make sure that someone is present with you/them during visiting hours to watch everything that people are doing and to make sure your family member is being treated right.  Additionally, make sure EVERYONE (doctor, nurse, tech, aide) washes their hands as they come and go. Hospital acquired infections KILL.

3. If you do not have insurance, it does not meant that you should neglect your health.  There are opportunities to get your blood pressure checked, free clinics, ambulatory services and other forms of free treatment that you can access to maintain your health until you get some type of coverage.  Do not be above seeking government funded medical insurance because although we may be on the younger side of life, diseases have no boundaries.

4. Sign up to be a donor. Honestly, I am not sure why people don’t want to donate their organs if they die because you can take them with you but they won’t be doing you any good anymore.  I can spit statistics on racial demographics of those who donate and those who do not but we all know the basics and the only solution is that you sign up to donate your organs so that someone doesn’t have to decide later.

Read. Share. Sign up.

http://donatelife.net/organ-donation/

http://bethematch.org/support-the-cause/donate-bone-marrow/donation-faqs/

5. This is nurse/lawyerish (i.e. covers both areas): Let your medical desires be known to your family.  It would be great if everyone had a Living will aka advance directive, a document that advises your family of your medical wishes if your health fails, but knowing the average person (including myself), this is not on our priority list.  So, in order to minimize any potential drama, discuss your wishes with your closest family members and make sure everyone is on the same page and clear.  You can memorialize it unofficially and then take the final step and get an official advance directive.  (I can let you know how much this costs later).

Lawyerish (I am not a barred attorney and therefore my statements are that of experience and basic rights of the Constitution)

1. Create a Will.  This is different from a living will because this directs what will happen to your personal property and who will get what.  We all know what happens when people do not create wills.  Family drama at the funeral but this can all be avoided by simply getting a will well in advance of any incidents and keeping it updated.  For this you need a lawyer.  Not a generalized form you found online but a barred attorney who can guide you through the process and protect your interest.

2. BE CAUTIOUS WHEN TALKING TO THE POLICE. This is not apart of the anti-snitching campaign but serious advice for anyone who may encounter a police officer for any other reason than seeking help. Read this in its entirety and share with everyone you know: https://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform-immigrants-rights-racial-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-you.  The  ACLU lays it out clearly.

3. DO NOT FIGHT THE POLICE. If you feel that you are being wrongfully arrested, do not hit a police officer. You will be charged with a crime even if they find that they did not have the right to arrest you.  The article above discusses this topic also. Although this will not stop all police brutality, it will keep innocent parties from going to jail.

4. Find a lawyer.  Everyone should have a lawyers number handy.  Seriously.  If you ever run into a lawyer and they give you their business card, keep it.  You never know when you will need them.  Surprisingly, life happens and having a lawyer on speed dial will help you get through those first few rough moments.

5. Know your rights.  This is not just in a criminal setting but even at work or as a property owner.  Knowing your rights can save you from being fired or losing your home.  Read your job’s employee handbook and follow the rules.  Air on the side of caution or ask for clarification if you have questions.  Know your rights and responsibilities as a property owner.  There are still many predatory lenders seeking to devour new home owners and you do not want to be that person that loses their investment because you did not read the fine print.  Be clear. Ask questions. Know what you don’t know and get more information on that.

 

DISCLAIMER: None of what is stated in this blog is legally binding.  If you read any of this advice and depend on it and attempt to sue me, you will only get dust because I owe a mansion in student loans.  This in no way is meant to create an attorney-client relationship.