March 11, 2004
A junior nursing major at Calvin College is the new president of the Michigan Nursing Students Association (MNSA), the first Calvin student elected to the post.
One of her goals is to get nurses off their feet more - at least for a few hours.
Megan Schairbaum is a junior at Calvin who hails from Bryan, Ohio. The daughter of a nurse and hospital maintenance worker, she always felt a career in health care was in her future.
"The hospital was pretty much my babysitter," she says. "After school I would hang out on the floor. I love people, and I love the medical field because it's constantly changing you and challenging you to learn."
Schairbaum is excited about her new challenges as president of the MSNA. And she believes that associations such as the MNSA can have an important impact on the nursing profession.
"it's interesting how people look at the profession of nursing and the healthcare field," she says. "A lot of people look at doctors, and they're very respected, whereas a lot of people look at nurses and say, 'Oh they’re just a nurse.'"
Associations like the MNSA change these misperceptions, she says, adding that the MNSA "also gives us a voice with legislation."
One area of legislation Schairbaum is following with keen interest deals with mandatory overtime for nurses.
Nursing externs, Schairbaum says, typically work several back-to-back shifts of mandatory overtime a week.
"You have professionals like truck drivers or airline pilots," she says, "and they're only allowed to fly or drive a certain amount of hours because of the risk it poses to their passengers. But nurses have to stay on their feet for 12 or 16 hours, and they have patients' lives in their hands."
Schairbaum got connected to the MNSA last spring when she joined the board of the Calvin nursing association and attended an MNSA convention in New Orleans.
"When I started to attend these conventions," she says, "it really opened my eyes to the voice that nurses have to carry. Nurses deal with patients day in and day out and the problems of patients. Who better to be an advocate for those patients than their nurses?"
That's a lesson Schairbaum also learned through Calvin's new nursing program, which has an intensive community focus.
While performing blood pressure screenings and volunteering at a local clinic, she realized the enormous impact nurses have in a neighborhood.
"It's a great focus for nurses to have," she says. "Nursing goes so much further than just acute care, and the sooner students learn that the better, which is why they encourage that at Calvin."
Debra Hansen, a Calvin assistant nursing professor, thinks Schairbaum will be good for the MNSA.
"She really has a fire for nursing," says Hansen. "She has tried to stimulate membership in the Calvin nursing organization, networking with other students and learning all of the different types of nursing that are available."
In a few weeks, Schairbaum, who hopes to practice as a trauma or obstetrics nurse, will be representing Michigan at a convention in Nashville.