Have you ever wondered what happened to the student who studied with you for that beginning med-surg test or the instructor who helped you understand pediatrics? They may be wondering where you are too. Networking with student and faculty colleagues is a powerful way to connect for both social and professional benefits.
Networking consists of any type of information exchange. The exchange could be about jobs, clinical practice, professional issues, problem solving, or just keeping in touch with other nurses. The types of information exchange are infinite. In the information age, the media for networking are also limitless as we use such tools as e-mail, web sites, newsletters, journals, and meetings to communicate.
Strengthening the alumni association
My state of Alaska has about 6,000 nurses. Only one nursing school in the state, the University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA), offers an associate degree, a baccalaureate degree, and a master’s degree in nursing. With many nurses in the state already connected by their shared educational experiences, the potential for the UAA School of Nursing (SON) Alumni Association to strengthen nurses’ networks is tremendous.
I found that the UAA SON Alumni Association was interested in involving more alumni and in increasing the number of alumni who were engaged. In short, there was a desire and need for strengthening the association.
Making the connection
Who are the alumni? What are they doing? How could I find them? How could I connect with them — and connect them to one another? I started out with an assumption that if nurses heard about other alumni then they too would be excited and motivated to share their stories and become connected.
My action plan became one of communicating with alumni long-term through an interactive Alumni Association website, and short-term through newsletters of both the alumni association and the Alaska Nurses Association, another valuable resource for nurses who want to network. The alumni newsletter and website are intended to celebrate relationships and experiences in nursing.
To exchange information, partnerships need to be formed. As members of the largest healthcare profession, nurses remain integral contributors to forming partnerships among health care providers, especially other nurses. Nurses recognize the value of collaboration as an avenue to address a greater number of issues with fewer resources. However, there are many available avenues for partnering and networking that are not fully used.
One option is storytelling. Bond, Mandleco, and Warnick have discussed the importance of stories to the heritage and profession of nursing. Learning occurs as stories are shared. Some universities require journal writing, which includes stories of patient care experiences.
Interestingly, one response I received and used as an article in the newsletter was that of a father whose daughter followed him into the nursing program. This was a fun story of parallel lives yet divergent nursing experiences, and it included a picture of the two. In another report, two sisters who had become traveling nurses told about their nursing careers and how they decided to take a remote travel assignment together in Alaska, also with a picture for the new newsletter.
I needed an initial newsletter that could reach all alumni either by mail or e-mail, while the website was under development. I used the SON’s e-mail list of recent graduates to make some initial contacts with alumni, tell them what I hoped to do, ask them for information, and get permission to print whatever they shared. Collaboration with the Alaska Nurse’s Association resulted in the plan to include an article on the alumni association in their newsletter.
At first, all I received were returned, undelivered e-mails from addresses that were no longer current. However, I soon was overwhelmed with positive responses from nurses who mostly wanted to share where they were currently working.
I learned that alumni want to keep connected, want to continue networking, want to share experiences, are interested in the Alumni Association, and want to return to school for further education and degrees. Many alumni expressed excitement and openly shared their information and experiences. They were curious about what other alumni were doing. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who have already indicated that they would like to be involved. Alumni were willing to help with this project, help the Alumni Association grow, use this newsletter and website to network and renew friendships from the past and strengthen Alaska nursing.
Besides being able to keep in contact with other alumni and see what alumni are doing in the community, there are other benefits to enhancing Alaska’s nursing network. Universities all over the country offer many benefits to their graduates. These include discounted tickets to university sports, theater, fitness facilities, libraries and other extracurricular events. Benefits vary by school and there are different costs associated. For many universities, there is no membership fee to join the alumni association; the only requirement is that you keep your information current and yourself involved.
Taking the next step
Including nurses who were interested strengthened our association. Now we need to stand up and use the newsletter and website that are available, ready, and calling. You can do this too. What resources are available at your universities that are not being capitalized upon? Where are the people you went to school with? Ever consider teaching, even part time? A basic online search of your school may reveal much by clicking on the alumni tab. You never know what awaits you.
Daniel M. Doyle is a nurse at Parkwest Medical Center, Knoxville, Tennessee, and an alumnus of the University of Alaska.
From our readers gives nurses the opportunity to share experiences that would be helpful to their nurse colleagues. Because of this format, the stories have been minimally edited. If you would like to submit an article for From our readers,click here.
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