Today I met up with one of the nursing faculty from the school I just graduated from. She's been on sabbatical for the past year, on a grant to improve the diversity of the nursing profession. She's doing this by visiting middle schools all across the state to introduce children to the profession, what it does, and what kinds of opportunities there are.
This was fun for me, I enjoy talking to children, and they all had interesting questions. A lot of them wanted to know what kinds of things we had seen, and although I hadn't seen as much as the faculty member (who's a certified emergency nurse as well as a professor), I enjoyed chiming in with my own stories. I have my own stories now! 800+ hours at the bedside later, I can spin yarns about wacky, odd, sad and scary moments as a student nurse.
There was the occasional disruptive or rude child, of course, but surprisingly the videos we brought along turned even those kids around, for the most part. We had some promotional material from the J&J campaign for nursing, as well as an NSNA video. Although some of them started out cracking jokes and disrespecting us, you could tell by the end that they were really interested in what we had to say, as evidenced by expressing interest, asking questions, and a general shift in demeanor.
This was a project I wanted to get our SNA chapter to do a couple semesters ago, but in the end only four of us or so helped out by visiting schools with our professor. At one of the previous NSNA conventions I listened to an interesting presentation about the image of nursing. Most of it irritated me because it contained a lot of complaining about how nursing is portrayed in the media (you don't like it, make your own media!!), but the speaker had some interesting things to say about her experience doing this same thing, visiting the school that her son went to (who became a nursing student) and doing some informal psuedo-scientific research by handing out surveys, finding that, at least in this one classroom, she had probably significantly altered the student's perception of nursing, particularly in terms of gender identity.
So, that's one way to do it. Even still, with our area schools having nursing class sizes of 80 with 1000+ students applying, the problem seems more like there aren't enough nurses willing to take the 40-60% pay cut to become a college professor (all you need in our state is a masters degree in nursing) to satisfy the demand for nursing education, even as the demand for nursing -itself- is through the roof ($3000 sign-on bonuses are the norm around here, I think the military is paying $15,000 nowadays).
Still, I think what we were doing was valuable. If we can recruit and retain more people who are interested in math and science, who have more realistic understandings of what the nursing profession is, hopefully the ratios of ASN/BSN/MSN will normalize a bit more.