Is Professional Development Really Only for the Pros? | By Maggie Danko

Amid the October midterm and paper stress, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the chaos, busyness, and stress, the end of October always shines as a beacon of hope for my like-minded peers and me. No, this is not because there is a breath of fresh air between bouts of midterms, nor does it have anything to do with dressing up in costumes and yelling “trick or treat!” October is host to the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA)’s West/Prairie Regional Conference. Now, to the average university student, this may sound like a load of mumbo-jumbo, and may even look somewhat hieroglyphic. CNSA is the national advocacy body and professional association for all 28 000 nursing students in Canada. On both regional and national levels, we host annual conferences, where nursing students from across the country come together to take part in a myriad of presentations, student research symposiums, social events, debates, keynote speakers, workshops, and so much more. While some of my peers roll their eyes, or try to rationalize how as a student they don’t have time for these types of crazy adventures, I beg to differ.

A student’s academic experience should not entail just the academics; rather, it should be a well-rounded balance of social activities, clubs, sports teams, interest groups, and professional development experiences. Now, this is not to be misconstrued that all students needs to take part in every possible experience thrown at them, but it certainly helps to find something you’re passionate about, and get involved. At this point, many of us are still testing the waters and trying to triangulate our career trajectories, but in saying that, what better way to discover your passion than by stepping outside your comfort zone, and becoming an active member in your own education? School is so much more than classes, exams and papers, yet so many people either never realize this, or discover it too late.

Additionally, student apathy is apparent in all corners of campus. To quote the old adage, if I had a nickel for every time someone told me they were too busy to be engaged in extracurricular ideas…well, you know how the story goes. I respect that everyone has a complex interplay of various factors in their lives and that not every student’s priorities are the same, but I strongly believe that professional development through student engagement is a vital part of any academic experience. In using the term “professional development” I am not only referring to experiences directly related to future career paths. There are so many opportunities, from becoming involved in the governance of the university to planning social events for your peers in your faculty, that have the potential to shape your world view and teach you something new about yourself. You might as well take advantage.

One of my favorite quotes is “the journey is the destination.” What point is there in reaching the goal of convocation if you don’t have a little fun and maybe even learn something about yourself in the meantime? There really are no downfalls to becoming an active student, aside from perhaps the few missed hours of CSI reruns that may be left unwatched on your PVR; however, the benefits could shape your future.

As I pack my suitcase and prepare to fly to Vancouver for this weekend’s CNSA conference, I start to get shaky with adrenaline and jittery with excitement. Not only will I be learning more about nursing as a profession and the current issues of healthcare, I will be doing so while sitting in a room of 300 of the most passionate nursing students from western Canada that I have ever met. These students all come together because they want to be engaged in their education and future career, and the energy in the room is palpable. So while many of my classmates will be spending the weekend cramming for our exams next week, I will be learning about things that won’t be on the test, studying for the exam on an airplane, and becoming rejuvenated with the energy that reminds me why I even chose to study nursing in the first place.

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