Student spotlight: Lessons in leadership and student government

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Angela Rysdyk is taking on her senior year at the University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) with a lot of goals. She’s balancing the usual senior year intentions, like finishing with high grades and preparing for the nursing board exam, with leading the UMSN student body as Nursing Student Government (NSG) president.

“I really want more people to learn about NSG and get involved,” said Rysdyk.  “NSG is a way for members to develop their leadership skills and learn how to use them in the workplace. It’s got a lot of really smart, driven and creative people who want to make a difference at our school.”

The role of NSG

Rysdyk with preceptor Jen Henson at Mott Children's HospitalStudents from each UMSN undergraduate class level select four class representatives, then the NSG members vote from within to create the executive board.

“As undergrads, we’re in a phase of life where we’re really learning about leadership,” said Rysdyk. “When we see something we don’t like or that isn’t working effectively, we can take action to change it.”

Rysdyk served as a sophomore representative and vice president of communication in her junior year.

“Over the past few years we’ve been transforming the scope of NSG,” explained Rysdyk. “We’re becoming more structured and focusing more on making real changes. We’re working with faculty to improve communication. We are a voice for student concerns, curriculum changes and creating opportunities.”

NSG recently launched its mentorship program to partner incoming students with students already at UMSN.

“We’ve been working on this for a few years,” said Rysdyk. “NSG has offered me that mentorship community and it’s been so valuable. This will allow all students to have more mentorship throughout their time here.”

Supporting wellness

The group is also expanding its focus on student wellness to make sure nursing students are taking care of their mental and physical health. The initiative includes monthly wellness events, like yoga classes, and raising awareness of campus resources such as counseling.

“As nursing students, we have to be adults very quickly,” said Rysdyk. “We have to manage our time well and understand that we’ll have to wake up early and be ready for clinicals. When at clinical, we often encounter and need to learn how to handle difficult things that a typical undergrad student wouldn’t.”

Outreach

Another change for NSG is the addition of open meetings to connect with more nursing students. They’ll include a focus on supporting U-M’s goal of improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) on campus.

“We want to make sure students know what we’re doing,” explain Rysdyk. “It’s also really important that we know what they want and DEI issues are part of that.”

Rysdyk also wants to see NSG’s community outreach continue, including toy drives for Mott Children’s Hospital and visiting local high schools to talk about nursing careers.

Advice for incoming students

Rysdyk encourages incoming students to get involved early and be ready for a tough but rewarding four years.

“Freshman year can be overwhelming but I think sophomore year is the hardest,” she said. “You work really hard but you learn so much. I would encourage new students to make connections and use your instructors as a resource. The faculty I’ve reached out to have always been really helpful.”

“U-M sets you up to succeed,” she said.  “I’ve learned so much about the art of nursing and how the profession is changing what we, as nurses, are capable of in 2018 and beyond.”

Next steps

Rysdyk is leaning towards a job in pediatrics when she graduates. She currently works on a children’s psychiatric floor and had a valued externship in a children’s congenital heart defect unit. She plans to work for a few years then return to school to earn a master’s degree and become a nurse practitioner.

“The role of nursing is really growing,” she said. “Nurse practitioner scope of practice is changing. There are new opportunities for community health nurses, and nurses have more leadership opportunities, so I’m thinking about a lot of different options. The possibilities are limitless to where we can go from here.”