Chart Your Course

Join us as we follow Dylan McCloud-Lewis, a William Jewell College graduate and Foundation of the NSNA scholarship recipient, on his journey into the world of nursing.

Nursing students and practicing nurses will take many steps before earning their first emergency nursing specialty certification.

We invite you to follow Dylan on his journey from nursing student to landing his first job as an RN to someday becoming a board certified flight nurse. No matter what your dream job is, we hope reading about Dylan’s successes and challenges will help you chart your own course and make the going a little easier. Each time Dylan adds a new entry, we will post on our Facebook page with #ChartYourCourse and #DylansJourney.

BCEN wants to help you on your nursing career journey.

That’s why we also encourage you to check out these BCEN resources: NSNA and industry scholarships, how to tackle test anxiety, the benefits of professional association memberships (including certification exam discounts), white papers and research on the value of certification, and BCEN’s certification candidate handbook.

BCEN EDvantage

Give your career the EDge.

BCEN EDvantage is a certificate program that will put you on the fast-track to certified success. EDvantage gives nursing students and RNs like you real-world experience that will accelerate your career and make you a more appealing prospective employee. Plus, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in becoming board certified through BCEN. Learn more about eligibility, fees and requirements for the BCEN EDvantage program here. 

Meet Dylan

Hi, my name is Dylan and I’m finally an RN! On this page, I’m sharing some of the milestones and decision points along my path to becoming certified through BCEN and ultimately landing my dream job as a board certified flight nurse.

I’ve already learned a lot along the way, and maybe something about my story will help or inspire you on your career journey.

As a kid growing up in Portland, Oregon, I was inspired by my mom, who started off as a pediatric intensive care (PICU) nurse and later switched to PACU, where she still practices today. My mom’s friend was a flight nurse, and I remember listening intently to their stories about the patients they took care of. As a young adult attending my local community college with plans to get a history degree, I worked part-time as a lifeguard. I began noticing that caring for others was something that reinvigorated me and I seemed to react calmly in emergency situations, so I decided to pursue nursing with a heavy interest in critical care and emergency nursing. I married my high school sweetheart and a few years ago, thanks to an academic scholarship from William Jewell, we moved to Liberty, Missouri. It’s hard to believe, but I’ll be graduating with my BSN in May 2019.

You can follow my story below (my nursing journey starts at the bottom of the page). Plus each new post will be featured on  BCEN’s Facebook page, where you can follow along via #DylansJourney and #ChartYourCourse.

Dylan’s Journey

October 2020 – They say the first year of nursing is hard. My first year of nursing? COVID-19 hits. What a wild ride it has been. No one expected that after seven months off orientation I would be a new grad in the midst of a global pandemic. Working on a pulmonary ICU, especially within the COVID situation, has taught me more than I could ever write upon. It has been brutally hard and sometimes incredibly heartwarming, but always rewarding. It is in this context that I have defined my practice and have learned several important aspects of nursing. First, adaptability. With the pandemic, things change drastically and rapidly, sometimes multiple times during a single day. The ability to gracefully adapt to any given situation and continue high-quality care has now been ingrained into my practice. Second, resiliency. The care we provide ourselves is just as important as the care we provide to our patients. If we are drained, we have nothing to offer those who depend upon us. Last, pride. The pandemic has instilled a great amount of pride in being a nurse, of my peers fighting in this pandemic, and of all those who faced this in their first year as well as those stepping into that role now. In the face of uncertainty, nurses stand strong, ready for whatever else 2020 brings.

March 2020 – I have been an ICU nurse for eight months now, this week marking 6 months off orientation. There are times while I am working that a sense of amazement fills me. I get to do what I love for a career and make a meaningful difference in people’s lives at the same time. Of course, I’ve already had my fair share of hard shifts, but those experiences allow me to grow. These months have been both difficult and wonderful. Each shift brings a lesson to carry onto the next, allowing me to develop my own nursing practice. There are days I feel like I’m still in nursing school because I’m learning so much. This profession takes dedication and heart. Dedication to learning as much as you can in your free time to provide the care your patients deserve, and heart to provide that care even in hard situations. That being said, these months are rewarding beyond measure. I am proud that I am developing into the critical care nurse that I am.

January 2020 – Sooner or later it will happen to any nurse, especially for critical care and emergency nurses. Despite all your efforts, good intentions, and hard work, a patient decompensates beyond the care that we can provide. This recently happened to me and I’ll never forget it. I worked as hard as I could for my entire shift, hardly leaving the room for 12 hours, but the end result was a code and a poor outcome for my patient. Despite having a wonderful team of RNs and MDs supporting me, I came away with feelings of regret and self-doubt. My confidence as a competent RN was completely broken. For days after, thoughts consumed my mind. Did I do enough for them? What if I had noticed this sooner? Why wasn’t I able to help them? Am I cut out for this? Luckily, between my coworkers, family, and friends, I have an amazing support system that helped me to see that I had done my best for this patient. A few weeks after this event, I ran into a family member of the patient who had been in the room that night. They thanked me and praised the work I did and with that, I began to find a little self-forgiveness. Do I still think of that patient and the what ifs? Absolutely! It was a hard lesson, but one that has made me a more attentive, detail orientated, and self-forgiving RN. I share this with you all in that hopes that if and when this happens to you, you know that you are not alone in this experience and that the lessons it brings should be taken to heart. We are in this profession to do the best for our patients. As such, we should evolve with new experiences, but not let them haunt us.

October 2019 – Well, I am officially finished with orientation and starting to feel as if I am on steady ground again. These last few months have been incredibly challenging, but so rewarding. Nursing school prepared me with the knowledge, but my orientation is where my training to become a nurse truly began. I learn so much every time I step onto the unit, from different treatments to the pathologies of my patients to communication. While I am now taking patient assignments by myself, I am by no means caring for them solo. I have found myself in the presence of the most supportive work team. If there is anything these past few months have taught me, it is the importance of having a solid support system. The best advice I could give to someone who is about to start their first nursing job? Strive for excellence, but don’t forget to be kind to yourself.

These months are hard, you will face stressful situations, feel like you are failing, and be pushed harder than before. But know that we are where we are supposed to be, and steadily becoming the best that we can be. That in itself should make us proud.

July 2019 – I completed my first week of being an RN at KU Medical Center! During orientation, there was a lot of importance placed on patient safety and how we, as nurses,

are the last line of defense against medical errors. This both humbled and impressed upon me how vital our profession is. After three days of hospital and nursing orientation, I was up on my unit with my preceptor. I was nervous to start, but as the day went on, my training kicked in and my confidence built up – aided by the supportive and welcoming staff. It didn’t truly hit me that I was

a nurse until I saw my name next to the progress note I wrote and realized this is my patient, my signature, and my assessment – no cosigner needed. The realization that I had finally gotten here, in my dream job and dream unit, was both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. I know the coming months will be full of ups and downs, but I am ecstatic to experience it all and am confident that, with the help of my preceptors, I will face it with the same sense of pride I felt this week.

June 2019 – I passed the big one—the NCLEX-RN! Weeks of studying and thousands of practice questions later, I am officially a licensed RN in the state of Kansas! The whole experience was pretty intense, from the awareness of the importance of the exam to the strict procedures of the testing environment. But if I can do it, anyone can. I remember walking into the computer lined room with butterflies in my stomach, thinking, “here we go.” I sat in an un-air-conditioned room, with sweat dripping down my back, reminding myself to focus on each question as if it was the only question on the exam. When the screen went blank after question 75, I was simultaneously relieved and terrified. The next 48 hours as I awaited my results were the longest of my life, but taking a page from the BCEN test anxiety tips, I was able to deal with the apprehension both as I stepped in and out of that room. I told myself that no matter the outcome, I had done the best that I could have done. It’s done now, and it feels wonderful to not be consumed with studying and be able to truly shift my focus onto my new car

eer. But first, I will be taking a well-deserved break with friends and family. To all of you about to take this exam of exams, I wish you the best of luck and cannot wait to be in this great profession with each of you.

May 2019 – On Friday, May 17, I walked across the stage and was pinned by one of the people who inspired me to take up this profession – my mom. It was an immense feeling, knowing that with this ceremony I was inducted into the most trustworthy profession. For years, I have spent countless hours poring over textbook after textbook, so many late nights and early mornings, so many days filled with lectures, all culminating to this moment. These years have tested me in every way, through some of my best times and some of my worst, and caused my wife and I to uproot ourselves to achieve our dreams. Then on Saturday, with pride and humility, I walked across the same stage and officially attached a BSN to the end of my name. I am proud to say that I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA, was inducted into both the Phi Epsilon and Sigma Theta Tau honor societies and was presented the Most Outstanding Nursing Student Award from my school, William Jewell College. More importantly, I am on the path to be the best nurse that I can be.

April 2019 – I am attending the 2019 NSNA annual convention in Salt Lake City. This is an amazing place to gather information regarding important topics affecting nursing today, speak to representatives from numerous hospitals nationwide, and make networking connections. In fact, this is where I first connected with the BCEN after being awarded one of the many scholarships the NSNA offers to nursing students. Conventions like this one strengthen the ties between nurses and students from all parts of the country and are always extremely fun and informative, regardless of what direction you are wanting to go with nursing. If you see me walking around or at the BCEN booth, please stop by and say hello.

March 2019 – As I prepare for the NCLEX, I have scheduled set times every day to study and take mock exams, making my study settings as close to NCLEX conditions as possible. For the NCLEX, we are expected to pick the “most correct” answer out of all correct ones and tackle the dreaded “Select All That Apply” questions accurately. This causes anxiety among students, myself included. Luckily there are ways to deal with testing anxiety. The night before an exam, I focus on relaxing and getting plenty of sleep. An hour before any exam, I put my notes away and listen to music to put me in the zone. During the exam, I take breaks about every 15 questions to close my eyes and clear my mind, allowing me to refocus. After an exam, I set a time to stress about the exam results and then distract myself, a tip I learned from BCEN’s resources for test takers. If test anxiety is something you struggle with, check out the Tackling Testing Anxiety tips, which are broken down into strategies for before, during, and after the exam.

Courtesy of NSNA.

January 2019 – Being a flight nurse has been a dream of mine for a long time. So, I’m learning everything I can about transport nursing and what career choices to make—from what are the best first jobs to hold to how soon can I earn my CFRN. That’s why I’m so excited about the article “Get Up to Speed on Transport Nursing” in the January career issue of NSNA’s Imprint magazine. It’s written by one of the world’s most experienced and innovative flight nurses, Allen Wolfe, MSN, RN, CFRN, CTRN, CCRN, CMTE. He’s a true rock star in the transport nursing world. Happy reading!

P.S. – The article includes a mini feature with yours truly. Thank you again to my LifeNet 2-2 host flight team.

October 2018 – Spent a 12-hour shift shadowing flight nurse Zachary Dillon at LifeNet 2-2’s air base in St. Joseph, Missouri. Although bad weather grounded the crew (and me) for the day, this experience was absolutely one of the highlights of my nursing career so far. I practiced intubation on medical mannequins and cricothyrotomies on pig tracheas. I talked extensively with Zach about the detailed protocols and procedures they follow for every possible situation.  I asked lots of questions about Zach’s career path, and learned the realities, both pro and con, about the job. Above all, the trust and teamwork between Zach, his paramedic partner, Josh Parsons, NRP, and pilot Ben Cooper made a big impression on me. I am grateful to the flight crew and LifeNet 2-2 for the privilege, and to BCEN for helping me make this connection. Many employers offer shadow opportunities, so it’s definitely worth asking. Student membership in an industry association is an affordable avenue for learning about and exploring career opportunities that offers many other perks.

April 2018 – Big month for making industry connections. First, while attending NSNA’s annual convention, I introduced myself to BCEN Executive Director Janie Schumaker and thanked her for the BCEN-sponsored FNSNA scholarship I received. Janie asked me about my career plans and I told her about my goal to become a board certified flight nurse. After learning about BCEN’s major research study on certification, I feel even more strongly about the value of certification and how it strengthens the profession and individual nurses. A few months after I met Janie, she contacted me and offered to arrange for me to shadow a flight nurse. I also decided to join the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) as a student member. Not long after, thanks to networking with ENA staff, I was able to attend a seminar on the CEN® (Certified Emergency Nurse) and how to pass it. The CEN, which is offered by BCEN, is the foundational emergency nursing specialty certification.  I plan to earn it early in my career. 

March 2018 – Great news! I have been awarded a BCEN-sponsored NSNA Foundation scholarship to use toward my undergraduate studies. After receiving a personal note of congratulations from BCEN’s Executive Director Janie Schumaker, I sent her a thank you note and that was the start of my relationship with BCEN. Applying for scholarships, even after you start your schooling, can really pay off.

January 2018 – Applied for a BCEN-sponsored NSNA scholarship. BCEN funds multiple NSNA Foundation undergraduate scholarships every year.

October 2017 – Honored to be elected treasurer of William Jewell’s SNA.

August 2017 – Began attending William Jewell College as a junior in the nursing program. Joined the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) and started attending my college’s SNA (student nurses association) chapter meetings. Be sure to check out NSNA’s top 10 reasons to join.