1. Desjardins, Michael C. MSN, APRN

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Yvette Thomas was elected the first African American woman president at the 54th National Student Nurses' Association (NSNA) annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 9. However, Ms. Thomas resigned from her position on June 8 for personal reasons and vice president D. Todd Uhlman assumed the role of president. A reorganization of the board resulted in the appointment of Justine M. Mize, Imprint editor, to the position of vice president, and Laura Hudgens was appointed as Imprint editor.

Figure. D. Todd Uhlm... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. D. Todd Uhlman's advice to nursing students: get involved!!

A junior at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Uhlman was in the U.S. Navy for eight years, four years as a structural mechanic on aircraft carriers and four years as a reservist. He received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal in 2005 and the Naval Reserve Meritorious Service Medal in 2004. He was chosen for the U.S. Navy's Nurse Candidate Program in 2004. Uhlman is married to a nurse and they have an 11-year-old daughter.


Michael C. Desjardins, chairperson of the AJN Student Extra editorial advisory committee and NSNA president 2001-2002, had the opportunity to interview Mr. Uhlman on July 8.


Michael Desjardins (MD): How did your involvement in NSNA begin?


Todd Uhlman (TU): I wanted to do more in the profession and was interested in furthering my growth. I spoke to a mentor at my school and she told me that they have never had a state representative at the school. Shortly thereafter, I was elected first vice president for the Florida Nursing Students' Association.


MD: What prompted you to run for vice president?


TU: I became really excited at the convention in Baltimore, realizing the impact that I could make for the organization. I thought that I had the necessary vision, dedication, and leadership skills to contribute to the NSNA. When I saw the other excellent candidates campaigning I thought, "I can do this!!"


MD: What stuck out for you during the election process?


TU: The questions that the other nursing students asked me were incredible. One question came from a South Carolina delegate who asked what my perception was of the role of the Council of State Presidents (COSP) representative on the NSNA board. It was an exceptional question because at the time I think many candidates, including me, weren't clear about this "ex-officio" role. I have since learned that the COSP representative is a valuable member of the board that provides insights and recommendations from our state constituents.


MD: What do you think this generation of nursing students is bringing to the profession?


TU: One area that stands out for me is our ability to adapt to new technology. In classrooms, you hear the hum of hard drives from laptops and students typing. In the clinical environment, students are using personal digital assistants at the bedside to cross-check medication compatibilities and to look up care-plan details and various aspects of the disease process.


MD: What are your goals as the new NSNA president?


TU: I want to continue the excellence of previous NSNA boards and improve what I can during my term. The NSNA is 45,000 strong, a representation of almost 25% of all nursing students in this country. Currently, we are focusing on community health. The NSNA board will travel to the Gulf region this year, specifically New Orleans, Louisiana, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and meet with schools of nursing that sustained damage from Hurricane Katrina. We want to support their rebuilding process. Cheryl Schmidt, PhD, RN, will be traveling with us to New Orleans and we will meet with as many students as possible. Dr. Schmidt is an expert on disaster management and will be an invaluable resource to this initiative. Our goals are to help nursing students understand their role during a disaster and to develop a framework to help communicate this across the nation. Ultimately, we hope to develop a plan applicable to a broad range of disasters.


MD: What are your professional goals?


TU: Being a navy man, I plan to work on a medical-surgical floor after graduation to develop my skills. I don't know if this is a prerequisite for new navy nurse graduates, but I do believe that there is an expectation to develop a strong medical-surgical foundation. After that I will have some flexibility about my career path. I would love to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist for the navy. [During this interview Uhlman was participating at the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists' annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio.]


MD: What is your message to nursing students and nurses?


TU: Get involved!! This doesn't mean that everyone has to strive to be a national representative, but there are so many committees and projects for nurses to serve on and you see the same people doing it. All of the state officers and the NSNA board members are nursing students. Many of us are parents, students, employees, and NSNA officers. We understand how challenging time management can be. If you are clear with your goals and organized, the time spent will be minimal-the payoffs will be extraordinary. Find out your interests, your professional goals, and take a risk -contact your local specialty organization and see how you can spend a little bit of your time to further the profession.