January 4, 2024
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Huntingdon Alumni Apply Wisdom in Nursing
Photo: Annie Nolan ’22 is a nurse in the emergency department at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham.
Montgomery, Ala. – A growing number of Huntingdon graduates are answering America’s need for more nurses. The pipeline of Huntingdon alumni into graduate programs in nursing and into full-time nursing roles was on display at the recent graduate school commencement ceremony at the University of Alabama-Birmingham as three members of the Huntingdon class of 2022 celebrated completion of a one-year accelerated master’s degree in nursing. Ryan Floyd ’22, Heidi Gilmore ’22 and Annie Nolan ’22 shared with us their path from Huntingdon to UAB and advice for future Hawks interested in a career in nursing.
Q: What was your major at Huntingdon and activities you were involved in at Huntingdon?
Ryan Floyd: My major at Huntingdon was biology. Some activities I was involved in were being on the Huntingdon Cheerleading Team for four years and a member of Alpha Omicron Pi for two years. I was also a student recruiter.
Heidi Gilmore: I was a biology major involved in the Presidential Fellows leadership team. This team was created in preparation for the first cohort of Presidential Fellows to come, aiding the wonderful staff in identifying the beginning values of this amazing new sense of community for students not involved in athletic activities.
Annie Nolan: I was a biology major. I was a member of the softball team (2018-2022), was in SGA, and I was also a part of the Tri-Beta Honor Society.
Q: Why nursing? When did you know you wanted to become a nurse?
Ryan Floyd: I chose nursing because I want to be a person who makes a positive difference for someone who is facing a very vulnerable time in their life. Since I was a little girl, I have always been a person who loved helping people and wanted to help people feel better. Nursing is a career that will never go away and one where I will always be needed.
Heidi Gilmore: I have always expressed an interest in the medical field, knowing that whichever path I chose from the extensive list of opportunities in this career field, I would find fulfillment in helping others. Throughout my time at Huntingdon, I was considering multiple medical career paths, researching graduate programs, and praying for God to lead me in the direction of His will. Our amazing God, being who He is, answered my prayers and led me to nursing through one particular nurse I met. Her kindness and love of caring for patients and their families brought me to explore the realm of nursing, and ultimately choose nursing as my career. Nursing is a profession in which you are able to impact someone in some of their most vulnerable stages of life. Ensuring that I provide proper education and allow my patients to actively participate in their management of care is an important aspect of why I chose to become a nurse. Walking with patients through their times of need, providing care to them and their families, is one of the greatest joys of being a nurse.
Annie Nolan: I was actually undecided initially. I excel in STEM related subjects, so knew that I would lean in that direction. Nursing had always been in the back of my mind. After researching and some shadowing experience, I knew that was the right profession for me.
Q: What classes at Huntingdon were most beneficial in your preparation for nursing school?
Ryan Floyd: The classes that were most beneficial in preparation for nursing school were anatomy and physiology and the emergency response class.
Heidi Gilmore: As a student that was unsure of which direction they would take in the beginning of their undergraduate career, I took many science classes to ensure that I had the appropriate prerequisite courses completed for many of the graduate degrees offered in the medical field. One of the classes that stands out most to me was a “seminar” class taught by Dr. Daniels in which we were to analyze a scholarly article and create a presentation based on each component discussed in the article. Searching, analyzing, and creating a presentation was done weekly for the semester. For me, these articles and presentations forced me to think critically and summarize complex subjects into easy-to-understand formats, similar to the demands of a nursing career. Of course, all the science classes, biology and chemistry alike, prepared me for the time required studying in nursing school, and critical thinking skills required to be a nurse.
Annie Nolan: I absolutely loved my anatomy and physiology classes. They were my favorite by far. I enjoyed the majority of my science classes as well.
Q: How did your Huntingdon education prepare you for the master’s in nursing program?
Ryan Floyd: At Huntingdon, they have a pre-nursing track. This is where they plan your classes for each semester to have prerequisites for most nursing schools. This was very helpful in the way that I knew that when I graduated I would have most or all of the prerequisites I would need for nursing school.
Heidi Gilmore: My Huntingdon education prepared me well to enter a master’s nursing program, as I was extremely focused during my undergraduate degree, and that level of dedication was required in the graduate program I attended as well. Having taken summer courses during my time at Huntingdon, I was well-versed in continuing my education during the summer months, allowing me to retain the stamina it takes to complete a rigorous nursing program in one year, where the following semester begins after only a week-long break. Even more so, the professors at Huntingdon strive to see their students excel, doing anything they can to ensure that students fully understand material. This same level of encouragement from professors was shared among our professors at UAB School of Nursing. Having my background from Huntingdon, I felt that I was always encouraged to excel from my undergraduate degree through my graduate degree, which is very comforting when pursuing your dream career.
Annie Nolan: The program is accelerated and very challenging. Each semester you are taking 20+ hours. That being said, I feel I entered the program prepared. The first semester is the most difficult. It takes a while to get acclimated to the pace and program format.
Q: Now that you have your master’s degree, what’s next?
Ryan Floyd: The next step for me is getting another master’s degree to be a nurse practitioner. I will be starting the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at UAB in May 2024.
Heidi Gilmore: With the hopes of advancing my education further, I plan to take time to be a nurse and build a strong foundation of knowledge in my chosen specialty. Practicing in women’s health, I believe that a deep understanding of the body’s complex systems is necessary to provide the highest level of care to patients. I cannot speak for a specific pathway in regard to the advancement of my career at the moment, but I can say that specializing in women’s health through becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife or Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner are top competitors.
Annie Nolan: I will be working at Children’s of Alabama in the Emergency Department. I want to work for a while and get a few years of experience under my belt before I consider furthering my education as a nurse practitioner.
Q: Any advice for a current student interested in following your footsteps into a master’s program in nursing?
Ryan Floyd: A piece of advice I would give for someone wanting to do an accelerated program like this is to be ready to make sacrifices. Because you are getting a degree in nursing in such little time, you have to be able to sacrifice time, family, and friends. Although that may sound difficult, in the end you will realize just how worthwhile this is.
Heidi Gilmore: My advice for a student interested in nursing that is attending Huntingdon currently is to attend an accelerated master’s program. After spending four years in undergraduate study, only adding one more year will fly by compared to a traditional nursing program. An accelerated degree is all that it sounds, fast (!), but it will be worth it in the end to be one step (and only one year) closer to your ultimate career goals. My best advice is to not give up. There will be times when you don’t think you can study any more, times when you have clinicals and tests back-to-back. You don’t know how you will show up prepared for either. But trust in yourself, knowing that if you put in the effort, you will make a difference in a patient’s life starting in nursing school. And the first time you make an impact on a patient you will remember it, and most importantly, so will they.
Annie Nolan: Be sure to find a friend group that you can talk to and be with during the program. The first few months I was shy and didn’t really socialize. I stepped out of my comfort zone and connected with two other students. Having this study group was invaluable. We all had different strengths and weaknesses and helped one another throughout the program. So, not only did the group help me have success in the program, but I’ve also made life-long friends. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of the information you will cover in this program is relatively new unless you have a medical background. There is a lot of memorization of checklists during the first semester. Use your friends and family in these exercises! Take advantage of all open lab opportunities. Doing so really boosted my confidence. Professors will tell you this as well but be sure to take time for yourself. Taking mini breaks from time-to-time is necessary.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Heidi Gilmore: Nursing school in one year…yes, it sounds scary! However, since graduating I am still amazed at how much I truly enjoyed this year of constant learning and hands-on patient care I was able to provide. I would choose this program over and over again because of its structure and how well it has prepared me to be a nurse that truly cares. No one can go through this program and not want to wholeheartedly become a nurse; it would be too much if your heart was not in it.
Annie Nolan: The preceptorship experience can be stressful initially. I was nervous about getting the right assignment, shift, nurse, etc. However, after the first few shifts, it all fell into place and prepared me extraordinarily well. Nurses from this UAB program are well-regarded throughout the state. Many students had job offers halfway through the program. One of my friends interviewed with a Nashville hospital and was offered a job on her drive back to Birmingham!
Huntingdon College, in accordance with Title IX and Section 106.8 of the 2020 Final Rule under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, other applicable federal and state law, and stated College policy, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Similarly, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age and/or national origin in its education program