August 11, 2017

Nursing student experiences a season of firsts at UAB

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shana whiteWhite (left) and fellow student, Lauren Wehunt, presented at the National Rural Health Association Conference in San Diego.Shana White, a student in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing program with a family nurse practitioner specialty, will be graduating in August at the UAB 2017 summer commencement ceremony.

The 25-year-old is the first person in her family to complete graduate school. She is also the first person in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from college, which she accomplished through the school’s RN Mobility Program.

White is also a first-generation high school graduate.

White knew at age 14 she wanted to become a nurse after her mom was hospitalized due to illness. A few years later, after graduating from high school, she enrolled at Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville, Alabama, where she earned an associate degree in nursing.

“UAB came and talked about their RN to BSN program, and I knew that was something I wanted to do,” White said. “So, I applied at UAB.”

In 2015, White graduated from the UAB School of Nursing RN-BSN Pathway to BSN, which provides opportunities for advanced placement in nursing studies for individuals with previous nursing knowledge and experience. Upon admission to the UAB School of Nursing, which holds the highest overall national ranking in the state and is Alabama’s most affordable highly ranked nursing school nationally, RNs can earn their BSN in two semesters if they enter as a full-time student, though the curriculum plan can be individualized for students as needed.

Upon completing her bachelor’s degree, she immediately started working on her master’s. With three children and one more on the way, and working at Erlanger Medical Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee, while she was in school, White found the balance of life, work and academics difficult. She persevered and continued to pursue her MSN degree with the support of her husband, Dustin, and family.

“I quit my job so that I could focus more on my schoolwork,” she said. “My husband worked so hard to make sure we were OK financially.”

The MSN features multiple specialty tracks, including a variety of nurse practitioner options, clinical nurse leader, nursing informatics, and nursing and health systems administration. Located in one of the world’s largest academic health centers, the MSN at UAB prepares nurses for advanced specialty practice in advanced nursing roles and offers countless opportunities to develop advanced practice innovations both locally and globally.

shana white family2White with her husband, Dustin, and their four children, Axel (5), Cross (3), Delta (1), and Bristol (3)White, a Bryant, Alabama, native, was assigned to do her clinical training in a rural setting, which was perfect for her.

“Rural health care is important because there are so many underserved, uninsured, low-income people who need that care,” she said. “I want to make rural health care my life’s work because I’m from a small town and know how hard it can be.”

Her faculty mentors and instructors have been a major reason she has been so successful at the UAB School of Nursing, she says.

“The professors and instructors here really care about their students and their success,” she said.

Katie Buys, DNP, one of White’s faculty instructors, says that she has truly been impacted by White’s road to success.

“When I reflect on all that Shana has gone through to become the first in her family to graduate from high school, earn her ADN (RN) from community college, complete the BSN at UAB, and succeed in graduate school, now with four children at the age of 25, it is nothing short of inspiring and motivating to me,” Buys said. “I love having students in our School of Nursing who offer such rich life lessons and encouragement. I know she will be successful as a nurse practitioner and impact the lives of many, many patients in the decades to come.”

White recently traveled to San Diego with Assistant Professor D’Ann Somerall, DNP, and Professor and Associate Dean for Clinical and Global Partnerships Cynthia S. Selleck, Ph.D., to the National Rural Health Association Conference, where she presented about the school’s Graduate Nursing Education Primary Care Scholars initiative. The GNEPCS initiative is funded by The Daniel Foundation of Alabama and focuses on educating more advanced practice nurses to work in the state’s rural and underserved areas.

It was her first plane ride.

White passed her board certification test in July 2017. After walking across the stage at commencement, she said she will have one more “first” remaining on her family checklist — first doctor. She hopes to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and add to a long list of firsts for someone who admits she — and many from her hometown —  would never have thought she would receive so much education.

“I want to get my DNP at UAB within the next five years,” she said. “That’s how much I love UAB.”

The UAB School of Nursing is ranked 13th in overall graduate programs and is among the top five public schools of nursing in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school offers innovative bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs, including the state’s only Ph.D. in Nursing degree and a DNP degree offering BSNMSN and Nurse Anesthesia pathways. More than 10 specialty nurse practitioner tracks, advanced nursing executive majors in administration and informatics, and an Accelerated Master’s in Nursing Pathway are available for students who already have one degree.

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