Bound by marriage and nursing

A married couple is the first husband-wife team to graduate together from the UAB School of Nursing’s DNP Program.
Written by: Jimmy Creed
Media contact: Adam Pope, arpope@uab.edu

kopf 2Scott and Sabrina first met in 2007 when they both worked at UAB Hospital.For University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice student Sabrina Kopf, ACNP-BC, and her husband and fellow DNP student Scott Kopf, ACNP-BC, the university’s 2017 summer commencement ceremony and doctoral hooding Saturday, Aug. 12, is just the next step in their lives together.

That the Kopfs are graduating from the school’s Post-MSN to DNP Pathway at the same time comes as no surprise since they already share a great deal in common as a couple. Both are acute care nurse practitioners. Both work with transplant patients at UAB Hospital — Scott with lung transplant patients in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care and Sabrina with heart transplant patients for the Cardiothoracic Transplant Service. Both are adjunct clinical instructors in the school’s Master of Science in Nursing Program, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Specialty Track.

And now they are the first husband-wife team to earn their doctorates simultaneously as part of the school’s DNP program, which is ranked 18th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, and prepares graduates to practice at the highest level in specialty practice or to assume leadership positions in health care or nursing education.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for both of us,” Sabrina said. “We are very excited. We were just destined to be together in everything, I guess.”

Scott earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Southern Mississippi College of Nursing in 2006. Sabrina earned her associate degree in nursing from Bevill State Community College in 2006 and her BSN through the UAB School of Nursing RN Mobility to BSN Pathway in 2009.

Scott then entered the school’s Master of Science in Nursing Program in the Adult Acute Care NP Specialty Track and Registered Nurse First Assist Subspecialty Course and earned his degree in May 2011. Sabrina enrolled in the University of South Alabama College of Nursing Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program and earned her MSN degree in December 2011.

Their time together started in 2007 when they first met at UAB Hospital, where Scott would bring patients from the Emergency Department to Sabrina on the Trauma and Burn Intensive Care Unit. They started dating in 2009, got married in 2011, and the rest is now UAB history.

“As nurse practitioners, we both saw the need for the DNP degree because it would give us more skills to improve patient outcomes and help us have more impact on health care as a whole,” Scott said. “We thought it would be good to go together because we knew we would have a good support system throughout the DNP program and at home.”

The ready-made buddy system — or built-in tutor, as Sabrina described it — proved to be extremely beneficial to both as expected. They were there to provide each other clarity, encouragement, support and lots of feedback.

“We always bounced ideas off each other about our work, and we took the same approach to school,” Sabrina said. “I would read his papers and give him feedback, and he would read my papers and give me feedback. It was nice to always have somebody there who would say ‘this is good’ or ‘you need to redo this’ or ‘have you thought about that?’”

“We deal with a lot of stressful situations at work, and it’s good to know you have your partner who is completely understanding of those circumstances and actually living the same experiences. It has helped both of us tremendously throughout our careers.”

Complete honesty was their key to success, Scott says.

“We were always 100 percent honest with each other, and it really helped,” Scott said. “She was a little more blunt about things than I was, but it was good to have somebody there who can be completely honest with you.”

Their bond as husband and wife has served them well as both nurses and students and is one they treasure.

“We go through very unique experiences working as NPs, treating complex patients with multiple acute and chronic medical conditions,” Scott said. “We deal with a lot of stressful situations at work, and it’s good to know you have your partner who is completely understanding of those circumstances and actually living the same experiences. It has helped both of us tremendously throughout our careers.”

Assistant Professor Michele Talley, Ph.D., the school’s MSN Program director, taught Scott as an MSN student and has served as Sabrina’s faculty adviser, and now her faculty chair in the DNP Program. She calls the couple “a prime example” of the caliber of students and faculty found in the UAB School of Nursing, which holds the highest overall national ranking in the state and is the most affordable highly ranked school nationally.

“We have high standards for our students and faculty members, and Sabrina and Scott consistently exceed those standards,” Talley said. “It has been a pleasure to work with them both as students and faculty. I can say they are truly a credit to the UAB School of Nursing and the nursing profession as a whole.”

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