School partners with Birmingham City Schools on nursing academy

Photo of BCS students

By Pareasa Rahimi

Through a new partnership with Birmingham City Schools, the UAB School of Nursing is working to increase adolescents’ exposure to the nursing profession, putting them on track to become registered nurses.

The Pathway to Professional Nursing program, led by Professor and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Felesia Bowen, PhD, DNP, APRN, PPCNP-BC, FAAN, launched in fall 2023 at Huffman High School and is designed to prepare students for post-secondary education.

“We want to get kids excited about being a professional nurse and expose them to all that the profession of nursing has to offer,” Bowen said. “If we want to improve health for all people, we need nurses who represent all the populations we serve. This project is in line with recommendations from the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Future of Nursing 2020-2030 and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.”

Huffman High School was an ideal choice for the program because they had an existing designation as an Academy of Health Science, complete with readily accessible resources such as a health care skills lab with a nursing station and manikins, Bowen said. The program is currently managed by a doctorally prepared nurse who is co-directing the program with UAB School of Nursing Instructor Allyson Sanders, MSN, RN, CNE.

The program follows a structured plan split into secondary education and post-secondary education phases that expose students to different areas of nursing and allows them to learn applicable skills.

While in high school, students will be known as Mary Seacole Scholars, named after Mary Seacole, a Jamaican doctress who assumed the roles of nurse, midwife and herbalist and established a lodging house to care for sick and wounded officers during the Crimean War. The students will have opportunities to take advanced and dual-enrollment classes, visit the UAB campus on a scheduled basis and participate in summer enrichment activities through Birmingham City Schools. They also will obtain CPR certifications as part of the training. One of the program goals is to prepare students for success to take the patient care technician certification exam upon graduation.

In addition, with the objective of easing the transition from secondary to post-secondary education, students will gain research and quality improvement experience working with UAB nurse scientists.

“Our goal is for each student to publish a scientific paper or complete a scientific poster and attend and participate in a professional nursing conference by the time they graduate high school,” Bowen said.

For those who complete the program and enroll at UAB, cohorts will be considered pre-nursing students and known as Mary Eliza Mahoney Scholars, after the first African-American licensed nurse and notable figure in advocating for equality in nursing education. The tailored program involves structured tutoring and mentorship and allows for further exposure to professional nursing through their participation in the UAB Student Nurse Association.

The program also has the support of several nursing organizations, including the Birmingham Black Nurses Association, the Alabama National Association of Hispanic Nurses, the Birmingham at-Large Chapter of the American Association for Men in Nursing and the Alabama Chapter of the Philippine Nurses Association of America, whose members will serve as mentors to students.

“It’s going to be important for the students to have mentorship,” Bowen said. “They’re going to have caring arms around them from ninth to twelfth grade. We want the School to be their second home. Ultimately, we will prepare them to be successful in any nursing or health profession program, regardless of where they go.”

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