Student’s dreams of becoming a nurse solidified by BOV member Jean Tomlinson’s inspiration
BSN student recounts fond memories of founding board member who motivated her to be her best
Jean Tomlinson shouted from her bedroom, “Yoohoo!” and her call reached the room nearby, alerting Karissa Krause that her friend was ready to begin the day.
Karissa got up and began to stir about in the kitchen. Jean followed shortly behind her and they enjoyed each others company over breakfast in what would become a special routine in both their lives.
When Karissa, a second semester Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) student in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing, first enrolled at UAB, she had no way of knowing how much impact one of the School’s founding Board of Visitors (BOV) members would have on her life, and their time spent bonding over breakfast is just a snapshot of their treasured time together.
Karissa was first drawn to UAB because she wanted to work in health care and knew about its international reputation; however, it wasn’t until she began to narrow her focus that she discovered her path in nursing.
It was when she decided to declare nursing as her major that everything fell into place. When she toured the School, she fell in love with the people, the technology and the endless possibilities for her future. This is where her journey at UAB truly began.
“Once I decided on nursing I didn’t picture myself anywhere else but UAB,” said Karissa. “This is where I belong. This is home.”
Then in the fall of 2013 Karissa met Jean Tomlinson, who further solidified her decision to pursue nursing and helped shape her life in many other ways.
Karissa and Jean were first introduced by Jean’s landscaper, Dan Carlisle, a close friend of Karissa’s. Dan worked for Jean for many years, and during the summer of 2014, Karissa worked with him on Jean’s yard. During that time, Karissa and Jean became close friends.
“We impacted each other all at once,” Karissa remembered.
Karissa was Jean’s student, mentee, friend and caregiver. Jean was Karissa’s inspiration.
In the middle of 2014 Jean had become quite ill and needed constant care and company. When she later asked Karissa to stay with her, Karissa agreed without hesitation. They would go on long drives, play games and cook together, and Jean helped Karissa stay on track in school.
Though her extended family lives in Washington state, Karissa had found a home away from home at the UAB School of Nursing and a great support system with Jean.
“My grandparents live across the country so my bond with Jean meant a lot to me,” said Karissa. “She was like my surrogate grandmother.”
As Jean’s health began to further decline, Karissa stayed with her countless nights without being asked. She helped Jean keep up with activities of daily living she could no longer master, and, above all, she was a great friend.
“This was the first experience I had taking care of someone—emotionally and physically—and I loved doing it. It made me realize what goes into being a great nurse,” said Karissa.
Jean was not only a mentor and friend to Karissa, she was also a guide as Karissa continued on the path to nursing. When Jean fell ill for the second time, all Karissa wanted to do was help, and it was hard for her to accept there was nothing else she could do as Jean died in June 2015.
Karissa said that coping with the loss of her dear friend has been difficult, but she will never forget the impact Jean made on her life and her career.She recalled Jean as a strong-willed woman who, at first, intimidated her, but she will always remember how Jean encouraged her to continue her studies, no matter how hard the material.
Jean always asked her about school and called her to wish her luck on exams. She has saved one voice mail in particular and listens to it each time she is about to take an exam. On the message, Jean’s voice still rings out the reassuring words, “big hug for a big A.”
Karissa has excelled in the School. She has been awarded the Golden Excellence Scholarship, the Fay B. Ireland Endowed Nursing Scholarship, and the Dr. Charles E. Flowers, Jr., Endowed Nursing Scholarship, and is set to graduate in April 2017.
One reason for all her successes, Karissa believes, is because she has carried Jean’s memory with her every day.
“She was such a light in my life,” Karissa said. “She always had great insight, and she cared for my future.”