School's first Oncology Nurse Practitioner cohort graduating

Inaugural summer commencement ceremony to be extra special occasion for Walker, four students
By Jimmy Creed
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing marked a milestone amidst the University’s summer commencement ceremony with the graduation of its first cohort of Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program Oncology Nurse Practitioner Subspecialty students.

Catherine Diamond, BSN, Bevin Ellenberg, BSN, Nelda Ogden, BSN, and Tracie Thornton, BSN, make up what is a special group in many ways, said Associate Professor and Oncology Subspecialty Track Coordinator Deborah Kirk Walker, DNP, CRNP, NP-C, FNP-BC, AOCN.

“It is very important for the School and very special to me personally because this is the first group,” Walker said. “I came to UAB to develop and teach in an oncology nurse practitioner program, and Dean Doreen Harper has allowed me to fulfill my dream so that is special to me. This group also has a love for and a desire to work with oncology patients that makes it even more special for all of us.”

Walker Deborah 3 RTDr. Deborah Kirk WalkerFor each of the students in this first cohort, the decision to pursue a career as an oncology nurse practitioner was very personal.

Diamond’s father, Barry, is a hematology/oncology pharmacist at UAB Hospital and director of the Department of Pharmacy’s Oncology Residency Program, while both of Ellenberg’s parents suffered from cancer.

“When I saw the option for this particular subspecialty I knew I had to do it, and I am so glad I did,” Ellenberg said. “It was very challenging and time consuming, but so rewarding. The experiences and knowledge I have gained from this program were all I needed to be confident this is what I was meant to do.”

Diamond, who came to the School as part of the Accelerated Master’s in Nursing Pathway program (AMNP), said the program will help her work towards her goal of having a career in oncology as long and distinguished as her father.

“My dad has been in the field for more than 30 years, and he loves it dearly,” Diamond said. “When I started as a nurse and got to work with a few oncology patients, I knew that was the route I wanted to take as well. This has been an incredible opportunity for me. Being a nurse is a wonderful experience, but being in the oncology nurse practitioner field is a whole other wonderful experience.”

Ogden witnessed the complex, continuous battle it took for patients to go through cancer treatments and how the oncology team members were there to help them keep things in perspective and found it inspiring.

“The oncology team was there through the ups and downs,” Ogden said. “They listened, offered options and were never out of touch. That was very inspiring to me.

“It became a priority for me, and I searched many different schools of nursing for an NP program that matched my priorities. There are not many that offer Adult Gerontology with an Oncology Subspecialty like the UAB School of Nursing. It is an honor to be in the first oncology cohort at this prestigious university.”

With such a small cohort, the group members became very close knit and developed a special bond with Walker as well.

“They have become extremely close and supported each other throughout their time here,” Walker said. “I have also developed a close relationship with them on a professional level and can’t wait to call them my colleagues. They are all great nurse practitioners.”

The graduation of its first cohort is a measure of the progress the Oncology Nurse Practitioner Subspecialty has made and of even brighter times to come, Walker said.

“Each cohort that has been admitted has been larger and larger and filled with students who want to go out and make a difference in the oncology world,” Walker said. “I believe there are many good things to come in the future from this program.”
Last modified on August 14, 2016

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