Photo: Pictured above, Jacksonville State University nursing students and instructors stand in front of a helicopter used to demonstrate transport nursing responsibilities during the school’s interactive program “Innovation Recruitment: Promoting Careers in Nursing” at Gadsden Middle School on March 3. Photo courtesy of Matt Reynolds/Jacksonville State University.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
On March 3, Jacksonville State University’s School of Health Professions and Wellness inspired middle-schoolers to explore the vast spectrum of professions nursing offers.
At Gadsden Middle School, JSU nursing students hosted Innovative Recruitment: Promoting Careers in Nursing, bringing the university’s partnership with the Alabama Community Capacity Network to fruition, promoting growth within the Etowah County community and educating future generations of nurses.
The Alabama Community Capacity Network represents a partnership between college and university faculty, students and community organizations that collaborate on public projects for Appalachian Regional Commission counties in Alabama. During the 2020 spring semester, faculty fellows develop community-identified projects that contribute to ARC’s goal of leadership and community capacity, to “build the capacity and skills of current and next-generation leaders and organizations to innovate, collaborate and advance community and economic development.” JSU’s School of Health Professions and Wellness students partnered with Gadsden City Schools to create Innovative Recruitment: Promoting Careers in Nursing.
The project provides an overview of different potential nursing careers through five interactive stations that students visit, at which JSU nursing students reiterate what they learned through college courses and research to expose middle schoolers and high schoolers to the realities and rewards of the nursing profession. While JSU’s Innovative Recruitment plans to visit schools throughout Etowah County and neighboring locations, Gadsden Middle marks its first teaching session.
“I have been very impressed with our students’ leadership ability,” said ARC faculty fellow, JSU School of Nursing Caring award recipient and JSU assistant professor Dr. Tammy Morrow. “I think [Innovative Recruitment] went remarkably well, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Everything worked out perfectly.”
Marrow collaborated with Gadsden Middle School Principal Joel Gulledge to host the event in Gadsden Middle’s gym, which featured Travel Nursing, Transport Nursing, Pediatric Nursing, Forensic Nursing and Degree Programs stations. Inspired by family members who are nurses, Gulledge expressed interest in the program from the moment Morrow called. While he felt his students did not truly understand the realities of nursing, Gulledge thought they were respectful while they learned and enjoyed the experience.
“[Innovative Recruitment] is a great opportunity to collaborate with JSU to show students the different opportunities in nursing and the innovative things that nursing offers,” said Gulledge. “There may be a handful in here who decide, ‘I never thought I could be that’ or ‘I’d like to do that.’ It’s great for JSU and their students to present the program, and it’s great for [Gadsden Middle and] my students [also].”
Second-semester nursing students Hannah Grantland and Hunter Watts manned the Forensic Nursing station, where they exposed eighth graders to the responsibilities a forensic nurse encounters. Grantland and Watts discussed how forensic nurses might recover evidence to provide patients with crisis intervention or educate and treat patients while contributing to investigations by examining potential suspects. From referring patients to ongoing care programs, to serving all victims to help with crime-related injuries, forensic nurses dedicate themselves to ensuring the safety of all persons involved in cases, while providing crucial information to resolve dire situations.
“When we were originally talking about this project, we wanted to make sure that we were telling students about things that interest them and promote careers in nursing,” said Grantland. “We were trying to think of something unique that isn’t talked about a lot and we randomly thought of forensic nursing. We didn’t even present [forensic nursing] to the teachers; one teacher overheard us [talking] and said ‘yes!’”
Like each of JSU’s nursing stations, Grantland and Watts researched forensic nursing prior to the event, to provide Gadsden Middle students with accurate and beneficial information. At the forensic station, students were exposed to a mock crime scene, where they investigated a scenario comparable to situations forensic nurses encounter daily. With specialties like sexual assault, death investigation, medical and legal counseling and psychiatric nursing, forensic nurses combine their medical skills with legal and investigative authorities with the utmost care and commitment.
“I don’t think many people realize that a nurse works in a jail or a lab,” said Watts. “I’ve had a lot of health issues in the past two years, and just seeing how compassionate and caring [nurses] were to me inspired me. I’ve always known I wanted to help people and work in the medical field, and with nursing there are so many different routes you can go.”
Grantland and Watts shared that the students who visited their station expressed interest in forensic nursing and engaged in the interactive scenario. Both Grantland and Watts understand the necessity for students to recognize their opportunities and the responsibilities that accompany future professions is fundamental to developing students’ paths in life.
“I just really liked the idea that we were reaching out to eighth graders, because I think that’s really when I started thinking about where I wanted to be in my life and what I wanted for my career,” said Grantland. “I think [eighth graders] are at a really important stage in their lives, where a good influence of what [nursing] is about is really important to know.”
JSU’s project Innovative Recruitment: Promoting Careers in Nursing raises awareness to the growing nursing shortage, which according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics is expected to rise to 1.1 million nurses in 2020. The Travel Nursing station addresses this statistic, presenting a career where nurses serve in the absence of other professionals in hospitals and facilities around the country and world. JSU’s Travel Nursing station promoted the positive aspects of travel nursing, from gaining experiences in different nursing specialties to traveling to new, exciting locations with family members or pets while earning a salary of up to $100,000 per year.
“Travel nursing is an upcoming [career] that’s become more popular in the recent years,” said JSU nursing student Mackenzie Pope. “We feel like our job for this whole project we’re doing is to get people more involved in the nursing profession by showing things that are new and upcoming. Something like travel nursing is very appealing, especially to young people in eighth grade.”
As Pope journeyed through nursing school, she noticed the nursing shortage’s impact on the medical field and recognized the need for students to realize their opportunities at a younger age. Pope shared that most people associate nurses with hospitals alone, without considering the vast variety of professional environments where nurses serve or the personal connections that inspire individuals to pursue nursing as a career.
“[Seeing people’s assumptions about nursing] led me to want to further the nursing profession,” said Pope. “I actually got into nursing because both of my grandmothers passed away from cancer. [After graduation] I want to pursue oncology. I feel a calling to that.”
While several stations displayed the different career opportunities for nurses, JSU nursing students Ivy McCurley and Lauren Thompson promoted how students achieve those careers in the first place, focusing on the different degrees students earn while pursuing a nursing profession.
“There are so many rumors about how difficult nursing school is,” said McCurley. “I don’t think students ever hear about how nursing school is fun. Despite the nursing shortage, we are here to tell students that although [nursing is] challenging, it’s rewarding and they can do it.”
McCurley and Thompson presented hands-on activities to students in a fun, lighthearted manner and showed students exercises they performed in their own college courses to demonstrate the situations nurses may experience while working. To demonstrate how to properly remove gloves after cleaning a mess, Thompson and McCurley wiped pudding on students’ gloved hands and taught them a proper method to dispose of the gloves without getting any substance on themselves in the process.
JSU senior Leigh Anne Fulenwider worked the Transport Nursing station, where she explained to Gadsden Middle students how transport nurses move critically ill or injured patients from hospital to hospital or from scenes to hospitals by ambulances, planes or helicopters. At the Transport Nursing station, students could visit an actual ambulance parked outside Gadsden Middle School and a helicopter sitting across from the school, gaining first-hand experience about a lesser-known nursing profession.
“All the stations that we chose, other than pediatric nursing, are not bedside nursing roles,” said Fulenwider. “I just have a love for critical care and that’s the main reason I wanted to do transport nursing, because those patients are so sick. I love that there are little things you can do for patients that make such a huge difference.”
Fulenwider demonstrated that the tilt of a chin or putting pressure on a wound, starting a drip or a vasoactive drug to increase a person’s blood pressure can make the difference between life or death in an individual in a matter of seconds. Nurses make that difference each day, pledging to implement the skills they learn to care for those who are sick, wounded or harmed. From transporting critically wounded patients in helicopters to investigating crime scenes, from caring for children to traveling from city to city wherever they are needed, JSU’s Innovative Recruitment program captured the dedication and service nurses store in their hearts to recognize the fragile, treasured nature of life and fight to preserve a future for every individual possible, inspiring generations of nurses united with the same mission for years to come.
“One thing I love about nursing is that it’s a career where there is lifelong learning,” said Fulenwider. “There is always an opportunity to grow and better yourself, and I think that’s a beautiful thing in today’s world where it can be so easy to become complacent. Nurses are the people at the bedside taking care of your sick loved ones, and that is such a rewarding thing. I love the fact that we were able to talk to students, to address [the nursing shortage]. It may be a small way, but we can make a really big impact.”