3 months ago

Bryant Bank scholarships ease path for UAH nurses to emergency room, ICU roles

Bryant Bank’s Excellence in Nursing Scholarships helped pave the way for December 2020 Nursing graduates to develop the skills necessary to take up roles in the emergency room and trauma ICU, reports The University of Alabama in Huntsville College of Nursing (UAH CON), a part of The University of Alabama System.

The Bryant Bank Excellence in Nursing Scholarship was established in 2015 to award in-state students admitted to the Early Promotion into the UAH Nursing Program (EPNP). The EPNP is an honors program being offered by UAH’s College of Nursing. Highly qualified students who enter UAH as freshmen declaring nursing as their major, and taking all of the lower division nursing coursework on the UAH campus, are guaranteed a slot in upper division nursing courses.

Not only is the program a timely one, aiding students entering the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic, the scholarship is renewable. A full-time course load (12 hours) must be maintained each semester with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25 on all lower division Nursing and Charger Foundation-required courses given in the BSN lower division program of study.

One of those scholarship recipients is UAH CON cohort Rachel Collins, who reflects on how she arrived at her decision to enter the nursing field.

“The dream to become a nurse is something that came to me later in life. I always knew I had an interest in science and learning about the human body, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to fuel that interest. I was recruited to play collegiate soccer at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and heard of UAH’s incredible nursing program, and decided nursing was the route I wanted to take. With each semester that passed, I gained a stronger understanding and love for the nursing profession.”

For fellow 2020 graduate Katarina “Katy” Ahmed, the same choice represented more of a lifelong dream.

“The first recollections I have of planning to do nursing was at four years old,” she says. “I knew I was going to be just like my mom. I distinctly remember how she taught me how to properly clean and bandage wounds. In my last semester of nursing school, I grew into the nurse I wanted to be. I had knowledge behind me, but the experience gained from precepting helped me put my knowledge to the test. My desire for direct patient care was solidified as I helped care for my grandmother as she slowly passed away from ovarian cancer. I got to serve her in a tangible way and witness the Hospice Family Care nurses show me how much care families should be treated with during one of the hardest times of life. If I can be even half as comforting, loving and passionate about my patients and families as those nurses, I will have accomplished my desire in this field.”

Cohort Laura Bowman reveals that her own journey had striking parallels to Ahmed’s, but reports her personal path was unique as well.

“As a child, I was extraordinarily squeamish,” she says. “I got very grossed out by the sight of blood and could not stand anything medically related! I always said I would never have what it takes to be a nurse. However, my grandmother began having a series of strokes when I was a young teenager, and over the next few years I helped care for her. The longer I cared for her, the more I adapted to blood and other bodily fluids. The week before she died she called me her ‘little nurse.’ That statement really stuck with me. It opened my eyes to the fact that I do have what it takes to be a nurse and inspired me to pursue that passion.”

When it came to furthering her education, Collins recalls, “I was looking for a university that wasn’t only going to help me achieve my goals in my soccer career, but would also push me academically and give me a great education. As soon as I visited UAH, I knew it was the perfect college for me. I was able to be a student athlete while simultaneously getting an incredible nursing education. I loved the campus, and I loved the city of Huntsville.”

It was a family connection to the school that helped Ahmed make her selection.

“I heard a lot about the program growing up, since my mom is an alumna of the UAH College of Nursing,” she notes. “Although I considered other universities, UAH remained my top choice. Not only did UAH allow me to live at home through college, but I was able to stay with my home church and remain with my closest friends. I was also able to stay out of debt throughout my collegiate career, because UAH offered me the Charger Distinction Scholarship and the Bryant Bank Scholarship. My spot in the Upper Division Program in the CON was solidified as I was offered and accepted the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program.”

Bowman was blessed with a similar familial connection that helped her narrow her choice as well.

“My dad is actually a UAH alumnus. I grew up in Huntsville and always heard about how amazing the UAH College of Nursing is. Between that and the scholarships UAH offers, it was a no-brainer for me to attend the UAH College of Nursing. UAH Nursing has prepared me to critically think in the real world. Real life patients are so different than textbook ones! However, UAH gave me the building blocks to translate textbook knowledge into real-world applications.”

The graduates are especially grateful to the Bryant Bank Scholarship and the profound impact it had on their lives and being admitted into the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program.

“It meant the world to me!” Collins says. “It really instilled in me the confidence to know that people believed in me. It helped me to study hard and push for the highest academic excellence I could pursue. The scholarship also meant I could graduate without any student debt! Receiving the Bryant Bank Scholarship and being admitted into the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program further validated that I was going to be part of such a special profession that is valued and appreciated by so many people. Knowing I had this support gave me confidence to go fearlessly into the nursing profession.”

Ahmed wholeheartedly agrees. “The Charger Distinction Scholarship, Bryant Bank Scholarship and the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program were, above all, an answer to prayer! All the perseverance and tears in high school paid off, and those three opportunities allowed me to go to UAH without the fear of going into debt. The Bryant Bank Scholarship meant a lot, because it is specifically for nursing students and was an incredible asset to earning my degree. People outside of my family and friends were actively investing in me and my studies! The EPNP allowed my mind to be at peace, knowing that I had a place in the Upper Division Program. These three incredible blessings were affirmations that determination, perseverance and a strong work ethic pays off with high rewards later down the road.”

All three nurses feel the rigorous UAH Nursing academic program has prepared them well for the work they are doing now.

“UAH Nursing pushed me to a limit academically that I couldn’t have ever imagined,” Collins says. “While it was difficult, I came out of it knowing I was going to be able to add something special to the nursing profession. UAH Nursing empowered me to be a lifelong learner and to always question the status quo. While I knew it would be a challenge coming out of nursing school and going straight into the intensity of the Pediatric ICU, I never doubted I had the knowledge and capability to someday excel in such a challenging unit.”

“I feel like I thought nursing would be much more straightforward as a student,” Bowman says. “The emergency room is a very stressful and fast-paced environment. You can fall behind so easily if you do not have good time management skills. You have to adapt quickly to changing situations. You also have to use interpersonal communication skills to interact effectively with both patients and providers. I love the fast paced environment, even though I was not anticipating it being quite as hectic as it actually is.”

“I feel the UAH CON fulfilled its objective in giving me a solid base to build on in my chosen specialty,” Ahmed adds. “Overall, nursing school requires scheduling and prioritization. These skills are applicable in the nursing profession as well, as nurses must ensure all aspects of patient care are done appropriately and in a timely manner. Classroom changes due to COVID-19 taught me flexibility, which is also applicable to nursing. I must credit and thank Dr. Anna Aultman and Dr. Sharon Coffey, who instructed me in the Critical Care course. Daily I recall the information, advice and critical thinking skills they persistently pushed during each lecture. I would also be remiss if I breezed over the Pathophysiology and Pharmacology courses. I use all of that information now to help process complex disease processes and medication effects.”

Collins is working in the Pediatric ICU at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, and admits that her first days on the job were challenging.

“Starting off, orientation in the Pediatric ICU initially intimidated me because I knew the expectations would be higher for me as a licensed RN compared to when I was a student,” she says. “However, I quickly learned that it’s okay to admit you are unsure how to do something, even as an RN. Most everyone is willing to teach you new things and walk you through unfamiliar procedures. One difference I’ve noticed is the expectation to manage my time. I’ve had to learn quickly how to manage hourly assessments, charting and giving meds simultaneously. I have loved my time so far working in the Pediatric ICU. I love the challenge of caring for such critically ill patients and getting the opportunity to critically think every shift I work.”

Ahmed, on the other hand, found her start at Huntsville Hospital in the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit (STICU).

“As a new hire, I tried to go in with an open mind, ready to learn a specific patient population, new skills and drastically increase my understanding of complex patients and critical thinking,” she says. “I expected the unit to be a challenging environment to begin in, and it has not yet disappointed. However, I have been extremely welcomed. I truly enjoy the unit, my coworkers and what I get to do each day. Every nurse has been willing to help me and explain procedures and patients’ situations so I will have a deeper understanding of critical thinking and patient care. This information is building on the foundation that I received while at UAH, especially in the Critical Care course.”

As for what it is like to go into their first nursing jobs in the middle of a pandemic, the recent grads stress their understanding of what this commitment really means during a time of so much uncertainty.

“It is honestly extraordinarily stressful,” Bowman admits. “Walking into an environment where everyone is already exhausted can be discouraging. However, I am glad we are able to provide some relief to those who are already so overworked. As nurses, we care for patients equally, regardless of their diagnosis. So, COVID patient or not, they all receive the same quality of care. I am glad to be able to provide that care. Hopefully, this will all be behind us sometime soon.”

Collins chimes in: “It’s a difficult and simultaneously rewarding time to be a part of the healthcare field. Limiting visitors, especially in a pediatric unit, is hard on the families and the kids we care for. While it’s a hard time emotionally and financially for many people, I am empowered to know that I get to be in a profession that is making a difference throughout this pandemic.”

“COVID-19 has affected every career in some form or fashion, but especially the healthcare field,” Ahmed points out. “Although those in the medical and nursing professions have made a vow along the way to help those under their care regardless of the diagnosis, COVID-19 has been an incredible hurdle that everyone is still dealing with every day. Although I love the unit and my job, it can be scary to go into work! I have been exposed to COVID-19, and even with all of the precautions in place, will most likely be again.”

Then, after a pause to reflect, the young graduate goes on:

“But, from four years old to now, my dream has never changed! I made it through an incredibly rigorous nursing school. Through all of my education, I have also been learning the skills, both physical and emotional, to be the best nurse I can be. Starting a career in nursing during a pandemic was nothing I ever expected could happen. Sometimes I am scared and overwhelmed, but ultimately I have peace of mind. I know I was put into this role for a reason. This career is not easy, but in the end when I go home, I know that I did everything I could for my patients. I am thankful to UAH and my professors who taught me more than what can be found in a textbook. They lead by example, and I hope one day I can be an example for the next generation of nurses.”

Bryant Bank was founded on the belief that Alabama needs a bank that is focused on the needs of Alabamians. It was granted a charter by the State of Alabama Banking Department in 2005, and the company maintains 16 branches in Alabama, including two in Huntsville. The first Huntsville branch opened in 2007. For more information about the Bryant Bank Excellence in Nursing Scholarship Program, visit here.

(Courtesy of UAH)

1 hour ago

State Rep. Tracy Estes announces reelection campaign

State Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield) has announced his reelection bid to the Alabama House of Representatives, serving District 17.

Estes, a first-term lawmaker, serves on the Education Policy, Public and Homeland Security, and Children and Senior Advocacy Committees.

“Serving my district in Montgomery has proven to be one of the greatest honors in my life,’’ said Estes. “More importantly, serving in this capacity has given me the opportunity to represent the people of Northwest Alabama while giving them a voice in state government. With a second term in office, I am committed to honoring the promise I made the residents of Lamar, Marion and Winston counties on the campaign trail in 2018 – to be hard working, transparent and accessible. Without hesitation, I believe I have honored my word.’’

In the earliest stages of the global coronavirus pandemic, Estes said in a release he was at the forefront in efforts to bring “much-needed federal financial assistance” to House District 17.


The release cited his work with hospitals in Winfield, Hamilton and Haleyville to secure more than $15 million in financial aid. The first-term lawmaker noted the assistance his office provided to his constituents in obtaining jobless benefits.

Estes led the legislative in the lower chamber to pass Aniah’s Law, which if passed through statewide ballot measure, would expand judicial authority to deny bail to those accused of committing violent crimes.

The press release stated that Estes has managed to secure funding for eight highway projects for his district, totaling more than $4 million.

He has been an ardent supporter of public education and has sponsored numerous legislation relating to education since assuming office, earning him recognition from the Alabama Association of School Boards and the School Superintendents of Alabama.

Estes serves as a deacon at Winfield First Baptist Church and sings lead in a Southern gospel quartet.

In closing, Estes offered a direct plea for reelection to voters of House District 17.

“I believe the voters in this district still honor and respect hard work,” said Estes. “I can honestly say I have poured all of my energy into working hard on your behalf over the last few years while also being transparent and accessible to everyone in the district regardless of age, gender, community or economic background. I worked for everyone in this district and have considered it an honor to do so.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News

3 hours ago

Britt: Border crisis ‘a result of the weakness of the Biden administration’

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt appeared Thursday on News Talk 93.1’s “Dan Morris Show,” where she was interviewed by guest host Apryl Marie Fogel.

During the interview, she was asked by Fogel whether some of the recent turmoil overseas and at the border was attributable to the transition in the executive branch.

“There is no doubt that this is a result of the weakness of the Biden administration,” Britt outlined. “You mentioned the border — it is a total disaster. If you look at the number of people coming over the border, both in May and June we hit 20-year highs. President Trump placed policies and enacted policies that showed strength and got the border under control. I mean, the first thing that we need to do is seal and secure the border. If you look at the safety and security of our nation, but also the humanitarian crisis that is occurring there. We are seeing so many drugs being trafficked over the border. They said they are catching over 3,000 pounds a day, but Apryl Marie, what China is sending over in fentanyl to Mexico, to then come over our border, they said could kill every American four times over.”


“And every bit of this, it’s interesting, when Vice President Harris said, ‘Oh, I’m going go to the border to see what the issue is,’ which obviously took her, how many days did it take her? – How many months? It was absurd. But I thought, ‘You don’t need to go down there to see (the problem), just look in the mirror.’ It’s you, it’s your administration, the Biden administration’s policies. It’s the weakness that you’re showing,” Britt concluded. “We’ve got to put back Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy. We’ve also got to make sure that, as President Trump did, when people came over the border, they knew that they weren’t going to be placed on our welfare system. Those types of policies, that type of strength, that deters people from coming. Same thing in Cuba. Same thing in Israel. I mean, they see weakness in the Biden Administration, and they see that the Democrats are starting to undermine that relationship, and they are taking advantage of it. Make no mistake: this is why we have to have strength in D.C. and in the White House. We must have strength in the Senate, and we must have strength in the House.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 hours ago

A new-look Alabama Crimson Tide, the same old Nick Saban

Nick Saban knows you want to know what he thinks. About the prospect of COVID-19 disrupting another college football season. Name, image and likeness rights for college athletes. The revolving door on the transfer portal thanks to the one-time free transfer rule.

Winning a poll-era record seven national championships, six of the past 12, including the 2020 title, has earned the Alabama football coach a bully pulpit. It’s also earned him the right to admit he knows what he doesn’t know.

“I know there’s a lot of interest in a lot of those things,” Saban said Wednesday at SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel. “I almost feel that anything that I say will probably be wrong because there’s no precedent for the consequences that some of the things that we are creating, whether they’re good opportunities, even if they’re good opportunities, there’s no precedent for the consequences that some of these things are going to create, whether they’re good or bad.”


Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban talks NIL, vacationing, sustaining success and a past SEC Media Days memory from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The more college football changes, the more Saban and Alabama adapt to those changes and keep winning. They went undefeated to capture the 2020 national championship despite COVID disruptions such as Saban himself missing the Iron Bowl because he tested positive for the virus, and two games being rescheduled.

Saban explained how Alabama has handled the subject of vaccinations for the disease with its players heading into this season. He broke it down into “a personal decision” for each player and “a competitive decision” on how that choice could affect the team.

How has that approach worked to date?

“I think that we’re pretty close to 90 percent maybe of our players who have gotten the vaccine,” Saban said, “and I’m hopeful that more players make that decision – but it is their decision.”

Speaking a day earlier at a Texas high school coaching convention, Saban weighed in on the newest phenomenon affecting college athletics, NIL rights. He dropped a nugget that Alabama’s heir apparent at quarterback, sophomore Bryce Young, has earned almost a million dollars in endorsements. Saban didn’t expound on Young’s earning power Wednesday but applauded the opportunity for players to make money.

He also questioned the impact that a disparity in NIL earnings could have on the roster “because it’s not going to be equal, and everything that we’ve done in college athletics in the past has always been equal. Everybody’s had an equal scholarship, equal opportunity.”

“Now that’s probably not going to be the case. Some positions, some players will have more opportunities than others. And how that’s going to impact your team, our team, the players on the team, I really can’t answer because we don’t have any precedent for it.

“I know that we’re doing the best we can to try to get our players to understand the circumstance they’re in, the opportunity they have, and how those opportunities are not going to be equal for everybody, and it will be important for our team’s success that people are not looking over their shoulder at what somebody else does or doesn’t do.”

What Alabama does in trying to compete for another championship without 10 NFL draft picks from last year’s team, six of whom were selected in the first round, including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, will reflect the program’s ability to adapt to the new era of college football “free agency.” Tennessee transfer linebacker Henry To’oTo’o, a potential “quarterback-type guy on defense” in Saban’s words, is one of the newcomers expected to make an immediate impact on a team that will start the season in a much different place than last season.

With eight new starters on offense and a new offensive coordinator and play-caller in former NFL head coach Bill O’Brien, the experience this time around is on defense. Just the same, Saban said, after setting school records last season with 48.5 points and 541.6 yards a game, “we’re not changing offenses.”

“We’ve got a good offense,” he said. “We’ve got a good system. We’ve got a good philosophy. Bill has certainly added to that in a positive way, and we’ll probably continue to make some changes. But from a terminology standpoint, from a player standpoint in our building, our offense was very, very productive, and we want to continue to run the same type of offense and feature the players that we have who are playmakers who can make plays, and I think Bill will do a good job of that.”

So as a new season awaits, Saban and Alabama find themselves in a familiar place in a new world, trying to defend a national championship with a new cast of featured players and assistant coaches. Saban called it “the penalty for success.”

“The challenge is you’ve got to rebuild with a lot of new players who will be younger, have new roles, less experience, and how do they respond to these new roles? That’s why rebuilding is a tremendous challenge,” Saban said. “That’s why it’s very difficult to repeat.”

Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban speaks at SEC Media Days 2021 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Saban, who has won back-to-back national championships just once in 2011 and 2012, is heading into his 15th season at Alabama, his 20th in the SEC, including his five years at LSU. The SEC coach next in line in seniority is Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, who’s entering his ninth year. Eight of the league’s head coaches are in their first or second year.

Someone asked Saban the secret to his longevity.

“I think that’s simple,” he said. “You’ve got to win.”

Mission accomplished. Again and again and again.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

In Alabama, conservation is for the birds

Whether it’s the Yellowhammer State or the Cotton State, whatever you call the state of Alabama, an abundance of birds call it home. “Yellowhammer” in fact refers to the common name for the northern flicker woodpecker — which just happens to be the state bird of Alabama.

Specifically, coastal Alabama is home to a treasure trove of avian species that nest on the beach and use the area for stopover on their migratory journeys around the world. Coastal Alabama is a particularly vulnerable area, as well as the other four Gulf state coasts. The Gulf’s coast is subject to battering from hurricanes and storm surge, land loss from a lack of sediment transfers, and increased development — making coastal restoration projects all that more important.

The incredible amount of bird habitat in the Yellowhammer State is good news for outdoors enthusiasts. Birding trails and hunting opportunities are prevalent, and per Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, birding as a sector of tourism is huge. Roughly $17.3 billion is spent on wildlife-watching trips and related expenses, with an estimated 20 million Americans traveling for birding.


“While our 32-mile stretch of sugar-white sand beaches is what draws people to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for their vacations, the broader nature and outdoors are part of our core marketing focus, especially in the last year with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Beth Gendler, Chief Operating Officer of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. “The Tourism Office learned during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill just how vital it is that we protect our special environment for residents and visitors to enjoy and appreciate in the future. Birding and bird conservation efforts are a key component of this because our area is part of the winter and spring migration routes.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Gulf Restoration Office is working to implement projects ensuring these opportunities continue to exist far into the future. Within these efforts, some Service biologists are focused on land restoration, while others are looking to the sky — literally — as they track birds’ migration patterns.

Dauphin Island’s West End

Amid settlement negotiations and cleanup efforts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred in April 2010, one spit of land remained in focus for some Service biologists. Roughly 840 acres of coastal habitat, which until recently was privately owned, is known as the West End of Dauphin Island. Located near the mouth of Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island is a 15-mile long barrier island. The U.S. Census Bureau has designated the area as 166-square-miles, which includes about 96% open water. It offers invaluable habitat for coastal bird populations.

A major milestone on the path to restoring the Gulf of Mexico was marked recently as the state of Alabama acquired the West End of Dauphin Island. The acquisition conserves habitat for coastal bird populations that are dependent on the area. The Dauphin Island West End Acquisition project was approved as part of the Alabama Restoration Plan III and Environmental Assessment in December 2019. The 840 acres is a diverse coastal habitat made up of dunes, marshes, and beaches. Sea turtle and several bird species use these habitats for nesting. Migratory birds use the area as a prime resting spot during migrations. The Service’s team will work in close coordination with the State of Alabama and Mobile County to restore this valuable property.

“Public ownership of the West End of Dauphin Island will allow for the protection and management of its habitats,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Through the collaborative work of the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group, and the local stakeholders, the acquisition of this land will have a tremendous benefit for coastal and water birds injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

Among the bird species present at the West End are the piping plover and red knot. These two shorebirds are a threatened species within their Alabama range, and are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Piping plovers frequent Alabama’s quiet shoreline throughout fall, winter and spring. Red knots are known for their more than 9,300-mile annual migration, one of the longest-distance migrants in the animal kingdom. Conserving this parcel of land will ensure that the sensitive coastal habitat is protected for years to come.

Tracking birds on the go

Conserving bird habitat is vital for species conservation, but so is knowing where Alabama’s coastal birds are going and staying. A project to track seasonal movements and habitat use of two species of colonial wading birds is providing valuable information for future planning to restore wading bird species in Alabama still recovering from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The project relies on the use of electronic transmitters attached to captured birds.

The Colonial Nesting Wading Bird Tracking and Habitat Use Assessment project has been underway since last July. Biologists will use the information to better understand important colonial wading bird foraging, resting and nesting areas in coastal Alabama which will allow for more efficient and effective restoration.

“This project gives us an important way to understand the many impacts that affect colonial nesting wading bird populations, including human disturbances such as the Deepwater Horizon spill. The data provided through this project will help us to more effectively restore bird species injured by the spill,” said Kate Healy, a Service biologist who works in the Gulf restoration office.

18 hours ago

WBRC’s James-Paul Dice signing off after 26-year career in television

One of the most familiar faces on Alabama television is signing off the air tonight.

WBRC-TV’s James-Paul Dice has been the chief meteorologist at the Birmingham TV powerhouse for 13 of his 26-year career in television.

The beloved weatherman is starting a new career as a corporate pilot, flying Gulfstream IV business jets for Birmingham-based Drummond Company.

Dice will deliver his final weather forecast Friday night at 10 p.m. on WBRC TV Fox-6.

In a tweet, WBRC thanked Dice and wished him well on his new journey.