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USA nursing student follows in footsteps of father, grandmother

After two years of classroom work in the College of Nursing at the University of South Alabama, Alli Boudreaux can’t wait to begin clinical courses and gain practical experience.

“I feel like my nursing education is just starting,” she said. “Until now, it’s been strictly bookwork. I’m just getting to the part where it’s hands-on.”

Boudreaux has more family support than most nursing students. Her grandmother, Anita Sirmon, is a retired nursing manager who earned her bachelor’s degree from South. Her father, Mike Boudreaux, earned a bachelor’s degree at South before going on to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

On a tour of the Health Simulation Building, her dad and grandma got their first look at a high-tech manikin used to instruct students. Three generations talked and laughed about how much things have changed over the last half-century.

“Feel her diaphragm,” Alli said. “She’s breathing.”

“Have y’all done any IV stuff?” Mike asked, examining a port in the arm.

“We had to stick each other when I was in nursing school,” joked Sirmon. “It was not fun. We were the dummies.”

The USA College of Nursing is the largest in the state, so it’s not unusual to meet members of the same family at South. Three generations of nursing students, though, do tend to stand out in a crowd.

For their tour, Alli, a 21-year-old junior, wore blue scrubs with a shoulder patch for the USA College of Nursing. Mike wore green scrubs from his job at USA Health University Hospital.

He encouraged his daughter to study nursing at South. So did her grandmother. Working as a nurse can be demanding, with the stress of weekends, night shifts and long hours, but it remains a rewarding career.

“I did it for 30 years and I survived,” Sirmon said with a smile. “It worked for me. I loved it all.”

Alli’s clinical training has just begun. Her spring schedule of classes includes pharmacology, pathophysiology and administration of medication. Her father offers practical advice and help with homework.

She isn’t sure what area of nursing she’ll explore.

“At this point, I’m kind of attracted to the emergency department, just the excitement of it,” she said. “Long-term, I’d like to do what my dad does as a CRNA.”

Family History in Mobile

Boudreaux’s parents met through the nursing community of Mobile. Her father sometimes worked with her grandmother. One day he asked about the young woman in a photo on her desk.

“Oh, that’s my daughter,” Sirmon said. “Why don’t I give you her number?”

The rest, Alli says, is family history.

She grew up in Mobile and attended Cottage Hill Christian Academy. She loved the “Harry Potter” series of books and movies. Her favorite character is Draco Malfoy, Harry’s rival from the house of Slytherin.

She has a Slytherin snake tattoo behind her left ear.

Boudreaux played volleyball at Cottage Hill, served as an ambassador for the USS Alabama, and wore a peach dress as an Azalea Trail Maid.

“I love my city,” she said. “I’m Mobile born and raised. I’m proud of where I come from.”

Her father, who is from Jennings, La., is one of her role models. She shadowed him at work and saw how he joked around to put patients and co-workers at ease. She attended a medal ceremony at the Mobile Convention Center for him and other hospital workers.

“I remember thinking, my dad’s cool,” she said. “I want to do that.”

Boudreaux decided to stay home for college. She had thought about education, but chose to study nursing like her father. She joined the Phi Mu sorority like her mother.

“Absolutely,” she said, laughing. “Like mother, like daughter. She had all kinds of Phi Mu cups and things around the house when I was little.

“I’m just like my mom. She’s a hoot. We both laugh really loud. My dad is reserved, with a dry sense of humor.”

Boudreaux’s grandmother, who graduated from Murphy High School, attended the Mobile General School of Nursing. She became a registered nurse. Later, she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at South.

Her father joined the Navy Reserve to help pay for his graduate education in nursing. That’s part of a career path she is considering.

Boudreaux’s career at South had a rocky start. During her freshman year, she got sick and wound up spending three days in the hospital with ulcerative colitis. She remembers how good her nurse was at walking her through her diagnosis and care. Patient relations might be one of the most important parts of nursing.

“If you’re the first face people see,” she said, “your laugh might be the difference between a good experience and a terrible experience.”

Boudreaux knows that nursing requires training and heart. She’s ready to do her clinical work and hospital rotations, then start a career.

Her grandmother believes in her. So does her dad.

“He says I can do anything I put my mind to,” she said. “That’s always encouraging.”

(Courtesy of University of South Alabama)

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