The Making of a Nurse
Jennifer Collins understands what it means to belong to something important. As a Charge Nurse at Princeton Baptist Hospital, she is responsible for six nurses, six assistants and 42 patients every shift. It’s intense work that requires an enormous amount of skill, focus and compassion.
“I’ve been working in this hospital for about for 2.5 years,” Collins says. “It’s a great place, with so many people doing great things. It’s a challenge but I really feel like my time at UWA prepared me for what we’re doing every day.
“I graduated high school from Paul Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa. My senior year, I had no idea where I wanted to go to college. I didn’t really start looking until the spring semester. I looked at UWA on the advice of one of my former high school teachers; we were really close and she used to teach at UWA at one time.
“I knew I didn’t want to go to a big school. Being from Tuscaloosa, I knew all about UA of course, but I wanted to get away, to something smaller. When I first visited UWA, I felt something special. Like this place was going to be right for me. When I began school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I was thinking either special education or nursing. Once I began taking classes in nursing, though, I knew that was my path.
I will never forget my time at UWA. It’s hard to describe what it’s like, the feeling of family. In nursing school, you spend a lot of time in the nursing building. When you start, you don’t really know anyone — but you never feel like you are alone. I mean, almost immediately, the secretary in the nursing school knew my name. I don’t know how she does that, but she knows everyone.
Even the custodian woman in the nursing school is amazing. I’ll never forget her. Everyone there takes you on — like they have a vested interest in your success.
Yes, it’s small. And the work is demanding. But those two things help develop close relationships with everyone: classmates, faculty, staff. The expectations are really high. They expect greatness from every single student. They don’t just throw you in the deep end, but they will expect your best effort all the time.
Working as a nurse now in a highly stressful, fast-paced environment — I’m not sure anything quite prepares you for the reality of the hospital, but it’s clear I got a great education. I was ready to handle the job. That’s a direct reflection on my professors. They are good at what they do.
On Building Leaders
A lot of people see UWA, and all they see is the small school, small town. To me, that’s the great strength of this place. There are tons of opportunities to get involved in things that help develop your leadership skills. But that also just make going to school fun.
I was a Nursing Senator, part of SGA. I played on the women’s tennis team and was a Student-Athlete Representative. I was on the dance team for a while. I sang in the choir. I was really involved in my high school and I was surprised how much there was to do on campus at UWA.
They will give you the chance to grow here. They definitely produce leaders. I’ve seen that in my own job. I’ve seen how my experiences have helped me move ahead in my career.
Like I said, UWA is small. But you meet so many different kinds of people. Some from the country, a lot of big-city kids. International students. Athletes. There are so many interesting people there. I miss it. In fact, I speak to my friends and my professors all the time still.
On the future.
I take a lot of inspiration from Dr. Hanks and Ms. Hill on the faculty. I finished my degree at UWA; I completed my BSN at the University of Alabama and I will soon have my Master’s.
I work with the UWA faculty now as a Clinical Instructor. Students come once a week to the hospital and shadow us in our work. It’s a great learning experience for them and for me. At some point I might like to follow the lead of Dr. Hanks and Ms. Hill and go back to teach. They’ve done so much for me, it might be great to do the same for other students.
Right now, I’m enjoying my work. It’s challenging. It’s never the same from shift to shift. But it is rewarding. UWA definitely set me on this path and for that I’m thankful.