Jayda Shafer

UAH senior Jayda Shafer at Huntsville Hospital.

Courtesy Jayda Shafer

An Impact Endowment donor provided through The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has proved to be vital in helping UAH College of Nursing student Jayda Shafer surmount obstacles to her life goals.

Shafer is originally from the Huntsville area. In fact, she grew up overlooking the community she has always called home.

"I grew up on Monte Sano Mountain and later moved to New Market in middle school," she says. "I graduated from Buckhorn High School in 2017. Both of my parents are from Huntsville as well. They grew up on Monte Sano and both graduated from Huntsville High School."

Though Shafer originally began her studies at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, she eventually decided that her fondness for the Madison County area proved to be too strong a pull to ignore.

"Originally, I wanted to get away from home – like any new grad does once they finish high school. I had a Dean’s Nursing Scholarship to UAB which guaranteed my admittance into their nursing program once I finished my prerequisites. I decided to move off and later realized that, while UAB has a fantastic school, Birmingham was just not for me. I went ahead and applied to UAH’s College of Nursing, and when I was accepted, I decided it was time for me to move back home."

Shafer’s training at UAH has led her to a path as a telemetry technician and patient care aide (PCA), and she appreciates the CON’s partnership with Huntsville Hospital that has provided her with the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience.

"As a telemetry technician, I watch patient heart monitors and alert the healthcare provider(s) of any changes," she explains. "Usually, I’m watching roughly 40-50 patients at a time. If we see a rhythm change that could be harmful to the patient, we’re responsible for notifying the floor staff and calling a code if necessary. Being a patient care aide has been a rollercoaster. Some days are great, and then there are days where things are extremely hectic. However, having the experience of a PCA has helped me tremendously while in Nursing School – especially because of Covid-19. Due to the pandemic, many of our clinical experiences have been converted to online. However, since I am a PCA I’m able to see things at the hospital and have nurses on my floor teach and show me things that otherwise I wouldn’t have the opportunity to."

Shafer’s working experience at the hospital in parallel with her studies have proved to be essential to her growth as a healthcare worker.

"It has been extremely beneficial!" she notes. "Many of our in-person clinical days had to be canceled because of the virus. Since I am working at the hospital in the midst of it all, I feel much more prepared to graduate and become an RN, because I have had these experiences that many have not. If I were not working at the hospital and getting the hands-on practice and real patient interaction, I think I would be much more hesitant as a new grad to walk in the door and be confident in my abilities."

In addition to school, at times Shafer has worked three jobs out of necessity to meet her day-to-day living expenses. Becoming an Impact Endowment recipient has made a significant difference in helping to reduce the financial burdens she has been under while on the road to completing her degree.

"It has not been easy!" she admits. "I am so grateful for the Christine Martin Pruitt Memorial Scholarship, as it has alleviated some of the financial stress that goes along with being a college student. I can ‘breathe’ a little more and focus on studying to get my degree versus worrying about how many hours I need to work in order to pay bills and purchase school supplies. It also goes to show that my hard work isn’t going unnoticed. Being a full-time nursing student is hard enough, and I am so grateful to have received this scholarship to help alleviate some of the extra stress!"

Shafer is thrilled to be approaching her personal finish line at last, enjoying planning for the future with the prize in sight at the culmination of her efforts.

"I am very excited to be a senior! It’s crazy to think that I’ll be graduating in less than a year with a four-year degree. As of now, I plan on graduating and working at Huntsville Hospital for roughly one to two years and then returning to school to get my master’s and become a Nurse Practitioner. Ideally, once I graduate, I would like to work at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children as a Pediatric Intensive Care RN."

The student takes understandable pride in being the first in her family to receive a degree, overcoming obstacles so daunting, one can only stand in awe of her accomplishment.

"As I’ve contemplated what my ‘first-generation student’ story looks like, I’ve reflected upon where I am today, where I have been, and what I came from," Shafer says. She acknowledges that while her home life was at times challenging, being the first in her family to graduate from college affords her the opportunity to rise above these obstacles and motivates her to succeed.

"Being the first has been scary, intimidating, and confusing – yet, it has all been so worth it. I’ve met so many people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’ve been able to branch out from my little hometown and meet people from all over the world. I have made lifelong friends that helped to motivate and push me. It has challenged me and motivated me to be the person that I am today. I had to go this route with no guidance and find my way. While it has been challenging, it has been oh so rewarding."

Most importantly, Shafer acknowledges the inspiration she is providing as a role model for her siblings, especially as she continues to make a difference in the life of her younger sister.

"I have two siblings, one older and one younger. My little sister is twelve years old now. When I started college, she was roughly seven or eight. Now that I’m about to graduate, she tells me that she too wants to go to college and become a nurse! It’s heartwarming to hear her tell me that she wants to be ‘just like me’ when she grows up. I’m thankful I’ve been able to be an inspiration to her and show her that the life we’ve both had to grow up in is not all there is. So, as I finish my degree this year, I hope that I can still be an inspiration to her and show her that the world has so much more to offer her."