UAH nursing graduates to begin prestigious Vanderbilt Nursing Residency Program

Kristen Bertrand

Kristen Bertrand

Michael Mercier | UAH

Kate Bradley and Kristen Bertrand, two fall 2017 graduates of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), were recently accepted into the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Nurse Residency Program. Both honors students and graduates of the UAH College of Nursing will work in two highly specialized health care areas, Bradley in the Cardiac Step-Down Unit and Bertrand in the Surgical-Trauma Intensive Care Unit. The prestigious residency program begins in February.

"The College of Nursing is very proud of these two outstanding students," said Dr. Marsha Howell Adams, Dean of Nursing. "These individuals are excellent examples of the quality of students graduating from the UAH College of Nursing."

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center Nurse Residency Program (VUMCNRP) is sponsored by the hospital and requires a two year commitment. New graduates hired into the residency program are considered full-time employees who are eased into the role of professional nurse through didactic learning sessions and hands-on clinical training, all under the guidance and support of the VU professional nursing staff and nursing education specialists (

Kate Bradley is a native of Madison, AL, and a graduate and an honors scholar of James Clemens High School. For her excellent academic achievement, Bradley was rewarded with UAH Presidential and Music Scholarships. She became interested in the health care field in her early teens. "I participated in the selective Biomedical Program at my high school. The program culminated my senior year with an internship. Twice a week for a semester we rotated to different units in the hospital. That really solidified my career choice."

Kate Bradley

UAH nursing graduate, Kate Bradley recently pictured with Dr. Marsha Howell Adams, Dean of the College of Nursing.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Bradley found the UAH nursing classes to be very challenging, but her passion was clinical rotation. "I liked the clinical setting better than the classroom because it was more hands-on and I could apply my knowledge to real world settings. My professors prepared me the best they could. Much of nursing requires experience, which no classroom setting can prepare you for. The clinical setting did prepare me better, but it wasn’t until I was on my own with a nurse that I learned the most."

Just before she graduated from UAH, Bradley volunteered at the Redstone Federal Credit Union Employee Clinic (RFCUEC) under the supervision of a nurse practitioner. "I gained a lot of experience because it was more one-on-one. Volunteering at the RFCUEC wasn't part of the UAH nursing curriculum; I completed the internship on my own for experience and knowledge. I also worked with Dr. Haley Hoy (UAH Assistant Professor of Nursing) on my Honors College Capstone Research Project. I traveled to VU to interview participants for my project."

Bradley said the unique bond between nursing faculty and students was amazing. "The faculty really want you to succeed and will go out of their way to help you…and the nursing students banded together and helped each other out. We were all on this journey together and knew it would be easier if we worked together, as opposed to bringing each other down."

She learned about the VUMCNRP from a nurse practitioner working at RFCUEC. "I immediately applied because it would be such a good opportunity to be accepted. It’s a two-year commitment as a nurse with an hourly wage." Bradley's training will be in the Cardiac Step-Down Unit. During her last semester of clinical rotation, she precepted at the Huntsville Hospital (HH) Coronary Care Unit (CCU). "The Cardiac Step Down Unit is the unit between the Intensive Care Unit and the general care floor. The unit is specifically for heart patients who don’t need the intense care of ICU, but are not ready for general care. This special unit is similar to the CCU at HH."

While at UAH, Bradley was a Resident Assistant (RA) and involved in many university extracurricular activities including membership in the Pep Band, Wind Ensemble, the Association for Nursing Students and the nursing honor society, Sigma Theta Tau. Unlike most college students, Bradley said balancing her academic work and social activities wasn't hard. "Being busy actually helped me stay focused. I wasn’t allowed to procrastinate or else my grades would suffer, or I wouldn’t finish my work for RA on time. I had to plan ahead to ensure I would have enough time to study or to work."

After completing the VUMCNRP, Bradley plans to earn a Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

A Hazel Green, AL, native Kristen Bertrand graduated as an advanced placement scholar from Hazel Green High School. She was the recipient of three university awards for academic excellence: the UAH Silver, Noojin Family and College of Nursing Scholarships.

Nursing was not Bertrand's first career choice. She began attending UAH as a chemical engineering student. Bertrand switched her major at the end of her second year at UAH, after she witnessed the impact that nursing students were making during their clinical rotations. "I always knew about UAH because I grew up in the Huntsville area. As I look back on my experiences and collegiate opportunities I realize UAH was the best place for me to be."

For Bertrand, her classes and professors, particularly in nursing school, are absolutely the reason she was able to enter the workforce in her dream job. "I feel like we had such good preparation from professors who truly loved nursing and cared about each of us. So many professors had major impacts on my experience at UAH, but I would have to say the professor that impacted me the most was Dr. Ellise Adams, (Associate Professor of Nursing) my research advisor. She gave me immeasurable time, effort, and support all the way through nursing school. I could not have asked for a better role model or mentor."

As part of the honors program, Bertrand conducted an original research project on the mother’s experience of skin-to-skin care during cesarean birth. "Through this, I was part of the Research Creative Experience for Undergraduates and the Honors Capstone Summer Program, both programs that support undergraduate research."

During her time at UAH, Bertrand was involved in a lot of organizations. "In my early days at the university, I was initiated into Delta Zeta. I held a few offices in my sorority, the highest being Vice President of Membership. I also served as an RA, a cheerleader, and a member of the 2013 Homecoming Court. Later, my extracurricular activities became more professionally-focused," she said. "I became much more involved with the Honors College by participating in the Research and Creative Experience for Undergraduates in the summer of 2016 and the Honors Capstone Summer Program in the summer of 2017. I was able to disseminate my research at a few local conferences and nationally at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in 2017."

Bertrand also studied abroad in Germany during the summer of 2017. "I was able to do this by a generous scholarship from the honors college called the “Study Abroad Grant for Airfare” or SAGA." In addition, Bertrand worked at the Student Success Center for nearly three years as a peer academic coach, served as a member of the Association of Nursing Students, and was recently inducted into Sigma Theta Tau.

In the VUMCNRP Bertrand will train in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. "At Vanderbilt, the SICU and the Trauma ICU are separate. This unit is where patients go after highly complicated surgeries that need special care during recovery, and this unit also takes patients, who have encountered major surgical problems," she said. "My senior preceptorship was in the HH Surgical-Trauma Intensive Care Unit. My time and experience in the unit was absolutely crucial in my decision to pursue critical care. The VUMCNRP is highly competitive — this is the only way Vanderbilt will hire new graduate nurses, and with it being such a fantastic hospital, it is a dream come true for new nurses across the country. I heard that over 500 people applied…I am excited and honored to be chosen for this opportunity."

As for the future, Bertrand will work on getting as much clinical experience as possible in the next two years, and after the program ends she will consider returning to school. "I am interested in many avenues of professional nursing, and I look forward to my next few years as an RN to help me find my way."



Joyce Anderson-Maples


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