Congratulations for being accepted into the UAH College of nursing! You all chose the BEST nursing school to attend. You should feel proud and honored. You are embarking on a journey that is going to change your life in more ways than just one. I remember being where you are now and feeling excited, scared, and feeling all sorts of feelings. I had no idea what the next 5 semesters would look like for me. I heard rumors from friends and family about nursing school, but I did not know what nursing school would look like for me. I am sure all of you are wondering what this journey will look like for you. Where will it take you? I can tell you; this journey is exactly what you make of it. If you show up each day with a smile on your face, ready to learn, open to new experiences, and willing to put in 100% in everything you do, then you will have the best journey, even through the challenging times.

Looking back, nursing school has been the hardest thing I have ever accomplished, and yet the most rewarding. For me, nursing school was exciting but also challenging. I remember sitting in my first semester classes thinking about how happy I was to finally be where I had worked so hard to be, studying what I always wanted to study, and thinking about how blessed I was. I remember how excited I was to get in there and work with patients. Little did I know, that would not come until 2nd semester. I remember feeling disappointed with that. However, looking back I am so thankful for that first semester, the semester that you all are In right now. Appreciate the first semester and the opportunities it gives you. It sets your foundation for the next 4 semesters. I know this first semester is packed with content that you may have never seen before. Use this semester to find your groove. Find the best study method for you, ask questions, get to know your instructors, use your time wisely in and out of the classroom, and understand that it is okay to make mistakes and learn from them. In my opinion, the first semester is one of the most challenging semesters you will face. It will test you and push you. Appreciate this semester and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I have a few pieces of advice I would love to give you as you move throughout the program. The first thing I would say is: find your people. Find a group of people you can study with, laugh with, cry with, and learn with. Find a group that will challenge you to be the best version of yourself and the best nurse possible. Support is everything throughout this process. You need a group that understands what you are going through, a group that will lift you up and see you through the good and bad. I met an amazing group of friends my first semester here. We were from different backgrounds and cultures. Some from other states, some from other countries. That group of friends supported me, encouraged me, challenged me, and helped me along the way. We still talk on a regular basis and check in with each other. This experience will be more memorable and meaningful when you have a group of friends that are along for the ride with you. You will look back years from now and remember the experiences and times spent together.

The second piece of advice I can give is to really get to know your instructors. Not just on a name-by-name basis but on a level where you feel comfortable having in-depth conversations, asking hard questions, asking for advice, and seeking guidance. You may feel like your instructors are here to make your life unbearable in the moment. You may wonder why they present so much content, why they ask the hard questions, why they call you out and give you constructive criticism. The answer is, THEY CARE. They are here for YOU, each of you. They want to see you succeed, not fail. Lean on them for guidance, support, and assistance throughout the program. They have been where you are, they have worked in the field, and they are experts in their area. Listen to them and respect them. Getting to know your instructors will be a huge benefit to each of you. They will be the first people to celebrate your accomplishments with you, big or small. I have created some great relationships with several of my instructors from CON and we still talk on a regular basis. I would not have made it through nursing school without support and guidance from them. They are here for you, trust them, and lean on them. They truly are the BEST and want the best for each of you.

Nursing is the most trusted profession. Nurses are caring, loyal, and compassionate. Nurses are patient advocates. As a nurse we were made to serve others. Serving others means putting others before yourself and going above and beyond for your patient. Hold that patient's hand, give that patient a hug, be a listening ear, go the extra mile each and every day. Your patients won't always remember what you did for them necessarily, but your patient will always remember how you made them feel while they were in your care. They want to feel safe, cared for, and respected. Strive to be your best self for your patients and remember they are experiencing some of the worst days of their life. Be the light that they need in that difficult time.

I encourage each of you to stop right now and think, “why do I want to be a nurse?”. What is your reason? We each have a different one. Remember your dream and work towards your dream every day. When the rough patches come, persevere, and push through. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Fight for what you want and do not give up. Celebrate the victories along the way, no matter how big or small. I hope that each of you will cherish your decision to become a nurse and truly understand the honor that it is to take that oath and pursue a career in nursing. The best feeling is sitting at graduation and thinking back to this day and thinking “wow, look what I’ve overcome”.

In closing, I would like to share with you one of my favorite nursing quotes.

You’re going to feel like quitting. You are going to struggle. You will have days when people attempt to break you down, or challenge your intelligence, skills and right to be where you are. You will have moments when you question your own abilities, and perhaps your sanity. - but you will rise. You will rise because your strength as a nurse is not determined by one grade, one shift, one job it is an ongoing journey of learning, honor, humility and a chance to make even the smallest difference in the lives of your patients.

Thank you!