Nursing students and faculty discuss careers in Alabama

A 2014 study released by The Wallet Hub listed Alabama as one of the nation’s worst states for nurses.

Students and faculty in the UNA College of Nursing said they expected the surveys results would not favor the state, although nursing is the most popular major at the university.

“In any national poll, if you’ll look, Alabama is always ranked low on the totem pole,” said Vicki Pierce, associate dean of the College of Nursing.

The study ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on opportunities for nurses, competition in the job market and quality of the work environment.

Landing in the top three spots are Oregon, Washington and South Dakota, with Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi falling to the bottom at 49, 50 and 51, respectively.

Despite the negative ranking, UNA nursing students, staff and alumni said they are not concerned about thriving in their field in Alabama.

Third-level nursing student Cory Michael said while he finds the results surprising, they do not worry him.

“I am getting a high-quality education here at UNA, and I am confident that I will be able to find a job wherever I go, whether I choose to move or to stay in Alabama,” Michael said.

Alabama ranked lowest in the nation in the number of job openings for nurses, according to the study.

Pierce said the rank might not be as negative as it seems.

“To me that says the nurses that are employed in the state of Alabama are very happy and they don’t give up their jobs,” Pierce said.

UNA alumna and ECM ambulatory nurse Susan Brown said she agrees with Pierce’s assessment.

“Alabama is a great place to work as a nurse and to raise a family,” Brown said. “I’ve worked here my whole life. If I didn’t like it, I would have gone somewhere else.”

Both Pierce and Brown said they have worked in the Alabama nursing field for 30 years, and neither has ever had a problem finding employment. With the exception of six months when she lived in Tennessee, Pierce has always lived in Alabama and has always had a job, she said.

Stephanie Smith, a third-level nursing student, said her education and experience will land her a job in Alabama in the future.

“I plan to become a military nurse soon after I graduate, but I am going to come back to settle in Alabama,” Smith said. “I’m not worried about finding a position. I am getting a solid education.”

Alabama ranked higher in work environment, No. 37, which Smith and Michael said they believe might be due to the smaller size of the state’s hospitals.

“Size does not always relate to quality,” Michael said.

While Alabama’s rank in the poll may cause incoming students to question majoring in nursing, Smith said she hopes students will not be steered from the program.

“I do encourage people to major in nursing because it is a great profession with great job security and opportunities,” she said.

She also said nursing majors typically do not pursue the profession only for money.

“You have the unique opportunity to truly help somebody and make a difference in their life,” she said. “That’s what really matters here.”