Antris Scales never doubted that she would become a nurse.
The daughter of a nurse, Scales discovered early in life that she loved taking care of people, but achieving her passion as a nurse took a while.
"I was a Certified Nursing Assistant before I became a Licensed Practical Nurse, after working as a CNA for 5 years, I realized I wanted to do more," she said. "I decided to go to LPN nursing school. On my first attempt, I didn't pass my first semester, but I was determined, so I re-enrolled and successfully completed the program. While working as a LPN for five years, I realized I wanted to do more, so I started taking the required prerequisites for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program."
Scales waited five years to be accepted into a BSN program, with the acceptance letter coming from The University of Alabama in Huntsville.
"The program was intense, but it helps you learn and gain a lot of nursing knowledge and critical thinking skills," she said. "The instructors are awesome. They will help you no matter what the problem is, they will take the time to help you."
Today, Scales works as a traveling nurse on short-term contracts around the country.
When she was ready to take the next step in her nursing education, the Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Administration online program at UAH was the clear choice for Scales, given its ease of access and her history with the school. She began the program in the spring of 2018.
"I wanted to better myself, and I always try to lead by example for my children," she said. "I want to show them that you don't have to be complacent in where you are in life. If you want to make progress and do more in life, you can't be afraid to take risks."
Thanks to Scales' tenacity in the online program, she graduated in December 2019, prepared to meet the challenges of a nursing administration position.
Strength Through Adversity
While Scales was in the process of completing her final MSN courses in the spring of 2019, she suffered a serious health setback.
"Two weeks into my last semester, I had a stroke," she said. "I had to do rehab and learn how to walk and move my left upper extremity again. So I had to wait until fall to complete my courses."
The faculty at UAH were there for Scales, helping ease her worries in the aftermath of the stroke.
"I was more nervous about completing my courses instead of going to therapy," she said. "I couldn't move my left arm or leg. I didn't want to withdraw from my courses, but my instructor, Dr. Herrin, suggested that I withdraw and focus on my therapy. I appreciate the compassion Dr. Herrin and the staff at UAH displayed during my time of rehabilitation. As soon as possible, I re-enrolled in the summer, so I could complete my courses in the fall semester."
During Scales' rehabilitation, her partner, Mimie Love, gave her a lot of encouragement to keep going.
"I was ready to give up on all of my work when I had my stroke," Scales said. "Mimie pushed me through it. When I started crying, she said, 'Don't get down. You can overcome this. Don't give up.' She was my backbone through the whole thing."
Also rallying around Scales were her mom, Peggy Jefferson, and her children Chauncey (25), a graduate of Vanderbilt University who currently teaches English in China; Kaleb (22), a student at the University of South Alabama; Cameron (18), a freshman at the University of North Alabama.
"They're so excited for me," she said. "They thought it was awesome that I was able to overcome the obstacles I did and come back to complete this."
Leadership in Practice
Scales' desire for self-improvement and advancement in her career came to fruition in the courses and internship she completed during her time in the UAH online MSN program.
"My internship consisted of employee meetings, employee interviews and learning how to create an employee schedule," she said. "It prepared me for communicating with my co-workers and my future employees, and it taught me how to be organized in a managerial role."
Scales' internship helped her understand the mechanics and day-to-day operations of a nurse administrator role, but it was in the digital classroom that she learned about the interpersonal skills so critical for nursing administration.
"The Leadership in Human Resource Management [NUR 631] course touched on several aspects of human resources in the nursing selection, from diversity to all the prejudices in nursing — anything that has to do with personnel in nursing," she said. "It doesn't just talk about patients. It talks about nurses as well."
Scales gained a greater appreciation for the care nurses need from their administrators and the self-care they should practice to keep up with the demands of their work.
"As nurses, we are bullied by patients and co-workers, and it doesn't matter what your hairstyle, skin color or sexual orientation is," she explained. "Some nurses can feel like they're not doing a good job, so this class touched base on how nurses can prevent burnout by changing specialties or just having a relaxation technique can help ease some of the stress related to our job."
With graduation in the rearview, Scales looks forward to focusing on her career in the short term, but her doctoral aspirations could well prompt a return to UAH down the road.
"I said I was going to stop at my MSN, but I'm really thinking about getting my doctorate," she said. "I'm going to give myself another break for about two years before I make that decision though."
Learn more about the UAH online MSN in Nursing Administration program.
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