5 January, 2018
Gadsden State Community College has had a 50-year tradition of nursing education and, during that time, there have been families with a long legacy of nurses and other medical professionals trained at the College. In some families, nursing is a tradition; a calling. It’s more than just a profession; it’s a way of life.
The Mullins family of Hokes Bluff have all been educated at Gadsden State and are now all working in the medical community. The father, Robert Mullins, graduated with a degree in Radiologic Technologies and works in nuclear medicine at Gadsden Regional Medical Center. Mother, Susan Mullins, graduated with a nursing degree and worked for 27 years as a nurse and nursing educator before retirement in 2011. Daughter, Jenna, was a dual enrollment student at Gadsden State and works in the Human Resources Department at GRMC. Son, Will, completed nursing requirements at Gadsden State in 2010 and also works at GRMC.
“We are certainly a Gadsden State family, and we are proud of it,” Susan said. After graduation from Gadsden State in 1985, Susan worked for 12 years in critical care at GRMC, where she also taught life support and was a critical care educator.
“The experiences I had as a nurse prompted me to work towards additional degrees so I could consider going fulltime into nursing education,” she said.
While working fulltime, she commuted to the University of Alabama in Huntsville once a week to earn her bachelor’s degree.
“It wasn’t easy working, raising two kids and going to school,” she said. “I just took a deep breath and got to work.” She eventually earned her bachelor’s degree along with a master’s degree from the University of Alabama. Her son followed in her footsteps starting with enrollment at Gadsden State in 2008.
“I wasn’t ready to leave home so Gadsden State was convenient for me,” Will said. “Being able to get a good quality education locally is pretty awesome. Not a lot of people can say they have a great nursing school just a few miles down the road.”
Will initially enrolled in pre-engineering classes but soon changed his direction.
“I am very caring; very nurturing,” he said. “I have always wanted to take care of others but I had to be persuaded to be a nurse. When I decided to go into nursing, everything fell into place. Even when I struggled, my mom saw my potential and encouraged me.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 9 percent of nurses are male. In Will’s class there were 15 males. “There were obviously more females in my class, but a lot more men have gone into nursing over the past several years,” he said. “Sometimes a male patient wants a male nurse so it’s important to continue increasing the number of male nurses.”
Wil’s decision to go into the medical field was solidified after he started fulfilling his clinical experiences required of nursing students.
“The interaction with the patients was enjoyable to me,” he said. “I knew I had found my calling.”
Like his mother, Wil continued his education following Gadsden State. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2012 from Jacksonville State University. He then enrolled at UAH, where he graduated in the fall and will soon take his licensure test to be an acute nurse practitioner. He currently works as a nurse at GRMC’s Medical Intensive Care Unit.
“I love the interaction I have with my patients and their families,” he said. “It’s always wonderful to see people get better and move out of ICU. I enjoy communicating with them and being there for them.”
For Susan, her nursing experience was not limited to the hospital and patient care. In 1997, she became an instructor in Gadsden State’s nursing program.
“Initially it was a shock for me when I first started teaching,” she said. “My teachers became my colleagues. It truly was one of the best decisions I made. Gadsden State is such a wonderful place to work.”
Susan worked on four of the six Gadsden State campuses during her 14-year tenure: Valley Street, Wallace Drive, Cherokee and McClellan.
“I worked with a lot of different students from different communities,” she said. “I truly feel like I gave a part of me as a nurse to my students. I gave them the information and the knowledge they need to be good nurses. I feel like there’s a little bit of me all over our area. My legacy is enriched because of my students and because my son has also become a nurse.”
Teaching was certainly her second calling.
“I loved the fact that I could teach them in the classroom and then teach them in a clinical setting. I could help them picture what they should be doing because of my experiences in the hospital. I enjoyed meshing classwork and the bedside requirements of nursing.”
Now retired, Susan reminisces frequently about her time as a nurse and her time at Gadsden State as both a student and an educator.
“I feel like Gadsden State was a major stepping stone – not only for me but for my entire family,” she said. “The curriculum at Gadsden State is as good as any other university or college. Students who earn their nursing degree at Gadsden State should feel proud that they are as equal as anyone with a BSN from a four-year school. Gadsden State was a great choice for me, my family and so many others over the past 50 years.”