Barb James

Barb James

Memorial Hospital of Carbon County (MHCC) is currently hosting students from the University of Wyoming’s BRAND accelerated nursing program. BRAND, or Bachelors Reach for Accelerated Nursing Degree, is a program through the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing for students with non-nursing baccalaureate degrees who wish to become registered nurses. BRAND offers a 15 month program that includes on-line learning, hybrid courses, and hands-on clinical experience.

“We are one of the few hospitals in Wyoming who have been selected to host these students as part of their curriculum,” said Stephanie Hinkle, the marketing, communications, and foundation director for MHCC.

Barbara James is a clinical adjunct professor for the UW BRAND program, and has been teaching nursing education for UW since 2010. She is also a health sciences teacher at Carbon County Higher Education Center, and was born and raised in Rawlins.

“My father got sick when I was 17-years-old. I remember watching a nurse at the hospital in Rawlins take care of him, and how attentive and caring she was,” James said. That experience inspired her to become a nurse.

“When I got my Master’s degree in nursing from UW, I had so many great mentors,” she said. These mentors inspired her to continue passing on knowledge. When UW asked her to teach BRAND students, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

The BRAND program benefits Carbon County in numerous ways. James noted that it bolsters the economy because the students stay in the community and spend money at local businesses.

“The hospital also gets people thinking about working for them, and the hospital staff benefits from seeing new faces,” James said. She added that one of her biggest hopes for the program is to recruit talented nurses to live and work in Carbon County. With a nursing shortage nationwide, rural communities are often hurting for qualified healthcare professionals.

Claire Harris is a current BRAND student studying at MHCC. Originally from Colorado, she applied to BRAND because a nurse friend told her about the program.

“I was working in Denver at the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] at Saint Joseph Hospital,” Harris said. Her time in the NICU inspired her to pursue a nursing career. She earned her first bachelor’s degree in nutrition, so she felt that it was a natural transition.

“When I came, my interests started in the NICU. I was in the ER recently, and that opened up a new perspective. I love the fast pace and adrenaline rush,” she said. She added that her time at MHCC has been rewarding because the hospital and community are relatively small. She and her fellow BRAND students at MHCC have been able to experience many different aspects of nursing, which is something others in her cohort have not been able to do in larger hospitals.

Harris acknowledged that it’s been a strange and difficult time to get into the nursing profession. Not only are nurses on the front lines of the pandemic, but it has also affected the method of class delivery.

“Learning over Zoom is different. We were practicing a lot of procedures on household items. At one point, I practiced inserting a Foley catheter on a Starbucks cup,” she said. She added that the experience has been a lesson in flexibility and adaptation, which are skills that will be helpful during her career as a nurse.

“At first I was intimidated to apply to the program. But, people shouldn’t be scared to apply,” Harris said. She said that her professors and mentors have been great, and everything has started to come together and click now that she is getting hands-on experience.

“The most rewarding thing about teaching this program is watching students of all ages come and step up. At first, they are scared. I love that I get to watch them leave with confidence,” said James

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