HANCEVILLE, Ala. — As with every other awards she’s received, Wallace State Nursing Department Head Deborah “Pepper” Hoover shares the credit with those around her. That didn’t change when she received the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s Healthcare Professional of the Year Award at Cullman Regional Medical Center’s State of the Hospital Address.
“I certainly know that is not an individual achievement,” she said. “That’s a shared honor with our entire department, because we’ve gone through quite a bit of change in the last five years since I took over as the chair of the department. There are a lot of people I share the honor with.”
In introducing Hoover, Wallace State President Vicki Karolewics listed her many professional and civic accomplishments. “Her commitment to excellence and her stellar accomplishments have been recognized throughout her career,” Karolewics said.
“One of her greatest accomplishments, however, was realized in the construction of a state-of-the-art, world class teaching and learning facility housing the School of Nursing and Simulation Center….
“Deborah Hoover…is a woman who knows how to dream,” she added. “Pepper dreamed of the finest environment in which learning could occur. She dreamed of classrooms that encouraged teaching as an art form and learning as a process of engagement. She dreamed of labs where students could experience applied learning with the best and latest high tech equipment possible. She dreamed of a complex simulated environment where the highest competence could be developed and demonstrated by the students under the tutelage of her faculty. She dreamed of collaborative spaces and high tech spaces and comfortable spaces for our students and their teachers. She dreamed and she dreamed big.”
Karolewics also pointed out the success of Wallace State students who “outperform their university counterparts who learn in four years what it takes our students to learn in two.”
Hoover’s history in the healthcare field began as a teen when she volunteered at a hospital in her native Montgomery. “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” she said.
Her mother worked for Selective Service and her father owned an automobile parts store. Her best friend lived next door and her mother was a nurse, so Hoover points to that relationship as part of the influence of her becoming a nurse. “I’ve always wanted to help people and started working on dolls and animals from a very early age,” she said.
After graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in 1970, Hoover attended the University of Alabama and graduated with a BSN from the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 1973. She worked as a cardiovascular nurse at UAB’s heart surgery unit.
While working on her master’s degree at UAB, she began teaching at St. Vincent’s Diploma School of Nursing, utilizing her experience as a cardiovascular nurse to teach a critical care course.
Working and going to school extended the time it would have normally taken to obtain her master’s, she said. By this time, she was married to her husband Jim, who was in medical school.
“I always laugh and say I took three years to do a one-year master’s program because we had to eat,” she said.
That experience, she said, helps her more easily identify with the students at Wallace State, many who are in similar situations of juggling family life with a dream of being a nurse.
“That’s why I’ve been a real advocate for the part-time program, even at the state level,” she said. “Because I feel like a lot of people cannot just quit their job and follow their passion. They have obligations, and in order to meet those you have to have some opportunity.
“I came to really appreciate that so many of the students we have are very gifted, but they would never have had a chance to even try to develop their gifts academically or professionally, had it not been for Wallace; had we not given them an opportunity, a lot of one-on-one encouragement, a smaller classroom. Of course, now we give them a hybrid option and record the lectures so that if they do have a lot going on, they can re-listen to the lectures at home or listen for the first time if they’re hybrid. We’re able to provide so many things, so that’s pretty exciting.”
She also encourages students to continue their education after they finish at Wallace State. She’s working with four-year institutions to have a presence on campus to give students opportunities to explore that option. “We’ll have someone on campus almost every week to encourage students to look at furthering their education,” she said.
And she’s practiced what she’s preached. “That’s one reason I went back and pursued a post master’s graduate certificate as a family nurse practitioner,” she said which resulted in her opportunity be become a Certified Nurse Practitioner. “I feel like faculty really need to continue to grow professionally and I want to support that.”
Applications to enter the nursing program for Fall 2015 will be accepted from March 15-May 15. For more information about Wallace State’s Nursing Program, visit www.wallacestat.edu or call 256.352.8000.