HANCEVILLE, Ala. — When Alison Norris took the Nightingale Pledge on Thursday night as a member of the 2016 graduating class of the Wallace State Community College School of Nursing, it wasn’t the first time’s she’s promised to protect or care for others in some way. In another time and place, Norris took a pledge as a member of the Armed Forces where she served as intelligence officer, doing her part to protect the U.S. against attacks.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Norris now lives in Cullman with her husband, Victor, and their sons, Kyle, 18, and Neil, 15. They moved to the area in 2008 from Green Bay, Wisc., for Victor’s job with Action Resources. Norris said she much prefers the weather down South.
Norris was a busy stay-at-home mom when the family moved to the area, choosing to leave the Army after her first child was born. She served in the Army for four years as an intelligence officer. “A lot of what we did is not as glamorous as people might think,” she said. Serving at Fort Benning or Fort Bragg, Morris said their main duties were to secure the buildings and surrounding areas, set security policy and protect the weapons on the base. In field training, they would learn how to try and predict what the enemy was doing and determine their next course of action. That meant learning a lot about the enemy’s tactics and recognizing their vehicles and other apparatuses.
As a stay-at-home mom, Norris was involved in her children’s lives, involved in their school and taught swimming lessons and even coached their swim teams. She continued those efforts when the family moved to Cullman, coaching the Cullman swim team until last summer when she needed to focus on her studies.
She started taking classes at Wallace State in Spring 2013. “I had a couple of friends or friends of my husband who were about my age going to nursing school,” she said. With her children older, she felt she had the time to start a new career. “I knew I needed to do something and that sounded like something I could do,” she said.
Norris was not a stranger to the nursing field. Her mom, a sister and an aunt are all nurses. “So I thought I would really enjoy that and taking care of people.”
When she started college, she knew she’d made the right decision. “I really enjoyed being in school,” she said, after being out of school for 20 years. She has a degree in accounting, but never used it because she joined the Army just after college, where she participated in the Army ROTC program.
She said her time in the Army and as an intelligence officer helped her to become a nurse in a few ways. “The one thing that helped, just being in the military, is being organized and disciplined,” Norris said. “You have to be organized in nursing school.”
Being observant is another skill she’s used as a nurse. “I can usually read people very well, knowing the ones you can cut up with and the ones who are more serious and are not going to take a joke well. You have to know how to react to every person individually.”
During last Thursday’s pinning ceremony, Norris used the pin her mother received in nursing school and, in case she wanted to use it, her mom even brought her lamp to light during the Lighting of the Lamps ceremony during which the students take the Nightingale Pledge.
Norris said she’s glad she chose Wallace State’s nursing school and has enjoyed her time at the college. She is currently working at Brookwood as a tech on the maternity ward. She hopes to go into neonatal intensive care. “My passion has always been with sick babies,” she said. “I think I can see myself there. I’m sure there will be tough days, but I think I have the right mentality for it. “
Norris was among more than 1,100 students graduating tonight as Wallace State celebrates its 50th anniversary. To see a video of the event, visit www.wallacestate.edu/graduation.