Surpassing a Childhood Goal
Army Nursing Veteran Continues to Serve Profession as Professor
By Salwa Choucair
As long as she can remember, she wanted to be a nurse.
After 26 years in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, retired Col. Patricia A. Patrician, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, continues to live out her dream today as the Donna Brown Banton Endowed Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a nurse since probably age five. That was always my goal,” said Dr. Patrician, who was influenced early on by two aunts who were nurses. “Like most nurses, I wanted to serve others and to serve humanity.”
Her passion for nursing has remained consistent whether serving as a staff nurse, head nurse, chief or professor, and she doesn’t have plans to slow down anytime soon. Since joining the UAB faculty in 2008, she enjoys teaching and mentoring students and continuing her research on staffing and outcomes, practice environments for staff nurses, and nursing sensitive indicators.
Her dream began in her hometown of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, a poor coal mining community where her father was a coal miner. She attended Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and received her bachelor’s degree in nursing. A single mom at the time, she discovered that the military could provide her with the security she needed for her daughter and the opportunities she wanted for herself.
She joined the U.S Army as an officer at the rank of second lieutenant, after a recruiter gave her a tour of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“I was impressed by the military nurses I saw,” recalled Dr. Patrician, who eventually served as the chief of nursing research service at Walter Reed from 2002 through 2004.
“I was impressed at how advanced and how professional these nurses were. I felt like it was the right place for me.”
With three assignments spent in San Antonio, Dr. Patrician considers the Alamo City her second home. She received her master’s degree in critical care nursing from the School of Nursing at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio in 1988. Learning the role of the clinical nurse specialist through that program was a great experience, she said.
“Becoming an expert in one aspect of critical care was a unique part of the program, and a unique part of the clinical nurse specialist program at the time was choosing between an administration or an education minor. I chose education, but I took an administration course that served me well later in my career.”
In fact, several elements of her master’s program impacted her career including the clinical education experience she gained while monitoring undergraduate students; the curriculum design course which challenged her to introduce a new course into a curriculum; and mentors, such as Don Johnson, Ph.D., RN, and Carol Ledbetter, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, who cared about and made an impact on her career.
“I continue to stay engaged with the Health Science Center through colleagues, newsletters and magazines.
I am especially proud of the work that the School of Nursing is doing with its nurse-managed clinics. I just think it’s wonderful for a school of nursing to help the local community and teach nursing students at the same time.”
Dr. Patrician sees the future of her chosen profession as full of opportunities and is just as excited about being a part of it today as she was at age 5.