Published on August 8, 2016  

Position: Associate Professor of Nursing 

Teaching at Samford since: 2002 

Bonus Fact: Berry has assumed an additional role as an emergency coordinator with Samford’s Integrated Emergency Management Plan. 

 Why do you teach? Nurses are teachers. We teach patients and families about their diagnosis and plan of care every day. We also teach the public about important health-related topics. I had never planned on an academic career until my friend and mentor called me and encouraged me to apply for a faculty position at Samford. Watching students go from timid sophomores in Pathophysiology to confident nurses ready to graduate during Clinical Preceptorship is the most rewarding part of my job. I cannot imagine teaching anywhere else; teaching at Samford has given me opportunities that I would not have otherwise had. 

What is one thing your students may not know about you? I am very transparent, so there is not much they do not know. I was very squeamish around blood during nursing school; therefore, I did my clinical preceptorship in adolescent psychiatry. All of my friends from nursing school are psych nurses, and I became a trauma/burn nurse! 

What is your favorite hobby? I love to cook and bake. It relaxes me. My mom is Italian, and my Grampy Henry, her father, owned an Italian bakery and grocery store, so cooking is in my blood. I really enjoy cooking with my sons. 

What is your favorite activity outside Samford? Our family loves to travel. My favorite place to go is Maine. The rocky coast, ocean and yummy lobster make me very happy! The four of us have had lots of camping adventures in all four corners of this beautiful country. 

Why is it important for health-care professions students to be trained in dealing with trauma and crisis situations? 1) Patients are so sick today, regardless of where we come in contact with them. Their diagnoses are often life-changing and very complex, so being prepared for a crisis situation is absolutely necessary. Patients and families look to their health-care providers to be knowledgeable and remain calm in the face of adversity. 2) I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as health-care providers to talk about injury prevention any time we can, which means we need to teach it to our students. If we can prevent just one injury by talking about driving safety, wearing a helmet during a tornado, strategies to prevent hip fractures in the elderly, or disaster readiness, we have done our job! 3) On a subject of a much different scale, natural and man-made disasters are a part of the world we live in. Health-care students must be ready to participate in a community’s response to disaster as part of a team. There is a very different way of thinking during a disaster response; the focus is on doing the most good for the largest number of people rather than on each individual person. Students generally do not have the opportunity to practice that way of thinking or to be part of a team during their normal clinical rotations. Having the opportunity to work with other health-care professionals during their undergraduate or graduate degree programs encourages collaboration once they graduate and enter the workforce. Many of our accrediting bodies now include interprofessional education (IPE) in their standards, and crisis/disaster response is a great way to provide IPE opportunities. Faculty in the College of Health Sciences are so fortunate to have the ability to provide simulated crisis/disaster/trauma experiences for all students in our state-of-the-art Simulation Center. We also have tremendous support and cooperation from administration, faculty and staff for our annual disaster drill, the scale of which is something few students at schools other than Samford have the opportunity to participate in. 

How did your background prepare you for your current role at Samford? I was raised in a small town by loving and supportive parents and grandparents who showed me the importance of hard work. Working as a nurse really puts things in perspective. I spent my career caring for critically injured trauma and burn patients/families. When you do that each day, you realize just how fragile life is, and it makes you a different person. My master’s degree is as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS). During that program, I learned how look at each situation holistically and to solve problems using the resources available. A CNS has several roles —clinical, research, consultant, leader and educator. Those diverse roles and my 23 years of clinical experience prepared me well. From the very first day of my career, it has been important to me that I make a difference in someone’s life every day. As a faculty member, I think I do that in a variety of ways. If I can teach students how to care for patients and families while igniting a passion for the profession of nursing, I not only impact the students, but their future patients. 

What is one thing you want your students to know when they graduate from Samford? As a nurse, you will have the opportunity to be part of a patient’s life during very vulnerable times, both very happy and profoundly sad. It is not what you do that they will remember; it is how you treat them, and the caring and compassion that you show. You often do not know what impact you make on a patient and family, but you will change the life of everyone you come in contact with. Therefore, you should treat every patient and family as if they were your own. 

What is some of the interesting research you are doing in your field? I am researching student learning outcomes related to simulation. Not only do our students participate in [Samford’s] annual disaster drill simulation, the undergraduate nursing students participate in a variety of simulated experiences during their time at Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing that impact their readiness for practice upon graduation. I am reading everything I can about best practices for disaster preparedness on a college campus. 

What does your new role as Samford’s emergency coordinator involve? I will be involved in the continued development and annual updating of an emergency preparedness plan for Samford. I will be developing educational programs on campus to help everyone become better prepared for a variety of potential disasters. During my time as trauma coordinator at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, I was on the committee that developed and implemented the trauma plan utilized by prehospital care personnel in a six-county region surrounding Birmingham. I cared for patients/families after tornadoes, fires, plane crashes and bombings, and participated in several full-scale disaster drills, so I have prior experience with disaster preparedness. I am very fortunate to be working with an incredible committee of people who are dedicated to Samford. My hope is that working together, we will build a culture of safety and preparedness on our campus.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.