Grads Make Nursing a Family Affair

Wed, 05/09/2007 (All day)

The following story originally appeared in the winter 2007 issue of the Spring Hill College Magazine.

By Lindsay O’Quin

Diana and her son, Richard Foote, entered Spring Hill’s new Master of Science in Nursing Clinical Nurse Leader program when it launched in March 2006, and the two will graduate together on May 13 with the program’s first class.

“I taught Richard and Diana when they were undergraduates. They both had a firm commitment to continue their education as well as be personally involved in making safe environments for patients,” said Dr. Carol Harrison, professor and chair of the division of nursing. “They are talented and compassionate and have made quality patient care and clinical leadership a family affair. We are thrilled that they chose our program, and I’m sure they will continue to excel in all they do.”

Ever since she was 6 years old, Diana knew she wanted to become a nurse. She attended nursing school after graduating high school, but she soon married and started a family, putting nursing school on hold.

Diana went on to serve as executive director of the Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association from 1989 to 2000. After she earned a degree from the University of South Alabama, she became a paramedic in May 2000 with Escambia County Emergency Medical Services in Pensacola, Fla.

“Becoming a paramedic was really just a transition until I could become a nurse,” she said.

Meanwhile, Richard, 36, became an emergency medical technician after high school. He served in the U.S. Navy for 12 years and then entered the U.S. Air Force, where he has served for the past 2 1/2 years. Richard graduated from Spring Hill in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. He told his mother of his positive experience in the program and suggested she do the same.

“Richard said, ‘Mom, you should go to the nursing program at Spring Hill.’ So, that’s what I did,” Diana said.

Diana graduated in May 2005 with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Richard started a graduate program in nursing at a university in Mississippi, but quit when he heard Spring Hill was planning to start a new online Clinical Nurse Leader program.

“I wanted to come back to Spring Hill because of the strength of the department and the strength of Dr. Harrison,” Richard said.

And, he convinced his mother to join him. “See, he keeps getting me into all this,” Diana said, pointing to her son.

Richard said Spring Hill’s Clinical Nurse Leader program was appealing to him because he wanted to further his career in the Air Force, and he liked that the role allows him to collaborate with other healthcare professionals, rather than being in an lhughesistrative position. He also hopes to teach nursing eventually, preferably at Spring Hill.

The Footes credit the SHC nursing department for being accessible and flexible with the program. Although the courses are online, students are constantly in contact with the nursing faculty. Richard, who is currently deployed with the Air Force, e-mails his professors about every other day. Diana, who is doing her clinicals at Infirmary West in Mobile, sees her professors on a regular basis.

“The program has been very responsive to the students as far as our time and orienting the program toward our goals,” said Richard, who is specializing in military medicine, while his mother is interested in working in the emergency room.

With a mother and son taking all the same courses, sometimes things can get a bit competitive. The Footes often compare grades and brag when one does better than the other. But, the competition doesn’t go as far as studying.

“We don’t study together, because we have different study habits. She studies, and I don’t,” Richard confessed.

Despite the heavy course load, the Footes are determined to finish their master’s degrees by their target date in May. Diana, especially, has her heart set on graduating with her son in program’s first class.

“ I don’t want him to graduate a year ahead of me,” Diana said stubbornly. “I want to be in that first class for a change.”

After nervously starting her undergraduate degree as a woman in her 50s, Diana will finally get her chance to become a nurse at age 57.

Diana lives in Fairhope with her husband of 38 years, Richard Foote Sr. They also have a daughter, Kimberly, 37, who lives in New Orleans.

Richard’s wife, Heather, graduated from Spring Hill in 1997 with a degree in psychology and is working on her Ph.D. at the University of Mississippi. The Footes and their 1-year-old son, Jackson, live in Mobile.