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Published in Centerview on May 30, 2011

Dual-degree nursing grad brings love of kids to Batson

By Bruce Coleman

Annaliese Johnson gained a pair of almae mater when she took part in the Medical Center's Commencement last Friday. As a participant in the School of Nursing's dual degree program, Johnson, from Madison, received the B.S.N. from UMMC and the B.S. in biology from Belhaven College simultaneously.


"My mom asked me, 'Are you going to walk at Belhaven, too?'" Johnson said with a laugh. "I decided to just take my degree (from UMMC) and run with it."

She doesn't plan to run very far: last week, Johnson accepted a nursing position in the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

"I've always loved being with kids," the former camp counselor explained. "I used to go home from school and play dress-up with my nieces and nephews. Working with kids is where I really thrive; it's more fulfilling to me than working with adults."

After having taught her in both classroom and clinical settings, Jean Marks, assistant professor of nursing, said Johnson is more than prepared to tackle the challenges of pediatric nursing.

"Annaliese is very conscientious and thorough in patient care," Marks said. "She is a kind person who shows great compassion.

"I am confident that she possesses the patience and insight necessary to deal with very young patients."

Johnson said her interest in health care first developed in high school when she served as a lifeguard.

"I learned basic first aid, and I thought that was really fun," she said. "If something had happened while I was at work, I had the knowledge and skills to help."

She decided on nursing as a career while job-shadowing a nurse-anesthetist. But without any family members in the profession, Johnson said she wasn't prepared for what awaited her at UMMC.

"I was kind of blind as to what nursing encompassed until I went to school here," she said. "It's really intense, and there was so much to learn.

"I feel very privileged that I was able to go to this school. There were so many opportunities to learn, and all the different specialties are located in one spot. You don't have to travel to get clinical experience."

She said the faculty provided invaluable assistance throughout her two years at UMMC.

"The curriculum was tough, but I've had some great teachers," she said. "I feel like I've been exposed to a lot more than some of my friends who have been to nursing school in other places. That exposure just makes you more experienced to enter the work field."

Johnson and her husband, Lee, didn't waste time celebrating her academic accomplishments. Two weeks before commencement, the couple enjoyed a vacation in Orlando, Fla.

"We went to six parks in seven days," she said.

Now she's ready to get to work, at least for the time being.

"I've got a lot of school loans to pay," she said. "Maybe I'll work five years and then go back to school to get a nurse practitioner's license."