KU School of Nursing-Salina student ready to give back to her rural community
Brylee Aldridge, a student at the University of Kansas School of Nursing-Salina, comes from rural roots, and that background is shaping her future career.
An old adage proclaims that the three most important criteria when buying real estate are “location, location, location.” Brylee Aldridge leaned into that philosophy in picking her university and her career.
“I knew I wanted to go into something that I could take back to my community,” Aldridge said. “I’ve known for a very long time that I wanted to go back to my small community and help it thrive in whatever way I can.”
Aldridge is a student in the University of Kansas School of Nursing-Salina and will graduate in May 2023 with a job already waiting for her at the Scott County Hospital in Scott City, Kansas. The hospital is a 90-minute drive from her family in Weskan, Kansas, the small town just 3 miles from the Colorado border where she grew up.
“Weskan is a very small, tight-knit community of about 200 people in the town. My dad grew up in Weskan, and my mom grew up in Scott City,” she said. “I’ve always had a lot of older and younger cousins to look up to and hang out with (in both places), so that was a lot of fun.”
She chose to attend KU School of Nursing-Salina not only because of its relative closeness to Weskan (4 hours to Salina) but also because of the school’s focus on rural nursing.
Lisa Larson, Ph.D., dean of KU School of Nursing-Salina, explained that Brylee followed the right track to become a nurse in a rural area.
“A Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, is designed to educate students to be generalist nurses, and being a nurse in a rural setting is a perfect representation of the generalist nurse,” she said. “Rural nurses often have to work across multiple departments and must have knowledge and skills across a wide variety of health conditions.”
Q & A
Aldridge shared her path so that others might know how to follow it, below.
Q: How did you know you wanted to stay in a rural area when other young people make plans to go elsewhere?
A: I’m very family oriented, and I knew I wanted to be near my family. I have four younger siblings, and family is a big part of my story. Everything in Weskan is about either church or sports, or 4H. My younger siblings and I, we got into showing animals, and that was a big part of what we did in the summer. My dad built us pig and sheep pens when we were younger, and we raised animals all the way through.
Q: How did you choose nursing as a career?
A: Actually, when I was in high school, I was going between agriculture and health care, because I loved both of them so much, and both of those professions I could take back to my community and help it. In my senior year, I chose to go into physical therapy, so I went to K State (Kansas State University) and started studying kinesiology.
Q: When did you switch to nursing instead?
A: I had a moment where I realized the kind of PT (physical therapy) I wanted to do, which was spinal-cord rehabilitation, meant that I was going to have to be in Denver or Wichita or some other big city. And that’s not what I wanted. I got a job as a CNA (certified nurse assistant) at a critical care hospital in Colorado, and I fell in love with nursing. So, between my freshman and sophomore year, I switched to pre-nursing.
Q: What is it about the career of nursing that appeals to you?
A: My family has been forever grateful for nurses because of the sickness that affected our family. My dad got sick in 2018. He was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and is in a wheelchair. And in February of 2018, my brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. We had to watch them transfer him to Wichita. That was such a scary time for us. That was our first interaction with nursing close up because he was in critical condition.
Then my dad was in the intensive care unit for a month, and then he did long-term acute care for four months, then he did physical therapy for another couple of months. From August to March of my senior year in high school, he was in a hospital in Denver, Colorado. Needless to say, if we didn’t have good nurses for him and for my brother, they wouldn’t be here today.
Q: What is it about nursing in a rural area that appeals to you?
A: I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. Being an active community member is something I’m passionate about, and in health care, I can treat patients but also go to church with them, be able to watch their kids in sports. And if there’s an accident or something — the people who walk through those doors see my face. They know me because their kids will play sports with my kids. And that will be a comfort to them, and I’ll be a part of something deeper and more meaningful.
Q: So, why did you choose to attend KU School of Nursing-Salina?
A: It felt like home. I like the Salina community a lot. It’s a thriving community but small enough to see familiar faces at the grocery store. And I was attracted to KU’s reputation for having an esteemed nursing program.
Q: What has it been like, going to Salina to complete your BSN?
A: Every single person at that school wants to see you succeed, and that’s really evident. The program is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure, because it’s going to take some work, but you’re given every tool that you need.
Q: Do your fellow classmates also support you?
A: Absolutely. Last year, when we had a lot of tests, I would go up into these little glass pockets of the building that are awesome to study in, and every pocket would be filed with my classmates. We would see each other, talk to each other, freak out together and cry together. If one of us failed a test, we’d say, “It’s OK. We’ll figure it out for next time.” Because you know you’re not alone.
Q: What advice would you have for someone considering a career in nursing or a BSN at KU School of Nursing-Salina?
A: I would encourage everyone to just go for it. You are only as successful as you want to be, because all the resources are there for you.