Interview with Shelby Gudgell

by Vicki Heisser and Jessica Young  |   

Shelby Gudgell is a student currently enrolled in the UAA nursing program at PWSC. She grew up in Valdez, Alaska. After high school she moved to Salem, Oregon, to attend Willamette University. She was there for two years before she decided that she wanted to come back home. Shelby stated, “I am an Alaskan resident, so it was a little bit cheaper to come back to school in Alaska, and I really missed it so much. I really didn’t know how much I took it for granted.”

When asked what inspired her to become a nurse, she replied, “I was a Girl Scout for ten years, and that fueled me to want to do something to help people. I wanted to go into politics and international relations at first, so I had an internship at the legislative information office at the court house here in town, and I had gone to Washington D.C. for leadership camps, but the summer between high school and college, when I was all ready to go, I traveled abroad and realized that I didn’t want to stay in places that were unfamiliar to me. I wanted to have a home base with a regular schedule and everything. So, I explored my options, and nursing sounded like a great idea. Before I confirmed that that is what I wanted to do with my whole life, I decided to volunteer at a hospital. I was at the Salem Health Hospital in Salem, Oregon, for a year. I was at the pediatric, mother-baby unit and I loved every second of it! So it was then that I confirmed all of my class changes, changed my major, and started doing my prerequisites for nursing school.”

Shelby looked for nursing programs in Alaska, and even though she had a few options, she chose to attend the UAA nursing program in Valdez because she could stay at home and had heard about how wonderful the nursing instructor, Kelly Mitchell, is. Shelby mentioned how supportive the community has been, “Everyone has been super supportive here and everyone has been so proud. They see me at the grocery store or at the post office and they’re like, ‘Oh, Shelby, you’re in the nursing program; I’m so happy that you’re staying here.’ As soon as I figured out that I got accepted to the Valdez cohort for nursing, I was ecstatic and was like, ‘this is where I’m going to do it.’”

Last year Shelby completed the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) course, while enrolled and taking classes in the nursing program. She said, “I loved my CNA class. Chris Johnson was my instructor, and he made the class really fun and had a whole bunch of information to give to us students and showed us how to do all of the skills.” After the course, she started working as a CNA at the hospital in Valdez in acute care and at the emergency room. “I’m there about three days a week and I love it. The hours are long but I learn something new every day. I’m working with the best people and it just makes me really happy to go to work there every day.” 

Shelby will be graduating from the nursing program in December. She says, “After finishing my associate degree, I can turn in all of my paperwork to the board of nursing and they will allow me to take the NCLEX. Hopefully, I will pass, and my ultimate goal is to get my bachelor’s. There is a great bridging program through UAA, where I can get my bachelor’s in a year after I get my associate. I am looking into that, but I might start working right after I get my degree and gain some experience, then go back to get my bachelor’s. I have options, so I don’t know if I will be here or anywhere else, but as of right now, here is the perfect place. I know everybody, I am familiar with my surroundings, and the hospital is fantastic. I am getting a little bit of everything, experience-wise. There is labor and delivery, trauma, ER, and geriatrics, so I am really happy about where I am right now.”