Courtesy of Ellen Rummel
Faced with an unthinkable tragedy, a former student at the College of Nursing at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, which is part of the University of Alabama system, chose to turn her grief into a way to help improve the lives of children with cancer by training Zach Foundation.
“Dr. Ellen Rummel embodied the UAH nursing program’s core values of integrity, inspiration, caring, excellence and well-being while serving its senior population in Fargo, North Dakota” said Dr Pamela O’Neal, UAH Ph.D. professor and registered nurse at UAH College of Nursing. “She is an inspiration to her professional colleagues, students and others by creating a foundation in memory of her son for young children with cancer.
North Dakota resident Dr Rummel was named UAH College of Nursing Graduate Overall Award for Excellence in the College of Nursing’s DNP program in May 2020. She says she was inspired to found the organization after having benefited from the help she and her family received. during a long illness which ended with the loss of her son.
“Zach died in 2015 from brain cancer,” she explains, describing her family’s difficult journey. “He was nine years old. I had just graduated with my MSN, and he was there with me. The Zach Foundation was established shortly after his death to give back to the community. After spending eight weeks at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis for cancer treatments, the support was incredible – from people we didn’t know, from home and across the United States.
This help sometimes came in the most unexpected moments.
Courtesy of Ellen Rummel
“One day we were eating at the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis, where we stayed,” recalls Dr. Rummel. “A well-dressed lady I didn’t know came over and asked if I was the mother of a child receiving treatment at St. Jude. When I said yes, she gave us a check for $ 100. She had a pile of them and distributed them to families. I couldn’t believe the kindness and generosity, and that was just one example during her 10 month journey with cancer. This is what the Zach Foundation strives to do, to create moments of caring for the families of pediatric cancer patients. We give monetary donations, toys and gifts to families in the area.
The Zach Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit dedicated to “helping them be children,” as stated on their website. All the funds they receive are expected to have a direct impact on pediatric cancer patients in the Fargo, ND area and their families. Through this work, children are given beach tote bags filled with items, such as personalized embroidered blankets for each child in the family, gift cards, toys, personalized gifts and cash. Dr. Rummel is particularly happy to be able to help a community that has become her lifelong home.
“I’ve lived in North Dakota my entire life,” she says. “We come from a small town of 1,000 called Parshall, ND. My father was a funeral director and we lived in a funeral home. I think that’s where a lot of the service to the work ethic of others in my family comes from. We now live in West Fargo on the North Dakota-Minnesota border. We definitely have all four seasons here – summer is too quick!
Since graduating from the UAH, Dr. Rummel is currently an Assistant Professor in the RN-BS Completion Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She also reflects on the challenges she has faced as a result of the pandemic.
“There are blessings and struggles like everyone else. The blessings include more time with my 19 year old daughter, who is in her second year in college. We are very close and I treasure the time we have been able to spend together. When it comes to work, students have been greatly affected by the fact that they have to adapt to different learning modalities, sometimes affecting the ability to collaborate in person, especially at the onset of the pandemic. Nurses are resilient; however, students definitely need extra support during these difficult times.
Dr Rummel chose the UAH College of Nursing for its DNP in a very systematic way.
“I had an Excel spreadsheet for DNP programs across the country and found programs that match my background and goals. It was a process of elimination – UAH was highly rated and had what I was looking for. It wasn’t that easy, however. I was not accepted the first time. After persevering and working with UAH, I was accepted for the second time. It allowed me to re-prioritize and really understand what DNP entailed and the UAH’s expectations – it was a pivotal experience in my educational journey.
She also had to overcome a number of “travel challenges”, both when she began her studies at UAH and as she neared graduation.
“After we were accepted into the DNP program, we had to come to campus for an orientation; I was so excited! “She said.” After I landed in Huntsville there was a winter storm. I didn’t think much about it coming from ND, but it was important in the south in terms of travel. . I spent enough time at the airport to get a Huntsville magnet for my fridge, then I went home to avoid being stranded. Three years later, at graduation, with my badges ready to fly to Huntsville the pandemic hit I have never been to the Huntsville campus I hope I can graduate and visit the campus in December.
Courtesy of Ellen Rummel
The former student managed all of her distance learning courses for the DNP program. “The instructors in the DNP program at UAH are amazing. They support students regardless of their location and have an exceptional online platform and remote student support. I completed my DNP project across the country in West Fargo, North Dakota with the unwavering mentorship of Dr. O’Neal throughout the project.
She says that since then her main focus has been on promoting quality care for the elderly as a special passion.
“I was a clinical instructor for five years in a long-term care facility, working with students for clinical experience in the elderly. The staff and residents of this facility were like family. The facility’s request was for help with pressure ulcers. During the project, the director of nursing was my contact. I asked so many questions to try to understand. She was so patient. I was not an expert, but working on this QA process with Dr O’Neal, UAH and the facility has been invaluable, especially for the residents who reside there.
It is easy to see that Dr. Rummel is deeply involved in the service in every way possible. Her passion for helping even led her to create a special guide to help meet the specific needs of these patients.
“Dr. Rummel has created a new pressure ulcer communication guide related to skin, cleanliness, activity and nutrition to help unauthorized support personnel promote rapid upstream communication with registered nurses, “says Dr. O’Neal.” This is a pre / post-intervention guide designed to provide pressure injury knowledge and skills to 25 support staff (UAP ) Non-Licensed. This communication guide enabled PSUs to report early skin changes to RNs, which led to aggressive implementation of protocols to prevent and treat pressure ulcers. She worked with her clinical mentor and its chair to submit this work for publication. The manuscript was published as a feature article in August 2021 in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. “