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Dawson native, nursing student wins national recognition
E-Nursing Student pic 1
University of North Georgia nursing student and Dawson County High School 2011 graduate Amberly Hedden was one of ten students chosen nationally for a scholarship to help her become a registered nurse. - photo by Allie Dean Dawson County News

Twenty-four-year-old nursing student Amberly Hedden is one of the lucky ones.

She knew what she wanted to do with her life earlier than most, when she was a freshman at Dawson County High School in 2008.

"I was part of HOSA (future health professionals), the club run by Donna Sanders," Hedden said. "She helped me realize what I wanted to do."

Hedden is in her last semester of nursing school at the University of North Georgia, and will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in nursing in May. Though the degree is a big part of becoming a registered nurse, Hedden has an ultimate exam that she is preparing for, the NCLEX.

In December, Hedden received an email that would take some of the enormous stress of being a nursing student off.

Hedden was awarded a scholarship from the Hurst Review, an organization that provides courses and review materials to prepare students for the NCLEX. She was one of only 10 in the nation to receive the award, and the only one from Georgia.

"I was studying for finals and I was just so so tired, I was sick of studying and about to give up for the night and I got that email and just started crying," Hedden said about the news she had been awarded the scholarship. "I was just so burned out and God sends things when you need them I think. I definitely needed that. It was a push to keep going in finals week."

Nursing students must pass the NCLEX to become a licensed nurse, so having the scholarship will give Hedden the best possible preparation for the exam.

"The Hurst Review really just helps us think about questions in a different way, because the NCLEX is a safety test, and they want to make sure you're going to do the right things for your patient," Hedden said. "The Hurst Review is nothing like our nursing tests. It makes you think differently, so Phi Theta Kappa paired with the Hurst Review and since I was a member I was able to apply for that scholarship."

Receiving the award out of the approximate 500 students who applied nationwide was a humbling experience, Hedden said.

"I have no clue why I was chosen- I must have said something right," she said.

Hedden said that the scholarship covered the cost of her Hurst Review, which was around $420, as well as paid for the NCLEX and for the applications for her nursing license.

"It was a really big blessing, and in total it was probably a $650 scholarship," Hedden said. "The Hurst Review is great. I have the opportunity to take two three-day courses. I took one in January to get my feet wet, and I'll take the other in May before I take my boards."

Hedden is quick to recognize the mentors that helped her along the way as she pursued her nursing degree.

"My first clinical instructor was Heather Ayers, and we talk to this day. She is like a second mom. We were her first clinical group so we are like her babies and she wanted us to know everything and really used us and put us first and wanted us to learn," Hedden said.

Ayers said that Hedden is very deserving of the Hurst and NCLEX scholar award.

"Amberly is a well-accomplished young lady who exhibits true servant leadership and genuine empathy toward others," Ayers said. "She will certainly be an excellent nurse and it has truly been a blessing to be an instrumental part of her journey."

Hedden's plans don't stop at becoming a registered nurse. She said she wants to get some experience in a critical care setting before going back to school, in a cardiovascular or heart failure unit.

"I just love how the heart works, it's just so great. All the different things you can do and the different drugs that affect it, it's incredible to learn about," Hedden said.

Once she has that experience under her belt, Hedden wants to return to UNG for their family nurse practitioner program.

Teaching, she said, is the ultimate goal.

"The family nurse practitioner program is a master's degree," Heddens said. "A lot of our professors have doctorates, but that's on the research side. I'm not too fond of the research side. With a bachelor's degree I could teach at a technical college or at the high school, but with a master's degree I could teach upper nursing students. So that would be my ultimate goal, just teaching."

And she wants to go back to the school that started it all for her.

"I want to go back to UNG to teach. I'll always go back. I don't ever want to leave Dawsonville and Dahlonega, it's just home," Hedden said.