Kelley Askew Grillo, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM

Labor & Delivery Nurse Manager | Houston, TX | Softball (1998-2001)

When you think back on your time at Alabama what comes to mind?

I was on the first Alabama Softball team - so 1998-2001 were my playing years. We were kind of the inaugural group of players and as a result, you carry with you this sense of pride as a team. We were successful from the get-go. I'm just proud to have been a part of it and to establish success early on.

When you think about how Alabama stays with you long after you've left campus, what would you say is the most profound thing you carry with you today?

Probably the tendency to say "Roll Tide" at everything! My wall in my office is decked out with Alabama things. Even here at work we have a huddle every morning at 6:45 and we'll finish up huddle and I'll say, "Alright everybody, 'Roll Tide'!" and everybody just giggles and rolls their eyes like, "Oh, Kelley."

How did your student-athlete experience at Alabama prepare you for your role in the medical profession?

It's definitely the teamwork and accountability that prepared me, especially as it relates to the medical profession now. When you have a patient, you have a team of people working on them. It's not just the nurse, it's not just the doctor. It is an entire team with anesthesia and respiratory therapy and surgical techs. There's so many pieces of that team and you have to work together, communicate, understand each other's roles - that part is so important. As an athlete, you learn that what you do or don't do can severely impact the team in a negative way if you're not pulling your weight. If you don't make your grades, then you're not there for the team. If I'm not doing what I need to do, especially as a nurse leader, if I'm not on my game and doing what I'm supposed to do to get my team to take care of their patients, then that's on me. In my profession, that sense of accountability is ultimately to be there for the patient.

What part of your job is helping the fight against COVID-19?

We're fortunate that we are business as usual. No matter what pandemic or illness it is, babies are coming, right? What we're able to do when we have moms that are COVID-19 positive is we get the extra-special opportunity to be there for them because their support people are not allowed in the delivery room. So as the labor nurse, we get to be that mom's world, that mom's everything. We're with her constantly. We might put our garb on, our N95 mask and all of our PPE (personal protective equipment), but we're there supporting her. We're not afraid of her. We're holding her hand and rubbing her back and getting through that experience, making it as comfortable and positive as possible, despite what she's going through.

You've made your way back to Tuscaloosa for several Alabama Softball Alumni Weekends. What do these types of events say about the culture of Alabama Softball?

You know we are fortunate with Coach Murphy being the coach for all of us since day one. He's been able to keep us all in touch with one another and host those alumni events. When he has us all back in town, I look forward to it. I get so excited when I hear that we're doing an alumni event. We were at each other's weddings, we share all our news - new jobs, the death of parents. We all stay in touch and Coach Murphy has a lot to do with that. I think he's proud of us. We're proud of him. We're all proud of the program and it truly is one big family.

As a labor and delivery nurse, what is it like seeing new lives enter the world during such a strange and different time?

You know these families are going to have a heck of a story. All of our moms, whether they have symptoms of COVID or not, they all get tested before they come in. Or they get tested as soon as they walk in the door and we know within 30 minutes. This is just going to be a part of their birth story, about how they delivered their baby during a pandemic.

Anything else you'd like to tell us?

I know this series is titled "Healthcare Heroes," but we don't see ourselves as heroes by any means. We are doing what we would do on any other day. We love what we do for our patients. We love our careers. I love that I came from The University of Alabama. I always tell people that more athletes should be nurses because when I'm interviewing potential nurses and I see on their resume that they've been an athlete, I get excited because I know they have that discipline and accountability piece that some other job candidates won't have.

*Interviews were conducted in May 2020 and have been edited lightly for clarity and length.