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BSN Student Persists to Graduation Despite Health Crises



Nursing student James Davis graduated today with his BSN degree in spite of health challenges.

With degrees in biology and public health, James Davis had been part of the health care world for years when he decided to become a registered nurse. “I wanted that patient interaction,” he said.
What he didn’t realize was that he would also receive a front-row seat to the patient’s perspective while pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing.

Davis, 36, who was among 53 BSN graduates who celebrated commencement today at the Cannon Center, chose UTHSC’s 12-month BSN program because of the College of Nursing’s reputation and the accelerated programming. However, during that 12 months, Davis suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while playing basketball. As a result, he developed a deep-vein thrombosis, or blood clot, in his leg that dislodged and blocked the arteries in his lungs – a pulmonary embolism.

Fortunately, a family member who checked on him called 911, so Davis could receive lifesaving treatment. Due to his health problems, Davis took a trimester off from the nursing program. But once he recovered, he began working at a local hospital, where he was exposed to COVID-19. He became ill and was again hospitalized, but received excellent care and was discharged after a week. He said it took him about three months to fully recover.

“The whole process reaffirmed my choice of becoming a nurse,” he said. “Nurses have the most contact with their patients.”

Davis was among three BSN graduates recognized at commencement with awards from the College of Nursing. He received the Sigma Theta Tau Leadership Award, which is given to a student who shows a high degree of professionalism. He has also served as president of the Black Student Association for the college.

BSN graduate Sarah Katherine Powell received the Alumni Award, which is given to a student who has displayed enthusiasm for learning and nursing, in addition to superior skill in providing patient care, and an ability to interact with peers, patients, and staff.

Emilie Harwell received the BSN Award – an honor given to a member of the graduating class, who has been chosen by classmates as an outstanding role model.

Like many of his classmates, Davis graduated with a job awaiting him. He will go to work in the Emergency Department of Baptist-DeSoto, the hospital where he received treatment for his pulmonary embolism and COVID-19.

He also plans to continue his education in the UTHSC College of Nursing, pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in acute care, because he wants to work as an advanced practice nurse in the emergency department.

“I went through that for a reason,” Davis said, referring to his illnesses. “A lot of people are not on the patient side of health care. I have had that experience, and I am going to make sure my patients are taken care of and try to anticipate their needs.”