In his first year of school at Marshall County High in Benton, Kentucky, second-year nursing student Stephen Atkinson was involved in an ATV accident, which sparked his interest in the nursing profession.
He was a prominent basketball player at and had just received a college scholarship. “I broke my knee cap and degloved my leg,” he said. “I was told I would be able to walk, but the doctor did not know if I would be able to play basketball. I was determined to play, and worked very hard to achieve this goal. Going through that experience made me want to be able to do something to help others.”
The middle child of two United Methodist pastors, David and Susan Atkinson, he frequently moved between the states of Tennessee and Kentucky with his two brothers, Chris and John, but considers Benton to be his hometown.
Atkinson enrolled in Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. A biology major, Atkinson was a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee for three years and was its president for one year. Through it all, Atkinson stayed committed to the sport of basketball, playing all four years, under two different coaches.
Upon graduation in 2015, Atkinson decided it was time to devote time to his other passion, nursing. “Already having a four-year degree, I was mainly looking for an accelerated program, Atkinson said. After discovering that UTHSC had such a program, Atkinson reached out to the College of Nursing’s Student Affairs staff. After hearing about the success of the program and the availability of student resources, Atkinson decided that UTHSC was a perfect fit for him, and was later accepted into the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
When asked about the transition from student athlete to nursing student, Atkinson said:
“Personally, I think playing sports in college has made this transition much easier. Being a student athlete I never had a lot of time to study or get homework done, and with nursing school it is hard to always find time to get everything done. Sports also taught me how to work well with others and work as a team. In nursing, that is a huge role and sports has helped me with that tremendously. Nursing has been different than basketball, but there can be high stress situations that need quick thinking, and it feels similar to playing basketball.”
Atkinson is in the Student Government Nursing Association, where he serves as class representative. He recently joined the Honor Council Committee for the College of Nursing and was also inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau honor society. “Being involved as a student is a great way to allow teachers and faculty to know the needs of our students and how to make the program better, Atkinson said. “It also helps develop critical thinking skills and the ability to work with peers. Being involved can help with professional networking, which might help one get the job you want one day. “
One of Atkinson’s biggest accomplishments occurred last year during one of his clinical rotations, when his quick thinking and training saved a patient’s life. “Their family came back and personally thanked me for all that I did for them. The feeling of that is one I will never forget and made me realize I chose the right profession.”
“Stephen is an all-around great guy,” said Shawn Boyd, former coordinator in Student Affairs in the College of Nursing. “He goes out of his way to help others. I consider it a gain to have Stephen in the BSN program.”
Outside of academic endeavors, Atkinson’s hobbies include watching sports and going to sporting events. For incoming students, Atkinson believes the best advice is to stay on top of things. “Study hard for each test, so finals week will not be too stressful,” he said. “This is a great program and the teachers know how to prepare us, but as students we have to do our part. You only get as much out of a program as you put into it. You can get an exceptional education and a strong base to your nursing career if you’re willing to give it your all.”
In the future, Atkinson aspires to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, and would like to provide quality care to areas that cannot attract an anesthesiologist.