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Committed student-athletes make committed nurses

Rigorous training eases transition to medical careers

When his younger brother suffered a severe knee injury, Roosevelt Davis had a wake-up call. The then-running back for UCLA knew at that moment his playing days could end any time. 

But rather than turn away from the uncomfortable reality that many of his peers did not want to face, Davis turned inward to chart a path forward.

Roosevelt Davis, UCLA Bruins Football, Nurse
Roosevelt Davis

“I had to figure out what my passion was outside of football,” Davis said. “And for me, it was helping people.” 

Having the courage to face the unknown and the tenacity to take ownership in unprecedented circumstances are common traits of nurses. That trait is also ingrained into the core of student-athletes across all divisions and in every sport. 

After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2015 — and completing a string of internships that yielded little professional interest from Davis — he attended a nursing conference. Witnessing the nurses’ camaraderie and dedication, Davis knew nursing was the job for him.

Davis would complete a master’s in nursing from the UCLA School of Nursing instead of continuing his football career in the Canadian Football League. He currently serves as a pediatric cardiovascular nurse in California.

“Being a student-athlete teaches you to be humble. In the real world, you have bosses and co-workers. Having coaches and teammates taught me how to be coachable and to network in this constantly evolving professional landscape,” Davis said.

Many coaches and programs are now lending more support to student-athletes pursuing a degree in the challenging field. It’s the very thing that brought junior volleyball player Halli Lambert to Arkansas-Monticello.

Halli Lambert

“There is a stigma around being a nursing student and a student-athlete,” Lambert said. “From heavy coursework to clinicals, the schedule of a nursing student is a lot to balance with being an athlete, but UAM worked with me.”

The first nursing student to go through the volleyball program at Arkansas-Monticello, Lambert knew the uphill battle she’d face and the dedication she would need to chase her dreams of being a nurse.

“The pandemic has shown that there is a lack of health care workers. We need so many more nurses and doctors,” Lambert said of the response to COVID-19. “I’m hoping more student-athletes speaking out will help decrease that stigma and show programs that it is possible to major in public health, nursing and premed while being a student-athlete. It is hard, but it’s definitely possible.”

Lambert holds multiple leadership positions off the court, including serving on the Admissions Committee for her nursing school and as vice president of the school’s student nurses association. On her volleyball team, she serves as an advisor to underclassmen who are also nursing students. 

She has put her talent to use in the fight against COVID-19, too. In late February, Athletics Director Padraic McMeel got a firsthand look at Lambert’s nursing skills when she administered a vaccination to him.

“Giving COVID-19 vaccinations and being able to give my athletic director his vaccine is something that doesn’t happen every day,” Lambert said. “I am so thankful for the experience.”

Bailey Hamilton

Lambert is not the only NCAA student-athlete who has given vaccines. Alicia Krivanek and Bailey Hamilton, two student-athletes from Pacific Lutheran, worked at an on-campus clinic that administered more than 1,200 vaccinations in February.

Both junior nursing students, Krivanek and Hamilton were thrilled to take part in Pacific Lutheran’s first vaccination clinic. From observing the preparation of the vaccines to interacting with people who attended, Hamilton and Krivanek said participating in the mass vaccination event was a pivotal experience for them.

“It was so rewarding, especially hearing how grateful people were to be receiving the vaccine,” said Krivanek, a cross country student-athlete. Her experience at the clinic led her to consider pursuing more community health and volunteer opportunities.

Hamilton, a swimmer, said her experience at the clinic led her to want to learn more about vaccine development. She said her favorite part of being a nursing student has been watching how hospitals have adapted to the pandemic.

Alicia Krivanek

“When I did my OB rotation this January, I saw how the nurses could still make a magical experience for those moms while dealing with COVID-19,” Hamilton said. “I am so impressed and thankful for all the health care workers out there who are adapting and fighting this like in the very forefront.”

Krivanek said that for her and Hamilton — and all student-athletes deciding to pursue nursing and college athletics — it’s possible to achieve a balance and to bring lessons learned in sports into their studies and career outlooks.

“From athletics, I’ve learned determination skills, such as perseverance, and to stick with things even if it gets hard. You have to manage your time. In the long run, it’s worth it,” Krivanek said. “It’s a really great experience to be a student-athlete and nursing student if you’re willing to put the work in to do both.”