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Patrick Hill and Brandon Rice: Former football players shatter stereotypes in pursuing careers as nurses

Former Division I players use love for team-oriented environments and help others

Patrick Hill and Brandon Rice were standout college football players – Hill at the University of Miami (Florida) as a fullback and Rice at the University of California, Davis as a receiver. 

Both earned degrees in exercise physiology from their respective schools, and although they had never met, they shared a common goal in planning for life after football. It just so happened that the Los Angeles natives would end up back in their hometown pursuing the same career – nursing.

And in June 2016, Hill and Rice will graduate with master’s degrees from the UCLA School of Nursing and enter one of the most in-demand professions in today’s workforce while breaking stereotypes along the way.

Growing up, Los Angeles-born-and-raised Hill harbored dreams of one day becoming the next Michael Jordan. Following college, Hill spent a brief time with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent before being cut from the team in 2011.  After tryouts with several other NFL organizations, Hill realized he wanted a career with more security and stability for himself and his young family.

“I started taking required classes to apply to medical school, but I found that I loved the patient interaction that nurses have,” he said. “So I shifted to classes that would give me a shot at getting into nursing school.”

Similarly, Rice had notions of one day pursuing a professional football career – or a medical career as a neurosurgeon if that didn’t work out.  “In hindsight, I realize I was drawn to the team atmosphere – the discipline, the goal-setting, the respect for authority and other life lessons that football provides,” Rice said.

Life lessons, as it turned out, that would also apply to nursing school after Rice made the decision to hang up his cleats and step away from sports after lingering tendinitis proved an insurmountable health problem.

“Doctors direct the care, but nurses are the ones who administer the majority of the care,” he explained. “That's what I wanted to do — to be a pivotal part of patient care. I thoroughly enjoy helping others.”

According to an American Community Survey released in February 2013, men represented 9.6 percent of all registered nurses, up from just 2.7 percent in 1970, reflecting significant growth within the industry. The demand for skilled nurses is predicted to remain strong due to the aging U.S. baby boomer population, providing career opportunities across the board for both men and women.

Rice described several helpful carryovers between his student-athlete experience and his nursing school studies; for instance, both value hard work and the ability to remain calm under pressure.

“Time management is everything in nursing school; life as a student-athlete was the same way,” he added. “Having to balance school, sports, studying and some sort of a social life was not easy. Having successfully handled that balance in the past has made for a smoother transition at this point in my life.” 

Rice and Hill both hope to put their nursing degrees and newfound knowledge to use shattering stereotypes within the industry and making a difference in the lives of others.

“I hope to affect nursing as much as it has affected me,” Hill said. “Nursing has brought me hope and excitement – it gives me that same rush I had running out of the tunnel through the smoke at the ‘U.’ I hope I can move up in the critical care area of nursing and earn every achievement a critical care nurse can achieve.” 

Rice wants to fully utilize his new skills and make the most of his new profession as well. 

“The only hope I have in regard to my nursing career is to have my patients and co-workers be able to say, ‘I was happy to have Brandon as my nurse or co-worker; I could tell that he really cared for my overall well-being and was passionate about his work,’” he said.

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