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At the End of a Rocky Path, UT Nursing Grad Finds New Beginnings


Kaitlyn Scott was in her first year of college when she decided to transfer to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Nursing. Scott was inspired after watching a family friend’s six-month-old daughter battle leukemia. “The amount of hurt, care, and compassion I felt during this time confirmed my desire to serve—I knew in that moment I was destined to become a nurse,” Scott said.

Scott started her journey at UT her sophomore year. She began with a heavy course load while also working to fulfill her commitments to Air Force ROTC. She had no idea that life was about to become even more challenging.

During finals of Scott’s first semester at UT, her brother underwent serious medical testing, and her grandmother—who was the primary caregiver for Scott and her siblings—broke her hip. Scott was suddenly forced to become a mother and caregiver in addition to being a nursing student and ROTC cadet. She struggled during the following semester, and after failing two classes she was dismissed from the College of Nursing.

The months that followed were tough for Scott. She had no idea what was next for her as a nurse or as a prospective Air Force officer. Each career depended on the success of the other, and both were on the line. She did everything she could to be readmitted into the nursing program and save her scholarship and Air Force commissioning opportunity. After a lot of patience and hard work, Scott was reinstated into the nursing program and notified that her ROTC scholarship was still active.

“I was humbled to even be able to sit in a College of Nursing classroom. I worked so hard to be reinstated to the college,” Scott said. “I would write myself encouraging notes and leave them on my bathroom mirror. I clung to those words, and it made me feel like I could do anything. I knew everything would work out!”

Scott is now in her final semester of school. Although she is more than ready to graduate, she will always reflect on this journey—a journey in which she learned so much about nursing, herself, and life. A journey that forced her to hit rock bottom so she could soar.

After receiving her degree later this month and taking her National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) in January, Scott will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. In March she will travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the Air Force Nurse Transition program, and in May she’ll move on to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio, where she will spend the next four years working as a medical-surgical nurse in the hospital on base.

“Everything happens for a reason, and God has a plan that is too big for me to comprehend,” said Scott. “I have learned to stop asking ‘Why me?’ because I know at the end of the day I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”

UT’s commencement ceremonies will be held in Thompson-Boling Arena November 19–22. Pandemic restrictions will be in place during each ceremony. Visit the commencement website for more details.


Kara Clark (865-974-9498,