Nurses on the Frontlines: Stories from CON Alumni

Nurses on the Frontlines: Rachael Hodges (2015)


Nurses are facing unprecedented challenges right now as they face the COVID-19 pandemic. With these realities in mind, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing has launched a forum for alumni who are on the frontlines of this pandemic to share their stories.

Rachael Hodges is a Simulation Coordinator at the College of Nursing (CON). Rachael, who earned a BSN from CON in 2015, is on the frontlines of this pandemic as she navigates how to prepare the next generation of nurses to enter the workforce.

How has COVID-19 impacted you?
As a nurse educator and staff member working in the CON, my normal/typical life includes interacting with students on almost a daily basis. This involves working with students in the skills lab to complete skills checklists, preparing and facilitating high-fidelity simulations, and interacting with them through the Student Nurses Association. Now that these normal daily activities have changed and shifted to an online format, there is not nearly the same amount of personal contact and mentoring that occurs. In an effort to assist students to graduate with the required hours of clinical time, the simulation staff is completing online mastery learning skills evaluations to ensure that students maintain competence with essential skills. Skills kits were made, shipped to students, and zoom sessions occur on a weekly basis- this ensures that students are maintaining their proficiency, but also gives a time for connection to their typical staff and faculty. In a time such as this, instilling confidence and preparing the next wave of nurses to enter the workforce is critical to the well-being of our health care system! 

As you graduate from nursing school and prepare to enter the workforce as a new grad, many changes will happen. These changes will impact your life in both positive and negative ways – they are natural, and occur as you step from one phase of life into another. One of the hardest transitions can be accepting the need to continue to learn, the need to stay humble, and absorb all of the information that is shared with you, no matter the format in which feedback is given. As you leave the academic institution, real world nursing often seems daunting, as it may not present as you experienced in clinicals, in class, or in your textbook. Throughout all changes, remember to focus on the end goal: providing competent patient care that is delivered in a safe and smart manner to provide the best outcomes. Don’t forget the passion that you have for patients in need – at the end of the day, we are people helping people, and we each deserve love and respect as human beings.

Share your advice
Remain connected with your fellow Vols. The Volunteer family will help connect and guide you through life’s transitions. Reach out to past instructors or staff when guidance is needed.
Vols help Vols for life!

If you are interested in sharing your story please visit