‘You want to help so bad’: UT nursing students on navigating COVID and careers


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — We are hearing from healthcare’s future leaders. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve shared stories from nurses on the frontlines. Now, we’re getting perspective from the ones who hope to soon be in their shoes.

Two seniors at the University of Tennessee College of Nursing started nursing school in the Fall of 2020. They say that means they are part of the first nursing class completely educated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we’ve had to learn about adapting a lot earlier than some of our other earlier students may have,” said nursing student Hallie Henegar.

“I didn’t meet my professors until this semester actually. I saw them in labs sometimes, but you don’t get that one-on-one connection unless you try,” said another nursing student, Jenna Doak.

They’re back in person now, and they’ve seen COVID become part of the curriculum.

“We actually were able to learn how to give IM injections and then we did give COVID clinics and gave COVID vaccines. That was very exciting, and kind of new, because usually we just do flu vaccines, but we did the COVID vaccines this spring,” Doak said.

For Doak and Henegar, watching healthcare heroes has only solidified how much they want to do it too.

“Seeing how much everyone is struggling, you want to help so bad. You have more people wanting to go into your critical care settings and your emergency settings because that’s what our heart is. We want to help,” Henegar said.

“When people are just like, ‘you’re just a nurse.’ We’re not just nurses. We’re helping the sickest people, and we’re trying to get them better, and we’re being the family members for them when they don’t have any. And I think that’s way more than just ‘being a nurse,'” Doak said.

Both women graduate this coming May. Doak is hoping to get a job in the ICU and Henegar in critical care or as a traveling nurse. They also say they think the best way to show support to nurses is by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’re able.

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