Switching careers can be challenging enough.
But the tasks Jacob Hawkins faced when he began as a nurse in January 2020 — in the ICU destined to receive Kentucky’s worst cases — were downright Herculean.
The Transylvania University graduate persevered, relying in part on his liberal arts background to help him deal with the emotional turmoil. The experience also shaped his career path, which, in the interdisciplinary spirit of the liberal arts, has combined nursing and communications.
Hawkins is drawing from both skill sets in his new job as a nursing professional development specialist for Baptist Health Lexington, where he leads training across numerous hospital units, among other responsibilities.
“I had always wanted to be a nurse, but I was also a good writer,” he said.
While majoring in writing, rhetoric and communication at Transylvania, Hawkins worked for The Rambler student newspaper all four years, serving as editor-in-chief and a USA Today collegiate correspondent.
He went on to work in a variety of marketing and communications roles after graduating in 2013, including at ad agencies with numerous clients in the medical professions. Five years ago, Hawkins was interviewing health care workers for promotional materials and the whole time he was thinking he’d rather have their jobs. “I could see their passion, and it was evident to me that I didn’t have that passion for what I was doing anymore,” he said.
So he buckled down and worked full time in marketing during the day, nursing school at night and clinicals on the weekends.
Then starting his career during COVID drove home the importance of nurse training and his desire to help educate them, in part because he saw how those who were students at the time weren’t able to work in hospitals, so (through no fault of their own) they weren’t getting a full education.
Also, while Hawkins was pursuing his Master of Science in Nursing at Midway University, his master’s project focused on having nursing students learn interdisciplinary skills through extracurricular opportunities. He’s now pursuing a doctoral degree and plans to be a nursing school professor.
Hawkins said the profession, for whatever reason, hasn’t done a great job of embracing the liberal arts at the academic level. But the benefits are obvious, whether that means being able to put things in context, keep a level head or bring together knowledge from disparate fields.
He noted how nurses act as project managers for patient care, coordinating with a variety of other professionals. “Nurses really are the liberal arts mind trying to make those connections between the different disciplines.”