First Responder Sets His Sights on Nursing
Damon McIntire, a student in his third semester at the USF College of Nursing, had been working as a firefighter/emergency medical technician (EMT) when an accident changed the course of his life. This nearly fatal event in December 2013 landed him in the hospital for 30 days on a ventilator and led to more than a dozen reconstructive surgeries over the following years. Suddenly, the first responder was on the receiving end of emergency and critical care medicine — and began to see things from a whole new perspective.
“The people who made the biggest impact on me during my extensive recovery were nurses,” he explained. “I saw firsthand what happens to trauma victims after the first responders do their jobs.”
McIntire’s experience as a patient was an epiphany, leading him to realize that he wanted to become a nurse. After he completed his Associate of Arts degree at State College of Florida, Sarasota-Manatee, he applied to the USF College of Nursing and was accepted.
“The beginning was overwhelming at first,” he said of the nursing program, “but it was hands-on right away, and I adjusted quickly. We were all well prepared going into our clinicals.”
A native of Venice, Fla., McIntire is pleased that he was placed at Sarasota Memorial Hospital for his clinicals. Not only is it close to home, but “Sarasota Memorial is a great campus, with all the newest equipment, high standards, and passionate staff who want the best for their patients,” he said.
Over the years, McIntire has received scholarship support from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition. He was one of the first students they supported, and on Wednesday, May 9, McIntire was recognized by these organizations for his success and progress as a nursing student. “I wouldn’t even be in college if not for organizations such as these. The medical bills that I had been trying to reduce restricted my ability to pay for tuition,” he said. McIntire also receives support from Gertrude E. Skelly USF Nursing Scholarship, which is awarded through the USF Foundation.
At USF, McIntire appreciates the education and guidance he is receiving from the faculty. Dr. Betty Jordan, associate vice dean of undergraduate programs, “has been incredibly helpful on many levels,” he said. He recalled that instructor Danielle Beasley assisted him many times when he was having difficulty with the pediatrics and maternal curriculum, and he received support from Dr. Connie Visovsky, who led the Global Nursing trip he took to Panama. “I saw poverty on a level we usually don’t see in the United States — malnutrition, harsh living conditions, no assistance,” he remembered. “It was eye-opening, as well as rewarding to provide our nursing efforts to those we made contact with.”
In addition to being a full-time nursing student, McIntire works 44 hours a week — for UPS during weekday evenings and, having kept his EMT license, as an ER technician at Englewood Community Hospital on the weekends.
He hopes all these life and work experiences will help him reach his goal of becoming a trauma or critical care nurse. “I want to help make the miracles happen in others’ lives, reciprocating the way I was given a second chance to live through the selfless acts of nurses and other medical professionals.”
Story by Lucia Raatma, USF College of Nursing