Posted on Aug 6, 2019

Lifelong Friends Reunite in Nursing Doctoral Program

Lifelong Friends Reunite in Nursing Doctoral Program

Two College of Nursing doctoral students who first met at a naval hospital in Japan nearly two decades ago have reunited in the same nursing program at USF and have teamed up to help promote a research initiative that highlights the needs of military-connected children.

Both Konnie Mackie and Catherine Hernandez are pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice with a focus on becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.

The pair met in 2010 in the naval hospital’s labor and delivery unit. At the time, Mackie was a Navy nurse stationed in Okinawa. She met Hernandez, a civilian nurse in the hospital, shortly after arriving at her new post.

“Catherine trained me to be a charge nurse on the unit and we were instant friends,” Mackie said.

Their friendship has spanned decades and time zones.

Both have a military nursing background and now find themselves on a similar academic and professional path. Hernandez started at USF first, in August 2016, and recruited Mackie to join the DNP program soon after. Mackie, who is still active-duty in the military, attends school full-time under a Navy program and is on track to graduate first.

Mackie said she was searching for a DNP program in Florida when she connected with Hernandez, who was enrolled in the doctoral program part-time. Hernandez had raved about the professors, and after talking to the professors and academic advisor, Mackie knew the program and USF’s military-friendly reputation would be a good fit for her.

“It has been so awesome to have a friend in the program,” Mackie said. “We often study together and have formed friendships and study groups with other classmates in the program.  I often say ‘medicine is a team sport.’ You rely on your classmates to encourage you when the classes seem overwhelming. You support each other, and that helps everyone be more successful.”

The two are currently working to help implement College of Nursing Associate Professor Alicia Rossiter’s “I Serve 2” research initiative, a project that focuses on the unique health care needs of military children.

“I feel like this is something we are all passionate about, and it should make a significant impact on the health and wellness of military-connected children,” Mackie said.

Hernandez, who served six years in the Air Force, says her friendship with Mackie is a source of strength, and although their lives took them in different directions after Okinawa, she had a feeling they’d be back together again.

“She is an amazing nurse,” Hernandez said. “We work well together. She always paid attention to detail, and she puts her patients first. I think that’s going to be an asset once she’s a nurse practitioner.”

It was Hernandez who volunteered to help Mackie adjust to life as a Bull Nurse. In military lingo, Hernandez became Mackie’s “sponsor” – the person assigned to help a new service member get settled in at a new station.

“Catherine named herself my sponsor to USF before I arrived,” Mackie said. “She helped me pick out a home to rent, gave me a tour of campus when I arrived and even helped me get my student ID.  It has been amazing to have a friend to help me get acquainted with Tampa and USF.”

Hernandez said having Mackie at USF has definitely been a morale booster.

“Now that Konnie is here, it’s like I have another buddy to go through the program with,” Hernandez said.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing