Clemson student James Hodan and his wife, Clemson alumni, Anna Hodan, have been part of Clemson's accelerated RN program.

James and Anna Hodan at her pinning ceremony.
Image Credit: Photo courtesy of the Hodans

As the health care industry continues to change dramatically, many professionals are pivoting their career paths to better suit new demands. James and Anna Hodan are two of these professionals. While they found success in their respective careers in prosthetics and health care marketing, they felt a change was needed. Wanting to play more direct roles in patient care, the Hodans decided on nursing — and then on Clemson’s accelerated nursing program — and haven’t looked back, despite their hectic lives.

Over the past five years of their marriage, James and Anna Hodan have moved five times, purchased a home, become landlords, changed careers and adopted two dogs.

Anna enrolled in the accelerated nursing program in August 2014, and James followed suit in August 2015. Their main motivation was a desire to remove themselves from the administrative duties that have been consistently increasing in health care in recent years. Instead, they wanted to focus on hands-on patient care.

“The prosthetics field is transitioning away from patient care to require practitioners to spend a majority of their time on insurance paperwork,” James said. “This is not where I feel my strengths lie. Nursing allows me to get back to what I know best, which is focusing on providing excellent patient care.”

Anna is similarly familiar with the administrative side of health care, yet finds it an asset in her nursing career.

“I feel that because of my background [in administration], I have an appreciation for what the administrative staff has to go through in order to ensure the department runs smoothly and efficiently,” she said.

With many professionals overloaded with paperwork, the Hodans feel the hands-on aspect of the job has begun to fade in recent years.

Aiming to find a way to enhance the field by offering a different layer to the job for those with administrative backgrounds, Clemson offers the accelerated RN program, which allows professionals to divert their career path to nursing, a facet of health care that is grounded in hands-on patient interaction. Rather than start fresh in a new career, the accelerated RN program proposes a fundamental directional change for professionals.

Patient-driven and eye-opening education is a cornerstone for Clemson nursing, one of only 35 programs in the nation recognized by the National League for Nursing as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education. With close ties to local hospitals and a rigorous curriculum that combines classroom experience with hands-on clinical work, James and Anna felt that this nursing program was the perfect spot for them to obtain their degrees.

When Anna graduated in 2015, she began work as an emergency room nurse at Spartanburg Regional Hospital.

After getting a glimpse into Anna’s life as an ER nurse, James considered emergency room medicine as well, but is set on keeping his options open when it comes to specializing.

“My main reason for leaving the prosthetics industry was because I felt I had limited career opportunities. Nursing affords many different career paths. At this point, I do not have plans to combine the two careers but might in the future if possible,” he said.

In the meantime while still in school, he’s working in a slightly more unconventional job — senior instructor for the Land Rover Experience Driving School at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The job entails traversing slick and muddy terrain in an expensive vehicle driven by an inexperienced guest. While stressful and seemingly unrelated to James’ other passions, he sees his employment as a valuable learning experience.

“I feel the knowledge gained here can be applied to not only my future jobs but also in my life. I have learned to stay calm and think through a number of scenarios while maintaining a positive attitude. These skills will positively impact my career as a nurse,” he said.

The demands of being in an accelerated nursing program, married and working full-time have provided some challenges for the couple, yet rather than cause strife, James and Anna have found ways to adjust. During their one semester of overlap, they used different study tactics and learned to balance their personal lives with their academics.

“This program has challenged me from day one in ways I never anticipated. I feel as though I will come out stronger because of it,” James said.

For Anna, a new mindset was the best takeaway.

“The professors and the program challenge you to think beyond the classroom. Now that I am working in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment, I value the ability to critically think to help my patients.”

However, after two years of intensely scheduled lives, the Hodans are excited for James’ graduation in December 2016.

“We are both most excited about being able to get back to a normal life; getting to use our newly gained skills in nursing to further our careers is exciting, but we can’t wait to feel like a family again,” they said.

And come December, the Hodans will have just that — a normal life.