Jamie Holzworth went from serving guests at some of Central Florida’s fanciest hotels and restaurants to helping the region’s most critically ill as a student nurse working the night shift in the intensive-care unit.

A Central Florida native, Holzworth grew up around the hospitality industry and said she went into it as a young adult, even earning a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the University of Central Florida. Now 25, she’s among the 319 students who will graduate from UCF’s College of Nursing this week.

“I’m still serving people, but now I have a higher purpose,” said Holzworth.

“I enjoyed helping people, but I realized there was a more meaningful way to do it,” she said. “Nursing scared me at first. It was intimidating to think about all the serious issues you have to deal with, but it seemed like the right transition for me. Nurses have the potential to make a huge impact, and I would encourage others to make the leap.”


Jamie Holzworth worked in hospitality before switching to a career in nursing.

Holzworth is one of 49 students to complete UCF’s Accelerated Second Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program this semester. The full-time, 15-month program targets those who have already earned a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or higher and now aim to become nurses. The program includes lecture and lab components, as well as service-learning and clinical rotations in hospitals, long-term care facilities and other health care agencies.

“The student nurses who are part of the second-degree program bring their experience and knowledge from other areas into the field of health care,” said Jean Leuner, founding dean of the College of Nursing. “They transition into nursing for a variety of reasons, but what’s common among them is a dedication to patient care and serving others. This program allows them to channel that passion into a degree that will get them in the workforce, doing what they love, more quickly.”

Armed with a law degree and master’s in psychology, Athena Barco, 35, was working as an in-house counsel when an opportunity arose to return to school.

“My mom was an infection-control practitioner at a rural hospital when I was growing up,” said Barco. “I’d always been in and around the medical field, and health care was my original career goal. It took some time, but I was lucky enough to circle back to my goal.”

Now, she’ll balance her career as a nurse with occasional legal work.

“Having a master’s in clinical psychology is very helpful in nursing. It helps me when talking with patients and dealing with a broad range of patient dynamics, from patients who also have psychiatric issues to patients that are just having a rough time with a diagnosis or treatment,” said Barco. “With my background, I have a better understanding of my patients’ psychological needs while I am caring for their medical needs.”

Patient care wasn’t MBA-holder James “Jay” Warner’s initial goal, but his interactions with doctors and nurses in dealing with past health issues left a lasting impression.

“Those were the times I felt most closely connected with others,” said Warner, 36.

For Warner, the big bucks that came from working in corporate finance and real estate provided him with a comfortable lifestyle, but when he asked himself questions like “What’s going to make me happy?” and “What am I going to be proud of?”, his answers pointed him in a different direction.

“I’m doing a 180, but know I made the right decision because I’m not crunching numbers anymore,” said Warner. “I’m in the trenches helping patients, and that’s what I wanted to do.”

JayWarnerMBA-holder James “Jay” Warner left a career in corporate finance and real estate to pursue patient care.

First, the nurses-to-be will participate in a pinning and recognition ceremony with faculty, family and friends at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at the Venue in advance of Saturday’s commencement ceremonies. More information on commencement is available here.

The next cohort of second-degree nursing students will begin classes in May. UCF admits 60 students to the program, and individuals who wish to participate are encouraged to apply now for summer 2014 enrollment. A separate application for the accelerated program must be submitted to the College of Nursing from Jan. 1 and Feb. 1.

For the next class, five $10,000 scholarships will be available to students who come from ethnic groups or economically disadvantaged backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in nursing thanks to a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program.