Grace Davis remembers well the day in 2016 when she was accepted into the University of Arkansas’ Eleanor Mann School of Nursing.
“After jumping throughout my sorority house, screaming the news, I called my family,” she recalled.
Grace FaceTimed with her parents at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where her father had just undergone heart surgery.
By Grace’s sophomore year at the U of A, her dad was still a patient there and was recovering from a second heart surgery. She recalled driving through a snowstorm with her brother over Spring Break to visit their parents.
“That was that night we became aware of our father’s decision to stop life-saving treatment and instead focus on comfort care for his final days of life,” she said. “There is no good way to hear that news, but we understood it was my father’s choice.”
Grace vividly remembers a private moment she had with her dad on the final day of his life.
“He turned to me and said, ‘Gracie, this is not the life I pictured for myself.’ I looked around him, and I saw the dialysis machine, the ventilator, the central lines and peripheral IVs, the wound care supplies for his pressure sores and the multiple medications working to keep him alive,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want this to be the life my father has either.’”
That’s when she decided hospice care was her calling.
“It’s beautiful how the worst moment of my life has given me every great blessing God continues to reveal to me,” she said.
After graduating from the U of A with her nursing degree, Grace began working at the hospital where her father passed away. Being at the Mayo Clinic exposed her to a variety of cultures.
“I worked with patients who traveled from across the world to seek care at the number one hospital in the United States,” she said. “It expanded my knowledge of humanity and gave me a deep appreciation of how every human deserves equal respect and dignity.”
Grace now works as a pediatric oncology nurse at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where she was raised. As a child, she often drove past the hospital.
“I knew miracles were happening there, and I wanted to be a small part of it,” she said. “It’s a privilege to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.”
Grace also attends the University of Memphis part time. She’s working toward a Master of Science in Nursing to become a family nurse practitioner. She expects to graduate in summer 2022. Then she wants to earn a specialty certification in Palliative and Hospice Care.
Grace said her first hands-on clinical experience while a student at the U of A made her sad.
“I must say, my heart broke a little bit,” she said. “I questioned if nursing was for me, because I looked into the eyes of patients and I did not see peace. It made me doubt the health-care system.
“My family reminded me that is exactly why I should go into nursing. So I can be the change I think our system needs.”
Grace said that, as her hospital rotations progressed, she worked with teams that provided great quality care.
“It continued to ignite a fire in me to always try my best,” she said. “I am so blessed to have found my calling in life so early in my career.
“My passion is to treat every patient like a person, to remind them of their dignity and right to quality and compassionate care. I also want to ensure that patients feel empowered to make their own health-care choices that give them the quality of life they picture for themselves.”
Grace looks back fondly on her days as a nursing student in Fayetteville. She plans to earn a doctorate and become a nursing professor like the ones who mentored her at the U of A.
“Learning at the University of Arkansas never felt like learning; it felt like knowledge was just being poured into me by the finest faculty and staff,” she said. “The Eleanor Mann School of Nursing shaped me not only into a nurse, but a leader.”