Nursing Graduate Brings Work Ethic to Emergency Department Position at USA Health University Hospital

Posted on July 8, 2024
Marketing and Communications

Luke Thomas, a University of South Alabama graduate, at his job at USA Health University Hospital  data-lightbox='featured'
Luke Thomas, a University of South Alabama graduate, said he has support in his first job as a nurse at USA Health University Hospital. “There are always experienced people around to back you up, people you can turn to for help and to answer questions.”

#MyFirstJob is a series focused on recent graduates of the University of South Alabama. 

Luke Thomas chose to become an emergency room nurse because he thinks the speed and stress of the job actually make it easier for him to begin his career.

“It’s so fast-paced that you don’t have time to think too much,” he said. “You see a lot of bad things, but then you’re moving on to the next patient.”

Thomas, a spring 2024 nursing graduate from the University of South Alabama, just started working in the emergency department at USA Health University Hospital. While a student, he worked part-time at USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

He’s heard stories about young nurses who feel thrown into jobs with little guidance or support, but that hasn’t been his experience in Mobile.

“One thing about South, they’re not going to leave you high and dry,” he said. “There are always experienced people around to back you up, people you can turn to for help and to answer questions.”

Thomas, 26, grew up in Missouri and Alabama. He and his siblings were home-schooled. His older brother, Cale, earned a mechanical engineering degree at South in 2021.

As a boy and teenager, Thomas did all sorts of part-time jobs. He delivered newspapers, became a lifeguard, worked as a janitor and had restaurant gigs.

“Pretty much every single day, I was working,” he said. “But it taught me to balance my time and be financially responsible.”

Before enrolling at South, Thomas taught English for two years at a small bible college in Brazil. He learned of the opportunity from a friend, then picked up and moved 5,000 miles from Mobile. He struggled to learn Portuguese while teaching students to begin communicating in English.

“The first semester was very rough,” he said. “I basically had to relearn English to teach it properly.”

When Thomas returned to Mobile, he decided to attend the University of South Alabama. He enjoyed the history courses that gave him a more well-rounded education, even while planning a career in healthcare.

He and one of his uncles, a paramedic and firefighter, discussed different fields. Nursing seemed to be the best fit.

“I like hands-on things,” he said. “I like being with patients. I like spending time with them. I like helping to take care of them.”

At Children’s & Women’s Hospital, he worked as a patient care technician, checking vital signs and patient conditions. For his practicum training, he entered the world of emergency medicine at University Hospital. Day jobs and night shifts tested his patience and stamina.

“Toward the end of the semester,” Thomas said, laughing, “I was getting a little tired.”

Now he’s working full-time on the day shift, which he finds much easier. He’s learning how to care for his patients, even in life-or-death situations, and then leave those emotions behind at the end of a shift.

Every day, Thomas sees new cases and gains new experiences in the emergency department. That’s part of the job, too.

“In nursing, everything changes, so I think you’re going to feel nervous for the first five years,” he said. “I’m prepared for the basics, but there’s always something new. That’s one of the things that attracted me to nursing. I get bored very easily, so this way I’ll never get complacent.”

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