University of Virginia School of Nursing
CCU RN Jason Diamond (BSN `14), winner of UVA's 'Beginning Practitioner of the Year' award for 2016.

Even if his path into nursing was circuitous, Jason Diamond (BSN `14) – who received UVA Medical Center’s Beginning Practitioner of the Year award in May, 2016 – is certain that every experience before his nursing career began informs it.

He fathered a daughter at 17, while a junior in high school. A former bartender, he also understands the guts of machinery, having worked as a copy technician. He’s even sold steaks door-to-door, though not, he laughs, with much success.

It was only after a two-year stint as a patient care assistant in the critical care unit at UVA Medical Center – a job his own father urged him to try – that his work spoke to him. After a stint on the Western Albemarle Rescue Squad, work in the Emergency Department and thanks in part to a UVA nursing student and colleague he admired, Diamond applied to UVA’s nursing program in 2010, garnered entry in 2011, and, that fall, at age 26, leapt into his future.

“It was a little intimidating at first,” recalls Diamond, now 31, of his early days of nursing school, “but all the students were so committed and passionate and the instructors and professors were incredible. I was impressed right away.”

And his varied life experience, he soon realized, was an incredible asset. The bartending he’d done? It made him a good listener, perceiver and able to pick up easily on people’s non-verbal cues. Knowing about the intricacies of copiers prepped him to pay attention to the small but meaningful shifts in patients’ conditions that predict more serious subsequent issues. Parenting and work in the ED? That taught him patience, persistence and calm under pressure.

Selling steaks? Well, maybe not that.

Today, nearly two years after earning his degree, Diamond is confident in his ability to “balance patient care and critical thinking” and says he’s humbled by the award, and “touched by how [his colleagues] view [him].”

“I’m definitely not used to getting this type of recognition,” admits Diamond. “But I honestly think everything starts with the connections I’m able to make with people, and my ability to settle into a lot of situations and find a way to connect with all sorts of different people, and that helps my ability to know what to do in a given situation.”

Diamond’s six Coronary Care Unit colleague nominators lauded his strong assessment and teaching skills, his active search for solutions, thoughtful questions, and his relentless drive to receive feedback from his peers. His “friendly, approachable demeanor, partnered with his intelligence” make him a valued colleague and caregiver who can assuage the fears of patients and families, shifting a room’s tone to calm, they wrote in their nomination.

For his part, Diamond sees the foundation of his care rooted in his varied and interesting backstory.

“Working 16 years in customer service, I’ve learned a lot about people,” he says, “and that, I think, is a really good starting point with co-workers, doctors, patients. I find a level to connect and get things done in a good way.”

UVA Medical Center annually recognizes its nursing staff with nine distinct awards during National Nurses’ Week. Awardees are announced during a May ceremony, receive a small gift, a congratulatory letter and certificate, and a stipend.

Diamond lives in Charlottesville with his fiance, fellow nurse and UVA School of Nursing graduate Kate Callahan (BSN `14).