Air Force veteran finds new mission as nursing educator

Nursing Professional Development
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Associate Chief Nursing Officer Dexter Hodge administers the flu shot at a hospital event.
Associate Chief Nursing Officer Dexter Hodge administers the flu shot at a hospital event.

Trained by the U.S. Air Force, Dexter Hodge has a mindset for learning and a dedication to doing things the right way. His journey to become a nurse leader has been a long one, giving him ample opportunity to reflect on the choice to pursue a career in rehabilitation nursing. 

“To see a patient roll in and then walk out of the facility, knowing I played a role in that process, it empowered me to want to be a nurse in a rehabilitation setting,” Hodge said. “Upon discharge, our patients are better prepared to face most challenges that they will meet as they return home. Rehabilitation nursing has challenged me as a nurse to think differently.”

Over the last decade, Hodge has dedicated a lot of time to personal development, working up the ranks in the armed forces and at Encompass Health. A local agency placed him at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Texarkana in 2005 as a CNA while he attended school to become a licensed practical nurse (LVN). After graduation, he secured the LVN position, but he didn’t stop there.

He remained active in the Air Force all while taking classes to get into the RN program at Texarkana College, even deploying to Iraq for ten months during that time. He returned and dove head first into his full-time nursing role, eager to learn more.

Hodge’s Air Force unit closed in 2015, prompting his career transition from active military member to dedicated nursing student. Upon earning an associate’s degree in nursing, he became a hospital educator at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Texarkana.

“As an educator, I felt I needed to be the example. I immediately enrolled to get my BSN and graduated in May 2017,” Hodge said. He soon passed the CRRN exam, adding yet another credential to his name.

Hodge demonstrates his passion for rehabilitation nursing by constantly seeking out new learning opportunities. He is currently enrolled in the Encompass Health Developing Future Chief Nursing Officers program. When asked why he pursued this next step in his nursing career, Dexter reaffirmed that every position he’s held up to now has been in preparation for this role.

“Working in the education department gave me a voice in orienting and educating new and existing nurses,” he said. “CRRN experience has taught me what services are available and how to get those resources in our patients’ reach. And, while I love bedside nursing, I want to be an advocate in the boardroom for the nurses I work with and the patients I love caring for.”

Hodge knows that success for his patients is possible when every member of the rehabilitation team fosters their individual skills, becoming a stronger unit that can facilitate superior outcomes. By staying committed to a lifetime of learning, this caregiving veteran is helping pave the way for the nursing leaders of tomorrow.

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