Jeremy Jarmon has traded in his football gear for a different kind of personal protective equipment – masks, gowns and face shields.

For the last two years, the former University of Kentucky standout defensive lineman and National Football League (NFL) alumni has worked as a nurse at Sumner Regional Medical Center.

“I don’t think people really realize how physical nursing is,” Jarmon said about his new career. “It takes a toll on you over the course of a day.

“You have to be as sharp at the end of your shift as you are at the beginning of your shift.”

While he typically works with orthopedic and surgical patients, the Gallatin resident also helped care for COVID-19 patients earlier this year after the hospital saw an influx of positive cases as the virus began to spread throughout the community. 

It was an “eye opening and quite honestly terrifying” experience, according to Jarmon.

“We’re talking life and death,” he added. “In football, if you give up a first down… everybody is still alive. In nursing, if you don’t catch something then somebody’s family could be affected by that mistake or that decision forever.”

‘I just knew immediately that I loved healthcare’

The son of United States Army veterans, Jarmon moved from Fort Knox, Ky. to Memphis at a young age with his mother. He went on to graduate from Houston High School in Germantown before attending the University of Kentucky where he was named an All-SEC defensive lineman.

In 2009, Jarmon was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the third round of the NFL’s supplemental draft. He played in more than a dozen games with the league before his departure shortly after being traded to the Denver Broncos in 2011.

After spending several years selling medical devices, Jarmon realized that he wanted to pursue a career in nursing.

“I just knew immediately that I loved healthcare and I just needed to find the opportunity to be able to get back into the classroom,” Jarmon recalled. “I started taking some courses and… some 40 credit hours later I was eligible for the nursing school.”

In 2017, Jarmon enrolled in Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. at the age of 28.

He graduated the following year and interviewed with multiple hospitals before accepted a position at Sumner Regional Medical Center.

“We’re thankful that Jeremy chose to pursue nursing as his post-football career and are grateful to have him on our team at Sumner Regional,” Chief Nursing Officer Isabelle Garibaldi said. “Healthcare facilities across the U.S. continue to have a shortage of qualified nurses, and the percent of male nurses is still drastically disproportionate to our population.”

Staying healthy as a new father

In addition to taking care of COVID-19 patients, working as a nurse during a global pandemic also presented another challenge for Jarmon – keeping himself, his wife and the couple’s now almost five-month old son from becoming infected.

After returning from paternity leave, Jarmon checked his temperature at least three times each day in order to detect any changes that would force him to be quarantined from his family. He also began taking high doses of vitamins and would clean his fingers and nail beds with rubbing alcohol after returning home from work.

“Fortunately, we were able to get through that period (and remain healthy),” Jarmon said. “(The pandemic) is still ongoing, but during that time period where we had tremendous exposure to a lot of patients with COVID-19, we were able to come out pretty good.”

Outside of work, Jarmon continues to follow the University of Kentucky football program while also taking part in a pre-game radio program on gamedays. The 32-year-old says he still gets recognized by local college football fans from time to time.

He credits injuries and multiple surgeries throughout his athletic career with helping make him a better nurse “without a doubt.”

“I’ve been there, and because I’ve been there, I know what that looks and feels like,” Jarmon said. “I like being able to put my patients and their families at ease prior to surgeries because I know what they’re thinking.

‘I’m very proud to be in the position that I am.”

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