From suits to scrubs: How one nursing grad made the bold move to change careers completely

May 15, 2023
Three football players on the field celebrating. Two are jumping in the air as one stands nearby
Zach Boden celebrates a big play for the Duke Blue Devils. Boden, who played alongside now-New York Giants' starting QB Daniel Jones, said, "He's a super good dude. He's also a lot richer than I am now." Provided by Duke University Athletics

The spreadsheets never stood a chance.

It was 2021, and Zach Boden was up late, crunching numbers on corporate tax returns. 

“I just remember looking at the clock – it was, like, 3 a.m. – and I thought, ‘What am I doing with my life? I don’t want to do this anymore,’” Boden said.

It was a feeling that had been slowly building for the financial analyst of more than five years, finally boiling over that early morning in the glow of his computer screen. 

Ironically, a few months later, while rescuing a woman – wearing no clothes and wielding a butter knife – from a tree, the 28-year-old with a master’s in business had a completely different feeling. 

He knew he was finally on the right track.

Road less traveled

On May 20, Zach Boden will officially become a registered nurse when he graduates from MUSC’s College of Nursing. How he got here – his path, if you will – isn’t the same-old “I just always had a fascination for health care” journey. A career in medicine was never really on the Atlanta native’s radar. 

“To be honest, I never really knew what I wanted to do when I grew up,” he said. That wanderlust attitude, that lack of gravitation to any one particular subject or vocation, left him open to any and all possibilities. As a result, Boden seemed to go all-in on everything he did – from science to English to sports – on the off chance it ended up being his thing. 

Eventually, football and baseball won out. It was the academic part – more specifically, the answer to the question: “What will I do for a living?” – that Boden still hadn’t figured out. Though he might not have had a clear direction on his occupational compass, Boden did well in school. So well, in fact, one of the places that offered him a scholarship was Harvard University.

“I want to be clear here,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh. “I totally wouldn’t have gotten into Harvard if not for sports.”

Zach Biden stands outside, with his hands in his pockets, smiling in front of the College of Nursing 
Boden stands in front of the College of Nursing. While still working in finance, Boden volunteered with the Goose Creek Fire Department. Ironically, he responded to exactly zero fires during the year or so he worked there – but the job was life-changing nonetheless. Photo by Sarah Pack

Sure, Harvard recruited him to play on its football and baseball teams, but his academic record was nothing to sneeze at. Couple that with the kind of personality that makes others feel special – Boden has a way of clicking with people he’s just met, like he’s known them for years – that no doubt resonated with the prestigious Ivy League school.

Less than a year into his time at Harvard, things took a sad turn when his baseball coach had a heart attack and died during Boden’s freshman year. Two weeks later, the team’s running backs coach – the man most instrumental in recruiting Boden to Cambridge – took the head coaching job at Yale. 

Understandably, Boden went through a few things. He started thinking. Reflecting.

“I was just like, ‘I don't know. I'm from Atlanta. Nothing is really keeping me up here besides athletics.’ So much had changed so quickly for me, you know? I just wanted to go. To leave,” he said.

And so this time he rushed to a different end zone, 700 miles south to Duke University. It would be the first of several mature-beyond-his-years decisions Boden would make. And it would be that fearlessness to make big changes – the instinct to zag when others zig, to take the chance and the road less traveled – that would be one of his most defining traits in life.

Though he didn’t replicate his success on the football field in Durham, North Carolina (“We got our butts kicked every week – but at least it was on national TV, right?”), he did make lifelong friendships and even met his future wife, thanks to a spur-of-the-moment weekend road trip to visit some pals at Davidson College. 

Zach holds his wife Katy in his arms while the couple stand on the beach. Zach is wearing a white shirt and khaki pants and Katy is in her wedding dress. 
Zach and his wife Katy, a cardiothoracic nurse at Roper Hospital, got married on the beach in 2020. "It was during COVID, so we had another celebration in 2021," he said. "And everybody was there." Photo by Silver and Chalk Images

Finding his own way

There came a point in time at Duke when Boden couldn’t hedge any longer. He needed to choose a path, to declare a major that would hopefully relate to his future career. With no real clear path in front of him, he opted for the logical choice: to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the family business – real estate finance.

“My old man really wanted me to do it, so I gave it a crack,” Boden said. Slight pause. “And it sucked.”

In Boden’s defense, he came to that conclusion honestly, after five long years working in finance – even spending a year post-graduate earning his Master of Management Studies (MMS) from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. He gave number crunching his all.

“I’m not trying to bang on finance,” he said. “You’ve got to find the balance between paying the bills and being happy. It did fine in the pay-the-bills department. It just didn’t make me happy enough.”

Two men standing in a warehouse, smiling for the camera 
Boden and HomeGrown Lifting business partner, Will Whitman. The two were teammates at Harvard. Photo provided

What it did do, though, was provide Boden with the seed money – and more importantly, the confidence – to start his own business with one of his former Harvard football teammates. In 2019, the two launched HomeGrown Lifting, a company that manufactures and sells fitness equipment. Thanks to COVID (said no one, ever) and a new wave of people looking to work out at home, not in a crowded gym, HomeGrown took off in a big way. That successful foray, coupled with a wild hair – his wife, Katy, a cardiothoracic nurse, whose sense of purpose not only inspired Zach, but piqued his interest in health care – led him to volunteer for the City of Goose Creek Fire Department as a firefighter/EMT.

It was during those weekend shifts – answering calls to help people who had overdosed, fallen off a ladder, gotten stuck in a tree naked – that a fire was lit. (Ironically, he never once responded to an actual fire.) And his passion for patient care blossomed.

And so there he was, the human dichotomy: By week, he was MBA Zach, keeping things in the black; by weekend, he was volunteer firefighter/EMT Zach, keeping people on the ground (and in their clothes).

And he loved it. 

More specifically, he loved the time he spent with patients. Helping them with their wounds. Riding with them to the Emergency Department. Sitting with them at the hospital.

So it was inevitable. In the summer of 2021, Boden was accepted into the MUSC College of Nursing’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. During the 16 months that followed, he was named Student Government Association president, shadowed Katy for several weeks and even randomly got the call to be a bone marrow donor (he plans to meet the 5-year-old recipient this summer). In May, he’ll begin a new job – trading in his suit for scrubs – as he works as an R.N. for Roper Hospital in its ED. 

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I’m gonna be raw, but man, am I excited to get up in the morning and do a job I’m passionate about.”

Get the Latest MUSC News

Get more stories about what's happening at MUSC, delivered straight to your inbox.