Will Nurses Take the Lead in National Health Care Improvement?

The pandemic has educated the public about the nursing profession and the state of our health care system by:

  1. Showing the dedicated, skilled, and committed men and women as front-line professional nurses working to make a difference in the life and death of their patients—at times with great personal risk.
  • Exposing the discrepancy in access to health care services between the haves and the have nots.

In response the findings above, The Future of Nursing 2020-2023: Charting the Path to Achieve Health Equity believes that because nurses “work in a wide array of settings and practice at a range of professional levels . . . (t)hey are often the first and most frequent line of contact with people of all backgrounds and experiences seeking care, and they represent the largest of the health care professions . . . that (N)urses can reduce health disparities and promote equity, while keeping costs at bay utilizing technology, and maintaining patient and family-focused care into 2030.” Nurses can achieve this by not only taking a prominent leadership role in the national health care system but at all levels of health services.

            The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) with the endorsement of The Future of Nursing Committee developed nine recommendations for accomplishing this goal. You can read about them here.

Listen to this 5-minute audio, The Future of Nursing, which gives an excellent overview of the project.

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The public is often unaware that nurses work in such a wide variety of settings. Nurses’ knowledge and competence in the broad area of health care services and the fact they are the largest group of health care workers, validates their ability to take on leadership roles from the state and federal to community levels. 

Here is a list that Nurse.Org has compiled of some settings outside of hospitals where nurses work:

Top 20 Non-Bedside Nursing Jobs from Nurse.Org

1. Nursing Informaticshttps://nurse.org

The need to analyze and control health care costs has driven a surge in informatics as a nursing specialty. Effective nursing informatics can help to rein in health care costs at hospitals and other medical facilities. Plus, informaticists can also help bedside nurses care for patients more efficiently by improving systems. 

2. Nurse Case Manager

“More and more reimbursement for healthcare delivery is linked to readmission rates,”  said Cheryl Bergman, professor at the school of nursing at Jacksonville (Fla.) University.“ A nurse case manager helps manage the holistic care of patients to decrease readmission thus, keeping patients out of hospitals.”

3. Cruise Ship Nurse

A beyond-the-bedside job search could land you in a position that resembles an ongoing vacation. In normal, non-pandemic times, cruise ships come and go from the nation’s Southern port cities every day. These ships have to bring healthcare providers like cruise ship nurses on board to care for their passengers.

4. Legal Nurse Consultant

“Some law firms hire expert nurses for particular cases (such as surgical nurses if the case involved a surgical claim),” Bergman, of Jacksonville University, says. “The pay per hour is often set by the nurse and could be very lucrative ($300 an hour) for reviewing the legal documents with additional fees if called for deposition.”

5. Nurse Educator

Nurse educators can shape the future of patient care, both at the bedside and throughout the nursing profession.

6. Healthcare Risk Manager

Risk managers work to ensure patient and staff safety, respond to claims of clinical malpractice, focus on patient complaints, and comply with federal and state regulations.

7. Certified Diabetes Educator

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 21 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes while another 8 million have this condition but don’t know it yet. That’s a lot of people who will need help controlling their blood sugar in the next few years.

8. Flight Nurse

Bedside nurses who enjoy critical/emergency care may enjoy the challenges of flight nursing. Flight nurses help transport critical patients via helicopter or airplane. 

9. Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses help solve crimes and collect evidence. They can also help a coroner determine a cause of death. 

10. Nurse Health Coach

Are you the kind of bedside nurse who enjoys developing one-on-one relationships? Have you ever found yourself, weeks after a discharge, wondering how a patient is getting along? 

11. Nurse Administrator

If you want to get away from direct patient care at the bedside but think you would love the business side of healthcare, nursing administration may be the perfect new career for you.

12. Telehealth Nurse

Telehealth nursing uses mobile phones, tablets, and computers to provide remote healthcare and medical education. 

13. Nurse Writer

Nursing school requires excellent communication and writing dozens, if not hundreds, of papers about healthcare. This is why some nurses may want to turn their skills into a new writing career.

14. Correctional Nurse

Just because some patients are incarcerated doesn’t mean they don’t need medical care, mental health care, or emergency care.

15. School Nurse

If children have always been your favorite patient population or you just need a change of pace from working with adults, then becoming a school nurse may be an excellent fit for you!

16. Public Health Nurse

As opposed to bedside nurses who work one-on-one with patients, public health nurses promote the health of an entire population.

17. Infection Control Nurse

If you like working in the hospital setting and enjoy conducting research, you may want to consider becoming an infection control nurse

18. Nurse Recruiter

Nurse recruiters help healthcare, and medical companies fill staffing gaps. This allows hospitals and health facilities to provide safe and effective patient care and ensure that the business’s operations continue to run smoothly.

19. Medical Device or Pharmaceutical Sales 

If you want to use your clinical expertise to help patients live healthier lives working in the corporate world, medical or pharmaceutical sales might be an excellent opportunity for you!

20. Utilization Review Nurse

Utilization review nurses ensure that patients receive the care they need while also preventing unnecessary or duplicate services. They work with patients, families, and healthcare staff to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the care plan. They also work with insurance companies to ensure coverage for the services provided. 

It’s not always better to be treated by a doctor than a nurse

Five Myths about Nursing

by Rebecca Simik

Washington Post

February 3, 2022

The pandemic has shined a spotlight on the critical role of nurses in hospitals — and the risks they routinely encounter while doing their jobs. The field of nursing, however, is still deeply misunderstood. This is perhaps no surprise: Nurses’ work is often undervalued compared with that of doctors, and almost 90 percent of the nursing workforce is women. Here are five common myths about the profession.

Myth No. 1

Nursing is lucrative.

Nursing is sometimes described as a lucrative career. Since the pandemic began, articles have highlighted the huge demand for these highly skilled professionals, as well as the particularly profitable career of travel nurses — who go wherever they’re needed, sometimes earning $5,000 a week, even more than doctors make.

The reality is that most registered nurses make a solidly middle-class salary. A 2020 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median annual wage for registered nurses is $75,330 — respectable but not remarkably lucrative, particularly when many employers don’t give pay raises for additional certifications. According to ZipRecruiter, in some states, average salaries hover around $55,000.

Myth No. 2

Nursing is no longer a desirable job.

The great exodus of health-care workers is a pressing concern, two years into the coronavirus crisis. This is evident not just in the steady stream of news stories about fed-up nurses quitting on the spot, but also in viral Twitter videos like one from an ICU nurse who, in an explosion of angry sentiment, quit after 19 months of working in pandemic conditions.

In fact, interest in this career remains high. An NPR segment from October reported that some community college nursing programs have 800 applicants for only 50 openings. Research data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows that 2020 enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs increased by nearly 6 percent, enrollment in master’s degree programs went up by 4 percent, and doctor of nursing practice programs saw their enrollments jump by almost 9 percent.

And according to the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, thousands of foreign nurses, ready to work, are awaiting U.S. visa approval.

Myth No. 3

It’s better to have a doctor treat you rather than a nurse.

It’s widely assumed that doctors are the best at all medical procedures, including starting IVs or drawing blood. This myth shows itself in medical TV dramas like “House”andGrey’s Anatomy” that almost exclusively portray doctors as the only members of a treatment team, or editorial cartoons questioning the merits of nurse practitioners. More recently, physician Sandra Lee, from the reality TV show “Dr. Pimple Popper,” received a lot of negative fallout over a tweet questioning why a WebMD article discussing sunburn vs. sun poisoning was written by a nurse instead of a dermatologist.

One reason this struck such a nerve is that a significant part of what nurses do, besides provide direct medical care, is educate patients and family members. Nurses advise parents on how to care for newborn babies who spent time in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Many procedures typically done by nurses — like placing urinary catheters or, in many states, removing sutures — haven’t been done by doctors since they were in medical school. Furthermore, a physician-run study published in the Lancet research journalfound that nurse practitioners performed as well as junior doctors on all procedures and tasks in their emergency department, except two — taking medical history and educating patients at discharge — on which the nurses performed better.

Myth No. 4

The pandemic has made nurses’ jobs dangerous.

Divisive politics have created increasingly risky situations, with health-care workers sometimes getting threats from those who oppose the coronavirus vaccines or want unproven medical treatments for their sick loved ones. This is reflected in headlines like “Health Workers Once Saluted as Heroes Now Get Threats” and “US hospitals tighten security as violence against staff surges during pandemic.”

The reality, however, is that these jobs were dangerous well before covid-19. Nurses and other health-care workers accounted for 73 percent of all injuries and illnesses resulting from nonfatal workplace violence in 2018, according to a BLS report. The Justice Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have long reported that nurses and other bedside care providers, such as medical technicians and nursing assistants, are most at risk for an incident of workplace violence. The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak in 2017 called nursing one of America’s most dangerous jobs and highlighted an emergency room nurse in Southbridge, Mass., who survived a vicious stabbing; a Massachusetts health-care safety bill was named after that nurse (the measure stalled in the legislature).

Beyond that, roughly 86 percent of registered nurses are female, and the field is still subject to over-sexualized stereotypes. Each Halloween brings a new wave of “naughty nurse” costumes; type “nurses” into the GIF search box of any messaging app, and you’re likely to find sexually suggestive images. Sandy Summers, a registered nurse, argues convincingly that these images fuse “caregiving with easy sex,” creating a dangerous atmosphere of disrespect. One research review found that 43 percent had reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment. Julia Lehman, an emergency department registered nurse, told me that sexual harassment is so common, she builds deflection statements into nurse trainings that she leads.

Myth No. 5

Nurses are superheroes.

Because of the nature of their jobs, nurses often perform remarkably well under stress. But this has turned into the harmful misconception that nurses are somehow superhuman in their resiliency. A contestant on CBS’s “Tough as Nails” cited being a nurse as a reason she should be successful in the show’s grueling competitions. Well-meaning posters, T-shirts and even art from the likes of Banksy depict medical workers in superhero masks and capes; Marvel Comics created “The Vitals,” a comic book featuring nurses in pandemic-related medical adventures. Research shows that the perception of toughness permeates the field.

The sober reality, however, is that living up to this superhero image is impossible — not unlike Luisa in the Disney movie “Encanto,” who is both heroically strong and tragically anxious. In a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey last year, 62 percent of health workers said worry or stress related to covid-19 had a negative effect on their mental health.

A 2020 study from the University of California at San Diego established a higher rate of suicide in nurses compared with the general population, which led the school to develop a suicide prevention program specifically for those in health fields. This and other crisis interventions help considerably. Code Lavender, an alert system created in Hawaii and championed by the Cleveland Clinic, draws a rapid-response team of traditional and holistic practitioners to help hospital staff or patients within 30 minutes of a report of a particularly traumatic incident.

Five myths is a weekly feature challenging everything you think you know. You can check out previous myths, read more from Outlook, or follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter.

By Rebecca Simik

Rebecca Simik is a graduate student in the science writing program at Johns Hopkins University. She was a research associate at University of California, San Diego, for 20 years and managed both clinical psychiatry and neuroscience research groups focused on severe mental illness.

What does 2022 hold for Nursing?

The nursing profession has been riding a roller coaster these past two years as we lived with the pandemic.

In the beginning:

  • The World Health Organization designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife spotlighting the profession internationally
  • Nurses were applauded by New Yorkers who stood on their balconies or hung out the windows of their high-rise apartments every evening at 7 pm to show appreciation for the care nurses gave the growing numbers of COVID patients
  • News coverage centered on the plight of the bedside nurse dealing with daily death and inadequate supplies along with the chronic nursing shortage
  • Stories surfaced in the media not only about nurses but written by nurses
  • Nurses were getting the attention they had long lacked and their contribution to the health of our population was being recognized

When the 7 pm applause from New York City residents faded, nurses still held the attention of the public into 2021. Media coverage showing nurses treating their acutely ill patients led many to seek nursing degrees.

It’s really quite reassuring, and one of the silver linings of this pandemic, that we have a new generation truly inspired to enter health care for altruistic reasons, (Dr. Neha Vapiwala) ‘Silver lining’ of 2020: Medical and nursing schools see increase in applicants, Today, December 22, 2020.

However, nursing schools continue to lack qualified instructors. Faculty is aging without replacements and classes are reduced. While there is an increase in applicants, many are turned away.

Last year, enrollment in baccalaureate and higher-level nursing degree programs increased, but colleges and universities (not including community college nursing programs) still turned away more than 80,000 qualified applicants due to shortages of faculty, clinical sites and other resources, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Yuki Noguchi, The US needs more nurses, but nursing schools don’t have enough slots. NPR Health, Inc., October 25, 2021.

We continue to see nurses leave the profession due to burnout, a persistent problem exacerbated by challenging working conditions. The industry standard of 12-hour work schedules may be more efficient for the hospitals than the nurses.

What we found was that any time after 12 hours, the medical errors that nurses were involved in started to escalate dramatically. And the reason that this was important is we found in our study that most nurses that were scheduled to work 12 hours really were there 13 or 14 hours. Linda Aiken, Conditions that are causing burnout among nurses were a problem before the pandemic, NPR, January 7, 2022.

 An additional problem for nurses is that they are pulled away from the bedside to do non-nursing tasks, such as patient status documentation. Sandy Summers, The Truth About Nursing, has suggested that nurses need secretaries or assistants to do this burdensome chore. To this, I can only add Amen.

Going forward into 2022 I am cautiously optimistic, given that the pandemic has demonstrated that nursing does make a positive difference in the health care of individuals and communities, we will begin to see corrections to the problems stated above.

I hope I’m right.

Remembering Doris

I submitted this essay to the Jersey City Medial Center School of Nursing Alumni Association Newsletter for the Fall publication. Limit: 500 words.

Remembering Doris Dolan

(December 31, 1926 – January 10, 2021)

Class of 1947

I met Doris back in 1965 when we both worked at Pollack Hospital in Jersey City. We became friends immediately. It was easy to like Doris: she was warm, gracious, non-judgmental, caring and a great nurse. 

Doris worked at the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry’s Cardiac Cath lab at Pollack and moved with the College when they set up shop at Newark Hospital. She stayed with the Department of Cardiology until her retirement. 

Although I hadn’t seen Doris over the years, we exchanged Christmas cards. 

In 1994, my husband, Ernie, and I reunited with Doris and Bud at a wedding. The next few years, we, Doris and Bud and another couple, Mary Ann and Bill Owens, vacationed together. (Mary Ann worked with Doris at Pollack, too). “Bud and I always wonder why you include us old timers in your travels,” Doris would ask. We always had the same answer: “we enjoy your company.” 

The last time I spoke to Doris was before the Pandemic. She and Bud lived in a CCRC. She had had a couple of falls and suffered a subdural hematoma. Surgery released the pressure. She recovered well but had some short-term memory loss. 

Soon after that phone call, I was invited to speak at the JCMC Nursing Alumni Association at the Spring Luncheon in April 2020. I would talk about gerontological nursing: I was one of the first GNPs in the 1980s and wrote a book about my experiences: “Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic.” 

I planned to ask Doris to join me. 

What a great reunion it would be! 

But it never happened. 

The Spring conference was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

When I next called Doris, a caregiver answered the phone and told me that Doris couldn’t talk to me. Bud couldn’t articulate how Doris was doing. I called a few times after that—always told by the caregiver that Doris was either eating or napping. 

I wanted to thank Doris for sharing her “expert” cardiac knowledge from back in the 60s—the time frame of the nursing stories I had been writing for publication. She had mailed me reprints of studies and news clippings that filled the gaps in my memory. My essays were richer because of her input. 

I wanted to reminisce again about our talk at the Jug, a Greek restaurant not far from Pollack Hospital. I was 23 years old and afraid of marriage. I couldn’t decide to accept Ernie’s proposal. Doris was happily married to a loving, compatible husband. Thankfully, I listened to her. I think she felt delight for the longevity of my marriage. 

This past March, on a hunch, I looked up Doris’ name on Legacy.com. She had died on January 10th. The obituary was brief with one comment written by Doris’ only relative, a nephew. 

I hastily added mine:

So sorry to hear of Doris’ passing. She and I met back in the 60s when we worked together as nurses at Pollack Hospital in Jersey City. We also traveled with Doris and Bud and kept in touch over the years after we moved out of state.
She was the most generous, caring and kind person I ever knew. 
I will miss her.

Doris & Bud Dolan October 2010
(Bud died November 9, 2020)

Writing More Personal Stories

While it was time consuming, I loved doing the April Alphabet Challenge A to Z. It got me writing new stories, released memories I had forgotten and expanded my writing skills. Going forward with my Blog, I will intersperse more personal tales. 

This is a timely decision since nurses are getting greater attention being on the forefront of the pandemic. Look what nurses do, shout the headlines. Plus, nurses are writing their own stories in essays, news media and books in greater numbers. This is just fantastic. I feel more comfortable cutting a back bit on my emphasis to show how nurses make a difference. 

Also, there seems to be a national movement to grant nurse practitioners the legal authority to practice independently. That is, to practice without physician oversight. While I was busy constructing a daily post for the month of April, a friend emailed me an article about nurse practitioners titled: We trusted nurse practitioners to handle a pandemic. Why not regular care(Lusine Poghosyan, The Niskanen Center Newsletter, March 9, 2021). Before COVID-19, only 22 states allowed NPs to practice independently. Since then, governors of 23 states have signed executive orders to permit NPs to practice without physician agreements. 

Sadly, it took a pandemic to unearth the truth that nurses and NPs do improve patient care and make a difference in the health care system. 

Alphabet Challenge: C

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

C: Coney Island

Last year, I had planned on taking my grandsons to New York City with a side trip to Brooklyn to scour the neighborhoods and check out the restaurants and, especially, to see Coney Island. The COVID-19 Pandemic interrupted my plans. 

Truth be told, I really wanted to go to Coney Island. I haven’t been there since the 50’s. My high school friend, Gloria, and I would take a couple of trains from Jersey City to Brooklyn at least once a week during summer vacations. Besides slathering baby oil on our bodies and roasting in the sun, we also went on the rides: 

Cyclone

Steeplechase horse ride

Parachute Jump 

I’ve read that the Parachute Jump still stands since it has been designated a city landmark but Coney Island as I knew it is gone. No matter, when I return the beach and ocean will greet me.  

Through the Eyes of Nurses

On February 25th in the New York Times, two stories appeared about nurses. Both sobering. Both timely. Both essential.

In my last post, I celebrated the fact that although the pandemic is killing scores of people and putting a strain on resources, including health care personnel, nurses have been in the forefront of the media getting the recognition that they have long deserved. And more nurses are speaking out by telling their stories. Long overdue. 

However, the two stories in the NYT need to be read/viewed. One is by Theresa Brown who I have many times spot-lighted here because of her accurate assessment (my view) of nursing issues. A nurse herself, she has been calling attention to the nursing profession in the media and through her books. 

Brown’s piece: Covid-19 Is “Probably Going to End My Career,” is an exposé of what is terribly wrong in the profession and what should be done. She writes bravely and honestly about the precarious state of organized nursing. 

The second article, One I.C.U. Two nurses with cameras, is written, not by a nurse, but by a photojournalist. He filmed a fifteen-minute video that is raw footage of two nurses working with dying Covid patients in the ICU. Unvarnished, compelling and poignant. It’s a must watch that shows exactly what nurses experience during their shifts.    

I’ve attached the links to both essays. The fifteen-minute video is imbedded in both. 

Covid-19 Is “Probably Going to End My Career 

One I.C.U. Two nurses with cameras

Glass Half-Full

Dominated by political turmoil and the COVID-19 Pandemic, this past year has been a roller coaster ride with few brief moments of slow travel interspersed with deep dives of fright and foreboding. The highs that I have enjoyed come in part from the increased attention given to nurses. I have long complained that the nursing profession has been mostly invisible to the public eye, media and policy making sectors. The increase in visibility and status of nurses in these turbulent times looks to me like a glass half-full. 

I celebrate all the recent recognition direct towards nurses. When have nurses spoken up in great numbers for their profession, their practice, their patients and for their contribution to the world-wide challenge to defeat of the COVID-19 Pandemic? When have nurses received so much positive media awareness? Been frequently appointed to expert panels along with physicians and other health care professionals? Interviewed prominently by the news media? Featured favorably on TV shows? 

How much of a coincidence was it that 2020 was designated by the World Health Organization as the Year of the Nurse and the Nurse Midwife? 

In reviewing my posts of the past year, I have pulled out the ones that show increased focus on the nursing profession. I enjoyed revisiting them and am hopeful that the positive attention showered on the nursing profession continues. 

Nurses Gain the Attention They Deserve

Impressive List of Nurse Experts

United Kingdom Nursing Students Work on the Front Lines of the Pandemic

The Power of Nurses

Nursing Students Provide Insights into the Pandemic Media In-Depth Look at Nurses

Heroic Symbol: A Nursehttps://nursingstories.org/2020/05/26/badass-nurse/

One of the memes circulating on the social media platform Reddit created from a photo of UNC Hospital emergency room nurse Grace Cindric taken by News & Observer photojournalist Robert Willett earlier this week.

What Would Flo Think?  

Why Does It Take a Pandemic to Recognize Nurses? 

Nurses Transform Lives

Time to Take a Break

I want to revisit a time that made me happy. I invite you to look back to a moment that brought you joy, too. Find what you can to feed your soul and rejuvenate your body so you can participate in finding the solutions to our current troubles. Take a break in this time of the Pandemic and Black Lives Matter to temporarily distance yourself from the daily bombardment of negative news.

It is a time that I truly hope is not a moment but a movement. May we all keep the movement alive until we have made lasting changes.

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I remember how I felt on a lovely June day in 2017 when I visited the North Carolina Museum of Art and joined the “Ladies in Sequined Dresses and Sneakers” from New York that led us through the art galleries marching and stepping up to the music of the Bee Gees: Staying Alive. Ironic title, isn’t it?

I hope that the video at the end of this post lifts your spirits.

A Little Music and Movement Can Make You See Things Differently

Originally published June 6, 2016

Yesterday, I went to the North Carolina Art Museum at 10 a.m. to move to music.

Two women led, followed by a man in a suit holding an open laptop channeling the songs that were mostly by the Bee Gees. The women, in sequined dresses and sneakers, stomped, marched, trotted in time with the music. Thirteen women and two men, ranging in age from 20 to 70 plus, followed behind, mimicking the women’s movements. We didn’t talk.

I felt exhilarated racing through the empty museum with music bouncing off the walls surrounded by other exuberant people. The moves were not stressful. I did most of them except balancing on one leg and I stopped halfway through the jumping jacks.

The group stopped intermittently in front of a piece of art: statue, still life, portrait, and continued to move/exercise in place. Short inspirational narratives, previously taped by Maira Kalman, punctuated the music. Normally, when I visit a museum, I would gaze at the art in quiet contemplation. This time my mind and body seemed as one, absorbing the stimuli transmitted from the environment, my thoughts suspended.

When the two women dropped to the floor, I felt as if someone turned off the lights. Lying among my fellow participants with arms and legs outstretched, I realized that fifty minutes had flown by.

Now the day after, the residual glow from yesterday remains with me.

My new goal is to have more days where I step out of the ordinary.

Thanks Monica Bill Barnes & Company!

Anna Bass,me,Monica Bell Barnes, Robbie Saenz de Viteri

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The first performance The Museum Workout appeared at the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Check out the video of the performance. 

photograph by loulex for the New Yorker

Madame X, meet Ladies in Sequined Dresses and Sneakers. For “The Museum Workout,” which starts a four-week run on Jan. 19, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, Everywoman dancers of deadpan zaniness, guide tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art before public hours, leading light stretching and group exercises as they go. Recorded commentary by the illustrator Maira Kalman, who planned the route, mixes with Motown and disco tunes. Might raised heart rates and squeaking soles heighten perception?

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Heroic Symbol: A Nurse

I first saw the picture of nurse Grace Cindric a month ago in our local newspaper, the News & Observer.

In the photo, there’s a swagger in Cindric’s stride, a steely resolve in her sunglasses and respirator mask. In a sleeve of tattoos, there’s a friendly-looking panda staring out from her arm.

The Pandemic is bringing nurses into the spotlight, showing what they do. The media is finally taking notice.

There are some positive outcomes of this virus.

‘YOU’RE A MEME NOW’

UNC nurse becomes heroic face of coronavirus fight

Drew Jackson, News & Observer, Sunday May 24 2020

One of the memes circulating on the social media platform Reddit created from a photo of UNC Hospital emergency room nurse Grace Cindric taken by News & Observer photojournalist Robert Willett earlier this week.

Reddit

After News & Observer photojournalist Robert Willett took a photo of Grace Cindric, a UNC Hospital emergency room nurse, memes like this one circulated on social media.

In blue scrubs and a floral fanny pack, UNC nurse Grace Cindric has become the hero we need right now.

In late March, News & Observer photographer Robert Willett snapped a photo of Cindric screening visitors heading into the UNC Medical Center Emergency Department, separating those complaining of coronavirus-related symptoms and everyone else.

In the photo, there’s a swagger in Cindric’s stride, a steely resolve in her sunglasses and respirator mask. In a sleeve of tattoos, there’s a friendly-looking panda staring out from her arm.

“I woke up the next morning, and it was everywhere,” Cindric said. “I first heard from my friend who posted it on Reddit; they said, ‘Fair warning, this got bigger than I expected. … You’re a meme now.’”

Since it was published, the photo has made the rounds on Reddit and Twitter, inspiring dozens of Photoshopped images depicting Cindric in heroic poses. In one a red cape billows behind her, in another she appears on the cover of a fictional video game called COVID-19.

“It was very strange at first. I was like ‘This is too much attention,’” Cindric said. “But I’ve accepted it, and I’m just rolling with it.”

A SYMBOL FOR OUR TIMES

She is the Badass Nurse. A meme, yes, but also a symbol, a face of the nurses and doctors fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. As coronavirus cases mount in North Carolina and across the nation, as citizens panic-buy groceries and avoid their neighbors, Cindric wears scrubs like body armor, with a walkie-talkie on her belt.

To many commenting on the photo online, Cindric represents the heroism of medical professionals putting themselves between the public and the pandemic.

“I think it represents something bigger,” Cindric said. “It’s good that people are starting to see doctors and nurses out here in the middle of everything, doing this work. It’s a fun picture, it’s not terribly serious, but it represents what we’re doing. We’re all putting ourselves in harm’s way to stop this.”

Battling a pandemic is not exactly what Cindric imagined nursing would be like. The UNC-Greensboro grad has been a nurse for four years, the last two spent in UNC’s emergency room. She said she got into nursing to help the community and jumped in the emergency room for its variety.

“As an emergency room nurse, you’ve signed up to do anything,” Cindric said. “The task changes all the time, you never know what you’re walking into. … It’s a little bit of everything, and you have to kind of be a jack of all trades.”

‘COMMUNITY RALLYING BEHIND US’

Cindric said the coronavirus outbreak has escalated everything, that guidelines and roles are constantly changing, that the job she thought she knew feels like it changes by the hour. But she said she feels the community supporting their work, that people send meals and well wishes.

With the photo, Cindric said she’s feeling love and support flowing in from around the world.

“We feel the community rallying behind us,” Cindric said. “We knew the work we’re doing was important before, but we feel the respect from the community. They bring us food and send us messages. The outpouring really makes you appreciate the work you’re doing.”

JACKSON: 919-829-4707, @JDREWJACKSON

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