Making History: Q&A with ANA’s First Male President Ernest Grant

Making History: Q&A with ANA’s First Male President Ernest Grant

On January 1, 2019, Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, became president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the first man ever to hold the position. As a minority nurse trailblazer with more than 30 years of clinical and leadership experience, he was well equipped to break one of the remaining glass ceilings in nursing.

Grant, who holds a PhD in nursing, headed North Carolina’s nationally renowned Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where he started as a staff nurse in 1982. He has deep roots in the area, having earned his bachelor’s from North Carolina Central University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from UNC-Greensboro.

An internationally recognized expert on burn care and fire safety, Grant was presented with a Nurse of the Year Award in 2002 by former President George W. Bush for his work treating burn victims from the World Trade Center site of the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Grant won the election by an overwhelming majority of votes from his colleagues after having served as vice president of the ANA and being an active member for decades. The organization has served nurses for 122 years, and now represents more than four million registered nurses nationwide.

Grant intends for his appointment to help unravel stereotypes about men in nursing. He plans to use his term to address some of the most pressing issues in the field, such as a looming nursing shortage that more inclusionary educational recruiting practices could alleviate.

We interviewed Dr. Ernest Grant to learn more about his historic election as ANA president and what the future holds for the association under his leadership.

ANA President Ernest Grant

ANA President Ernest Grant
Photo credit: Max Englund/UNC Health Care

What are your top priorities as far as encouraging more diversity in nursing?

Increasing gender and ethnic diversity in nursing is one of my top priorities. A nursing shortage is expected as the general population is aging, and experienced baby boomer nurses are retiring.  (Projections are that 500,000 seasoned RN’s will retire by 2022, and 1.1 million new nurses will be required to replace them.) There are ways we can avoid this [predicated shortage], which include recruiting more men into nursing and increasing diversity across the profession.

How will you encourage greater diversity in the nursing profession?

There should be more people of different backgrounds entering the profession so that it reflects society. One way to achieve this is through better access to scholarships and other educational and community resources. People of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds must know what’s available—that there are federal loans geared to nurses, for instance.

A nursing assistant may not be aware that taking courses at a community college is possible or that an employer may offer tuition assistance. But the stumbling block is not always money; it could be having young children or home responsibilities. Online training or resources in the community that pay for child care would be the solution then.

What would encourage more men to pursue the nursing profession?

Men are joining the profession. Seeing someone who resembles them in the health care system has helped empower them to become nurses. Promoting images of men in nursing needs to begin early, starting at the grade school level and letting boys see men who are nurses. “Here’s somebody who I can identify with,” they will think. Then at the high school level, it gets reemphasized by a guidance counselor or health occupation program. In those programs, they can get certified as a nursing associate, and obtain more exposure to nursing.

Currently, 9 to 13 percent of nurses are men, but when I started it was much less. (Probably it was only 3 to 4 percent.) Several things are contributing to the increased interest, including increased representation in advertising and the media. Another is men who served as medics in the military but then unfortunately don’t [immediately] qualify for any nursing jobs. There are some accelerated nursing courses nationwide for former medics. In my state, they can choose nursing school, PA school, or medical school—all are good options for our military folks.

How did you get interested in nursing and decide to make it your career?

I grew up in a very poor community, as the youngest of seven, and my father died young. It took a village. Everyone knew everybody and people made sure you studied and didn’t misbehave. They said they knew I was going to successful.

When I got into nursing—I started as an LPN—I intended to go on to medical school. I got exposed to men in nursing and was fortunate enough to have multiple mentors to go to for advice. These are still my mentors. Thanks to Dr. Gene Tranbarger and others, who paved the pathway for me. When I started my studies in the mid-70’s and early 80’s, there were many stereotypes about men in nursing, but you don’t hear them as much anymore.

People know: Men are just as capable of providing care as women. You can be masculine and still care. I’m 6’6” and very large, so a lot of people may think “this guy is going to hurt me” but I’m really a gentle giant. They would soon realize that and ask for me as their nurse.

How has being a racial minority impacted your career as a nurse?

It has impacted my career, especially in the early years. (I grew up during time when segregation was ending.) Once in a while, you may meet someone who doesn’t want you to care for them because of your sex or color or both. Now it doesn’t happen as often. You have to prove yourself to be just as competent of a nurse as your white counterpart.

Have there been other minority nurse presidents in ANA’s history?

Yes, ANA has had two African American presidents, Barbara Nichols (served 1978-1982) and Beverly Malone (served 1996-2000).

I would like to be judged by my capabilities, not by my race or gender. My leadership skills are what got me here. I’ve worked very hard to win the respect of my colleagues. Men ran before for ANA president but faced a lot of obstacles. I’m looking forward to this challenge and endeavor.

 What do you want MinorityNurse.com readers to know?

Consider joining ANA and your state nurses association if you’re not already a member. As you begin your career, I want to encourage you to be more politically savvy at the legislative level. You need to be more aware of how decisions in the house or senate may hurt your ability to practice to your full license and educational level. Or it may limit your ability to treat patients—if they can’t get to us to access care [due to political efforts to replace or end the ACA]. If we’re not smart enough to advocate for our patients, then we’re doing a disservice to them.

Get out there and attend town hall meetings that your representatives are having, and volunteer to serve on their committees as a health care expert. Who else out there is more of a health care expert than a nurse? I would challenge all nurses to be more politically astute about how decisions at the state and national level affect the nursing profession.

This Just In! Nurses are #1 with Americans

This Just In! Nurses are #1 with Americans

The annual Gallup Honesty and Ethics Poll was just released and the results show the most trusted profession, ranked #1 for an astounding 17th consecutive year!, is—drum roll, please—nursing.

When a sampling of random Americans were phoned and asked to “please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields,” more than 84% rated nurses as “high” or “very high.” (Other ratings they could have chosen were “average,” “low,” or “very low.”)

Gallup has sampled the public’s views since 1976, and while the professions change from year to year, nurses have outpaced all others since 1999 when the role was first included. That is, nearly every year, because there was one time when nurses didn’t top the list. That happened in 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when firefighters were included for the first and only time and scored highest. Gallup conducts the telephone survey in late November and releases the results in December.

Health care professions usually dominate the top of the list, and this year is no different. The most trusted groups after nurses were medical doctors, scoring 67%, and pharmacists, coming in right behind at 66%. The lowest rankings for honesty and trustworthiness go to telemarketers and sadly, members of Congress, tied for last place at 8%.

What is it that makes nurses so esteemed for their ethics and honesty? There are many theories, ranging from degree of intimacy (we stand naked—both literally and metaphorically—before nurses) and the fact that nursing is a female dominated profession. The Gallup data suggest that women, on the whole and on average, are seen as more trustworthy than men.

(Estimates are that 90% of nurses are female, according to the American Nurses Association, but that percentage is dropping as more men enter the field.)

Additionally, nurses have a code of ethics to uphold, and they study that topic seriously in nursing school to prepare for difficult ethical dilemmas with life and death consequences. Their licensure also compels them to do what’s right for the patient, not just what’s expedient or in their own (or their employer’s) best interest.

In the end, though, trust is based on personal experience. With nurses making up the largest portion of the health care workforce, almost everyone has had a relationship with a nurse, either as a patient, family member, or friend. They’ve most likely seen that nurses are always there, and always for you, as caregivers and patient advocates.

“Every day and across every health care setting, we are on the frontlines providing care to millions of people,” says ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “Nurses’ contributions to health care delivery, public health challenges, natural disaster relief efforts, research, education, and much more, are unmatched and invaluable.”

Unmatched they are! We would like to congratulation to all the extraordinary nurses for ranking at the highest level for your ethical standards. We know that nurses have many super powers—trustworthiness is maybe the greatest one.

Holiday Self-Gifting For Nurses

Holiday Self-Gifting For Nurses

The holiday gift buying season is upon us! You’re probably going down your shopping list and trying to find just the right gift for friends and family. You may even have nurse friends and colleagues that you want to gift with fun nurse-themed items you hope they’ll love.

But what about you? Maybe you, like many nurses, have a tendency to forget to take care of yourself. (It’s hard for many caregivers to remember that they need to take care of #1!)

When you’re in the thick of a crazy work shifts and off-duty holiday goings on, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. You need a little break, though you may not know the exact remedy that your mind and body needs in hectic moments.

So, why not find some go-to self-care items for whenever you need a pick me up in 2019? Have fun doing your self-gifting by shopping online (Amazon is the biggest bazaar!) or at local independent shops and craft fairs. You can combine convenience and also support makers on Etsy. It’s like a massive online craft pop-up with thousands of amazing shops from around the world. Not only can you find one of a kind pieces, but you’re also supporting small creative enterprises.

Here are some favorite gift ideas on many nurse wish lists this season.

Socks, footies, and shoe inserts—not glamorous but oh so comfy.

If you’re on your feet all day long, a great gift idea may be a thick pair of warm footie socks for the winter season, or a pair of compression socks (there are some stylish choices out there!), or a foot massager and DIY pedicure kit. Shoes need some cush? Try a comfort insert from a drugstore or specialty shoe store that stocks the Birkenstock brand.

Warm, snuggly blanket for hygge comfort, or a weighted blanket for stress-relief.

Enjoy your days off under a perfectly knitted wool throw, chunky or light as a cloud—the type of knit that invites you to snuggle in with a good book. Or try one of the new weighted blankets that are gaining popularity for their health benefits. They help many people reduce workplace stress and improve sleep, especially nurses on shift work suffering from off-kilter circadian rhythms.

Healthy snacks for the active nurse, or artisan food and drink for foodies.

Being a nurse means being on the go, so nurses may not have extra time to pack a lunch or snack to bring to work. That often means relying on a vending machine or cafeteria to fuel up for long shifts. Disaster! A gourmet gift basket of healthy treats like nuts and dried fruit may help you hold out until you can enjoy a nutritious meal. On your days off, sip on a favorite at-home drink, such as a matcha green tea latte. And savor it in an encouraging mug, with a witty or wise nurse-life quote and graphic.

Manicure, pedicure, massage, or other spa treatment!

Hand lotion gift sets make great gifts to help sooth away skin that gets dry from a grueling hand-hygiene regimen. (Harsh hand cleansers and sanitizers are murder on delicate, weather-beaten skin!) Bubble bath products and spa baskets filled with bath products in a keepsake basket will give you a night of much deserved pampering.

Or better yet, treat yourself to a mani/pedi or an all out body care pampering session at a spa. Men make up a fast growing percentage of spa goers, so don’t let gender stereotypes stop you from getting or giving a gift certificate for spa services.

A journal, some gel pens, and washi tape.

If you equate journal with diary, and you haven’t kept one since middle school, you may be surprised at the popularity of new journaling methods. Bullet journals are one way to goal-set, and keep yourself motivated and organized. Many nurses also love to express themselves in a “bujo” through doodles, watercolor, fancy lettering, or stickers and washi tape.

You can treat journaling as a time to explore your inner life, a form of meditation, if you like. In that case, the Nurse’s Journal from the Josie King Foundation is wonderful. Create an introspective ambience by lighting a couple of candles. Artisan candles—with sparkles, soy waxes, exotic oils, or delicate flower petals— add some magic.

I hope that seeing some of these ideas will inspire you to treat yourself to some self-care. We all need reminders to take time to relax and do what makes us happy!

A Nurse’s Journal: Writing Out the Storm

A Nurse’s Journal: Writing Out the Storm

The Josie King Foundation believes that nurses are leading the charge for a safer, more compassionate health care system. But they realize that in addition to the joys of healing, nurses face many emotional upheavals related to patient suffering, a complex workplace, new technologies, and fear of clinical errors. When personal pressures from everyday living are added to the already heavy load, the weight can lead to nurse stress, anxiety, depression, or burnout.

The Josie King Foundation developed the Nurse’s Journal in 2004, to help alleviate stress through expressive writing. (The journal was a response to results from a research project, Care for the Caregiver, that indicated it was sorely needed.) Created with the help of experts on the topic and specifically for nurses, it is offered by the nonprofit as a tool for self-directed writing or through facilitated journaling workshops.

The Nurse’s Journal is an attractive 61-page spiral bound notebook and is filled with helpful content such as evidence-based theories about journaling, before and after stress evaluation forms, and suggested resources to help nurses cope with work-related stress.

The majority of pages are low-content, with just short guided writing exercises to help you reflect on the stresses of your work life and personal life. For instance, the first one is titled “Guided Writing: Signs of Stress,” and includes the following prompt:

“Things to consider. Do you notice stress-related symptoms in your life? Is there a particular time of day or day of the week in which you feel more stress? Do your stress symptoms affect your job performance or your quality of life? What do you do to combat your stress?”

The page ends with a quote from the Dalai Lama about avoiding the burnout associated with witnessing great suffering.

In between the prompt and the quote, the page is empty so that a nurse is free to write out their own personal thoughts and feelings, as an antidote to workplace and life stressors.

Since launching the Nurse’s Journal in 2004, the Josie King Foundation has distributed them to more than 15,000 nurses. Many hospitals buy the journals in bulk as a gift for nurses during the winter holidays, or to mark Nurses Week, or at anytime for staff training and development purposes.In addition, they offer a companion Nurse’s Journal Guidebook for anyone who would like to facilitate journaling workshops for nurses.

For more information about the mission of the Josie King Foundation and their line of specialty journals for nurses, caregivers, and patients, visit http://josieking.org.

Reflections on Reasons for Gratitude

Reflections on Reasons for Gratitude

Thanksgiving is over, but the spirit of the holiday doesn’t have to end. In fact, the warmth and introspection can help illuminate this season as we plunge into darkness. When you count your blessings you probably list your loved ones, the roof over your head, and every cupful and plateful that nourishes you.

But do you consider your profession and how it supports you financially, and in less tangible ways? You don’t have to wait for National Nurses Week in May to celebrate your role.

At the beginning of this holiday season I wrote blog posts about gratitude for this site. At the same time I was also interviewing nurses for other blog posts and articles so I’d casually ask them what they were thankful for right now. Big, small, and in between—it was fascinating to hear their responses.

They confirm some of what I’ve learned over the years talking to nurses from different backgrounds and in varied health care environments and specialties. Almost always, I hear that nurses are grateful for some, if not most, aspects of their chosen career.

Here are some of the main reasons nurses say they’re thankful:

Nurses make a difference in someone’s life every day. When they go to bed at night they have the gratification of knowing their work matters. A lot of people in other jobs, whether blue collar, pink collar, or white collar, don’t have that satisfaction. Many of this nation’s workers are now employed in “paper shuffling” occupations that don’t seem to have intrinsic meaning.

Nurses are working in a field that’s in high demand and that pays a family wage. Kiplinger magazine recently reported that the best return on investment when it comes to a college major is nursing. Based on the average income that a graduate could anticipate and the average tuition and fees to earn a bachelor’s degree, nursing came out on top. Their next best choice for major is biomedical engineering.

Nursing has so many different specialties and paths, so as a nurse you don’t have to ever get bored. Nurses can also stick to the same specialty but switch to a different health care environment. One nurse said she was thankful that when it was too physically demanding for her to work as a floor nurse in a busy hospital she was able to transfer over to a quieter asthma clinic.

Nurses are also able to add to their skill sets or even go for advanced degrees, and often their employer will cover the tuition. That’s becoming less common as companies refuse to pay for training and development for their existing workforce.

When nurses start families and want to be home more they can often cut their hours to part-time. Or when they get to the point that they want to retire, they can sign on with a travel nursing company that will get them temporary jobs in their preferred locations.

Some semi-retired nurses hit the road in an RV, taking their homes with them. That way they’re comfortable as they travel to assignments. They can also choose to work in resort areas or to pursue outdoor activities, wintering in the mountains and summering at the beach, for snow skiing and water skiing adventures.

Finally, nurses are making a real impact on health care as doctors and administrators have become more bottom-line or left-brain oriented in their approaches. The nursing profession still holds a holistic view of patients and encourages a humane approach to care. Patients (and fellow staff) are fortunate to be surrounded by nurses, genuine people who carry so much kindness and eagerness to do good.

The more that you recognize the positives of your role as a nurse, the easier it is to put up with the negatives. Because every field has its pros and cons, periodically it’s good to examine what you’re getting out of it. That awareness and sense of gratitude is what makes for a happy and healthy nurse, which makes for a long and sustainable career.