Have you read Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview with popular nurse influencer and nursing advocate Nurse Blake? Catch up before reading Part 3.
Whether you know Nurse Blake from his Facebook videos, podcast, live shows, or cruises, he’s proven that he’s a force to be reckoned with!
Tell me a little bit about your shows. You had done some smaller ones, but how did it all progress?
It was just trying it out, honestly. I was like, “People like my videos. Maybe I’ll do a show.” I asked people, if I did a show, vote for your city. I think we had 40,000 votes. I thought, “Holy crap! People really want to see a show.” I’m like, oh my god, I’m going to put a show together. What would that even look like? And you know, people came out. First, I did five shows. Then I did 10, then we scaled up and did, like, 50, and they all sold out. I was only supposed to do 14 shows, but those all sold out, so I’m doing 50 again.
I’m lucky enough to be repped by CAA. They’re so awesome, you know? They work with me on what venues I want. I love to keep my ticket prices at a pretty good rate so even nursing students can come.
It’s a one-person show. It is just me. It’s a mix of stand-up but with skits and videos that I show that people have never seen before. I now break it up into three parts–my life growing up, nursing school, and nursing. It goes with my journey and my flow.
One of the other reasons I decided to do my show is that I was speaking at many nursing conventions at nursing conferences and hospitals. They wanted to tell me what I could or couldn’t and what I should say.
And I was like, you know what? I’m a nurse. I don’t advocate for these hospitals. I’m a nurse. I advocate for the nurses. So in my show, I say what I want to say. I feel like I could be vulnerable and share the good and bad that the nurses go through.
But at the end of the day, while it’s funny, and I poke fun at many things, I leave nurses feeling inspired, making them realize that they’re not alone.
What’s cool about my show is that I have audience members who are 18 or 19, to nurses who have been nurses for over 60 years. I have families come–different generations, where the grandma was a nurse, then the daughter, and now a grandson. I have whole units that come–groups of 30, and they make t-shirts.
Listen, no matter which age/specialty you are, we could all get in a room and laugh, right? We could all feel the sense of community and love because I know what the hard days are like. I know what it’s like to have a shitty shift, and you’re wondering, “Is nursing really for me?”
And just knowing that you’re not alone is powerful and keeps you going. So that’s what I like to show through my performances.
What have you learned from your nursing career trajectory?
I learned in just working with patients that you only live once. You can never be perfect, especially in this profession, and as a nurse, you have to do something that you really love. So, never, ever feel like you’re stuck anywhere. If you’re at a point you don’t like or dread waking up or going to that shift, switch it up.
We’re critical thinkers and innovators, so you should do that with your job and career. Mix it up. I’ve also learned to take risks and have fun, not take life so seriously, and live in the moment, you know?
After every show, when the theaters are empty and clear, I sit alone on the stage and think about everyone who came. We know our patients’ stories but often don’t know the stories of our co-workers and nurses. So, I try to get to know where nurses come from, who they are as individuals, and where they’re going because I think so many times, we look at each other like co-workers, but at the end of the day, we’re also patients in our way.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Oh, that’s a good question. One, that my husband’s 6’7.” And that I have anxiety and depression. I take my Wellbutrin in the morning. I take my Lexapro in the evening.
Many people see me and have misconceptions about people who have a presence online. Because you only see us when we post, right? I try and get raw and real. You see that from me when I’m in my show, and I share. No one knows I’ve ever had a panic attack before unless you’ve seen my show or that I’ve had multiple panic attacks. That’s what would surprise people maybe the most.
Is there anything I haven’t talked with you about that you think is important for our nurse readers to know?
Even though I have this comedy and humor platform, I balance that out with my advocacy. I launched a petition that got over half a million signatures to have organizations like the Joint Commission help us focus on safe staffing. I advocate for healthier work environments for nurses. I know we all hear the term “Nurses eat their young,” so I came out with the campaign “Nurses Support Their Young.” So as much as I love comedy, as much as I love doing shows, I also love advocacy work.
Why do you like doing what you’re doing so much? How do you think you’re making a difference as a nurse advocate?
I felt through nursing school that to make a difference, you had to have a master’s degree, have all these fancy letters behind your name, or go back to school to get your nurse practitioner. And when I was in nursing school back in 2013, I was denied being able to donate blood because I’m gay.
So, I started a campaign called Band4Life. I decided that I would help get the FDA to end its lifetime ban on gay males from donating blood. But I also worked as a patient care tech and went through nursing school. So, I thought that the FDA wouldn’t listen to me. But I started this campaign, shook it up with the FDA, and in December 2015, they ended the lifetime ban.
And that’s when I realized the power I had just as a nursing student. So many people think, “I’m just a nurse, or I just have my RN, or I just have my bachelor’s, or whatever.” But no matter where you are within your nursing journey, you have the power to create change. So, I encourage nurses to use their voices and not be scared. Because if you see a problem, if you don’t try to change it or fix it, who is?
Be sure to catch Nurse Blake’s PTO Comedy Tour throughout the U.S. and select cities in Australia.
Have you read Part 1 of our interview with popular nurse influencer and nursing advocate Nurse Blake? Well, if not, read that here before reading Part 2.
Whether you know Nurse Blake from his Facebook videos, podcast, live shows, or cruises, he’s proven that he’s a force to be reckoned with!
Have you always wanted to be a nurse?
Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. My dad has been a respiratory therapist for as long as I’ve been alive–31 years on the night shift. I remember hearing all his incredible stories about the people he helped and saved while growing up.
While respiratory’s really cool, nursing provides a few more opportunities and specialties you could get into. So, in high school, I started in the Health Academy. Then, the summer after I graduated, I was doing my prereqs for nursing. After that, there honestly wasn’t any other career I’d considered outside healthcare, specifically nursing.
I also started in healthcare early. When I was 17, I got my first job in healthcare as a patient transporter, and then I worked my way up. First, I worked as a surgical assistant in surgery, cleaning up all the rooms and sterilizing them before and after procedures. Then I also worked as a patient care tech in the neuro ICU during nursing school.
After you finished nursing school, where did you go from there?
I’ve gone all over. I got my first nursing job on a pulmonary care unit in South Carolina on the night shift, and that’s where I did my new grad residency programs. Then I moved to Houston, Texas. I worked at two of the large systems there in critical care on a liver transplant ICU floor. Then I also worked as an injury prevention coordinator for one of the busiest trauma center centers in the country at Ben Taub Hospital, Harris Health System.
I was part of the trauma team, where I would respond to all the traumas, see what mechanisms of injury came in, and then try to develop programs to prevent those injuries from happening in the community. Then I worked as a care coordinator in the trauma unit, where I worked very closely with social workers and all the teams, ensuring you were preparing patients for discharge and making sure they were ready to go home. Then I started getting into education.
I’ve been fortunate to work as a nurse in different states around this country and have different roles in nursing, too. I think it gives me a unique perspective of the nursing continuum–how we care for patients from before they get to the hospital until they go home, preparing new nurses to get into nursing, etc.
I take a little bit of every job I’ve had and put that into the work I do now. I tell stories in the advocacy work that I’m a part of. Because, so many times, we think the grass is greener on the other side, or you don’t know what other specialties go through. But we all pretty much go through the same shit.
Does Brett work with you?
Yes. I always bring him out on stage. People love Brett!
We run NurseCon, our education arm, where we provide nurses with free CNEs through our app. We have about 80,000 users. Nurses from all over can get their CNEs for free through us. We also have NurseCon at Sea, our nursing conference on a cruise ship.
Last year, we had 3,500 nurses. We take over a whole ship with Royal Caribbean, give nurses CNEs, and have parties and bring on dancers, drag queens, and educators. It was so popular that we’re doing two cruises next year. So, we’ll have about 6,000 nurses go through our conference next year
What kind of CNEs do you offer?
We do a wide array. We do get into specialties a little bit on our app. We are growing that library and have full plans to offer even courses for nurse practitioners in the future. At NurseCon at Sea, we’re going to have 35 CNE hours. We have 20 educators that will come on board, and we break it up into four different pillars and build our courses from there.
Why do you offer the CNEs for free?
Because it’s something I’m really passionate about. As nurses, we get our CNEs all the time, and I always hated paying for them. They were never very good. They were always, like, really boring. So some programs said, oh, we offer free CNEs, but it was typically for 1 or 2, or it was free, but then you had to pay to print the certificate.
So, I’m like, “Screw that!” If we’re going to NurseCon, all our CNEs will be free. So, it’s something I’m super proud of, and it’s totally worth it.
Check back next week for part 3 of our Q&A Blog Series with Nurse Blake and learn how he got into standup comedy and how he’s making a difference in nursing.
Whether you know Nurse Blake from his Facebook videos, podcast, live shows, or cruises, he’s the most popular nurse influencer on social media and a force to be reckoned with!
Well, at least helping the nursing community and making nurses laugh. And he’s doing that a lot.
He’s also, though, providing lots of educational opportunities for them as well.
Having graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2014, Nurse Blake, 31, has wanted to be a nurse since he was a kid. Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, he’s lived in many other states with his husband, Brett Donnelly. But now they’ve settled back where Nurse Blake came from in Orlando.
Nurse Blake talked with Minority Nurse about everything from how he started nursing to what he’s up to now.
Check back next Tuesday for Part 2 of our Q&A Blog Series with Nurse Blake.
How did all this come about? Now you’re a nurse influencer, but how did this start?
So, I was working in Houston, Texas, back in 2017. I was working in a critical care unit, and after I left my shift, I was driving home and had my first panic attack. Even before the pandemic, in nursing, we’ve suffered because of many of the same issues with staffing and lack of support, etc. I thought to myself that maybe nursing wasn’t for me.
I hadn’t been a nurse for four years at that point. I just felt alone and couldn’t do everything I wanted for my patients because there was so much red tape, policies, and documentation. So I needed an outlet to share my story as a nurse, and that’s when I started my Nurse Blake Facebook page.
And I realized, through everyone commenting and watching my videos, that I wasn’t alone and that nurses all over–no matter what specialty they’re in, how long they’ve been in nursing–go through the same thing.
When I saw that, through my videos, I helped other people keep going, and it helped nursing students get through school. I kept doing them.
As much as I love caring for and helping patients, I also love caring for and helping nurses. So it’s just kind of grown over the years, and I love bringing nurses together. I think that’s one of my favorite things about the live events and shows I do. It’s just so cool seeing large groups of nurses come to laugh and have the best night ever.
But it wasn’t like you thought you’d be a nurse or become a nurse influencer, and then I’ll go into comedy.
Yeah, I never thought I’d be doing comedy or anything on stage in front of thousands of people. In 2019, I started doing little live events. I would throw a party in Salt Lake City, which I thought was a little party, but then 2,000 people would show up, and there would be a long line of people trying to get in.
I teamed up with some MLB Baseball teams where we hosted “Nurse Nights.” I did a Nurse Night at the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park, and it was the largest event they’ve had there in Red Sox history. We had 9,000-10,000 nurses that came out. Then I realized that nurses didn’t only want to connect online. They want to connect in person. So, in 2019, I started doing little shows here and there in small, 300-seat theatres.
And then it kept growing and growing, and now I’m doing sold-out shows in 2,000-seat theatres and casinos. It’s pretty crazy and wild. I’m just so lucky to be surrounded by so many awesome nurses. I never, ever thought that my path would lead me here.
But I tell nurses that nursing can lead you in many different directions. So many times, we get stuck on one path. Like I’m going back to school to get my MSN, or I want to become a nurse practitioner. Sometimes we’re so focused on that idea that we miss other opportunities. Just keeping my mind and heart open kind of led me here.
Have you had experience being on stage before?
Being from Florida, I worked at Disney World because everyone works at Disney. I worked as Peter Pan at The Magic Kingdom while starting nursing school. That experience did help, especially doing meet and greets before or after my shows.
Check back next week for part 2 of our Q&A Blog Series with Nurse Blake and learn if he always wanted to be a nurse and what he did after nursing school.
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