UNCG Magazine

Nurses on the front lines

DUTY CALLS. During the current pandemic, nurses across the state and nation are serving long hours with limited supplies and protective wear. Dr. Ernest Grant ’93 MSN, ’15 PhD, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), has a broad perspective, as he represents the nation’s 4.3 million registered nurses. 

An expert in burn care, he oversaw the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center’s Outreach and Prevention Program for many years. After Sept. 11, 2001, he volunteered in New York, caring for patients injured in the attacks. And now there’s another cataclysm, one that we all are facing: the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. 

“It’s vitally important that we do everything we can to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 and to reduce, not only the string of infections that are happening now, but also what might happen in the future,” he said in a March 30 interview. “Because, as more and more people contract it, it’s obviously going to prove quite a strain on the health care system as well.”

As ANA president, he is advocating for those on the front line to get the personal protective equipment they need. He is working with and encouraging government authorities to monitor supply chains to ensure that vital medical equipment goes where it is most needed. And through videos and social media, and through interviews with national news programs, he has spread the message: Follow your local and state directives about sheltering in place. 

“I know it’s very difficult. I’m a bit frustrated, myself, with having to stay indoors most of the time, but we all must do our part,” he said. 

Also, consider giving blood, he added. 

We’re all in this together. That’s the mantra. 

He notes that many play a critical role in the health care system, from the cleaning crews to the receptionists, from the lab technicians to the surgeons. 

And the nurses are at the fore – they care for patients 24/7.

“You go into nursing because you want to help your fellow man and because you want to make a difference. In a pandemic such as this – this crisis – it’s very challenging. It’s a step up from the day-to-day challenges that we encounter in our regular jobs. You’re asking nurses to dig even deeper.”

The spotlight is on health care workers during this crisis.

But when the attention turns elsewhere, the Spartan nurses’ heroic work will go on. The typical nurse that comes through the UNCG programs will help many thousands of patients over time. In cities, in rural areas, in hospitals, in nursing homes, in-person and online – almost everywhere. “They are absolutely stellar in what they do.”

I could not have gotten this far in my career without the education I received at UNCG.

– Dr. Ernest Grant ’93 MSN, ’15 PhD

UNCG Nursing makes that possible – as it did for Ernest, who grew up with limited means, the youngest of seven children in a small town in the North Carolina mountains. “I could not have gotten this far in my career without the education I received at UNCG,” he said.

In 2015, he became the first African-American male to earn a doctorate degree in nursing from UNCG. In honor of his mother, he established the Ernest J. Grant Endowed Scholarship in Nursing to provide support for multicultural male students with financial need. 

The University transforms lives, as you’ll see in the following pages. And the graduates go on to help save lives, no matter the challenge. 

Even – and especially – when the unexpected happens, when crises arise, when we all look for real-world heroes.

“In typical nursing fashion,” he said, “we rise to that occasion.”

By Mike Harris ’93 MA
Photography by Martin W. Kane. Dr. Ernest Grant ’93 MSN, ’15 PhD, president of the American Nurses Association.

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