In mid-2020, after the brutal murder of George Floyd, nursing students Milania Harris and Zahra Alisa—both members of the BSN Class of 2022—determined to keep powerful conversations about race, justice, and inequity going and to keep theirs and others' outrage close. The student group they created sought to ensure that "no nursing or medical student leaves UVA without confronting their own biases ... and ready to provide the most effective, compassionate, and equal care."
In short, Advocates for Medical Equality (or AME for short) and the collaborative work they did with the School's Inclusion, Diversity, and Excellence Achievement initiative helped us own up, grow up, and transform good intentions into meaningful action. And in their brief but powerful lives, AME and IDEA have done just that.
[VIDEO] Creating a Culture of Belonging
They hung a prominent banner—“We acknowledge our complicity in perpetuating the unfortunate history of medical inequality"—pushed for anti-bias training, and created more than a dozen "ABIs" (anti-bigotry infographics) on topics as varied as LGBTQ+ health to racism's impact on maternal and infant mortality to the history of eugenics at UVA.
They overhauled the School's nursing student pledge with new verbal commitments to trample homophobia, ableism, and racism at the 2021 pinning and White Coat Ceremony in October `21.
They hosted forums on micro-aggressions, implicit bias, and urged their student peers and faculty and staff members to publicly pledge to antiracism at the School's annual #HoosInclusive campaign.
In early `21, Harris and Alisa were the only students to earn UVA Health's 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Award; IDEA, too, was lauded as one of just 10 nursing schools nationwide with a robust response and statements after George Floyd's killing. Said Senior Assistant Dean of Students Theresa Carroll, their nominator and champion, “Although it has taken many voices and many hands to create the results” sought, said Carroll, “they sowed the seeds.”
We salute Milania, a future women's health nurse and graphics whiz, and Zahra, a future pediatric nurse and beloved math tutor, for their fiery determination that has helped many more readily be the change they wish to see in the world. read more >>
It's been just over one year since COVID vaccines were deployed, and nurse Sandra Lindsay rolled up her sleeve to become the first vaccinated American. As soon as vaccines arrived UVA Health in mid-December 2020, nursing faculty like Beth Quatrara, Beth Hundt, Tracy Kelly, and Bethany Coyne were among the many faculty who rushed in to help, alongside alumni and graduate students Heather Cowan, Kelly Lewandoski, and Christine Owens, who were also early and faithful vaccinators. We even watched as then-CNL student (now a UVA Health pediatric nurse) Frankie Allen was one of six UVA Health staff to receive the first vaccinations at the hospital.
Before they could lend a hand, undergraduates, similarly eager, tucked into vaccine learning and practice. Between late-January to early March of 2021, four dozen then third-year students in Professor Emma Mitchell's community health class honed their injection techniques and patient protocols to prepare to vaccinate community members at the UVA/Blue Ridge Health District's COVID Vaccination Center, affectionately called "Big Shots."
[VIDEO] "Big Shots"
BSN student Logan Brady was the first UVA student to give a COVID vaccine. That same night, her peers in prof. Sharon Veith's clinical group, including Emma Carter, Rollins Terry, and Maddie Gereski, did the same.
Our nursing students have been the journey of a lifetime, and entering the profession in a moment when healthcare, and nurses, are more critical and celebrated than ever. Nursing graduate students, many of whom balance work and school, have a vantage on the profession that inspires both pride and exhaustion. We are beyond proud of all of these early vaccinators and the many, many other students who have and continue to leap in to help test, vaccinate, educate, and reassure.read more >>
Of course, National Institutes of Healthcare grants are the crème de la crème of science grants, and testament to the power, meaning, and applicability of LeBaron and Alhusen's nursing science. Read more about LeBaron's and Alhusen's bodies of work at the links.
Fourth-year nursing student Madi Wilson had just arrived at her OBGYN clinical rotation in late February when she first met Rachelle Aurand, a mental health counselor from Louisa who was 38 1/2 weeks pregnant and already deep into labor.
Aurand had previously suffered a miscarriage and was considered high risk, which, combined with a low platelet count and her health history, made her ineligible for an epidural. After doctors administered Pitocin to speed her contractions, Aurand, awash in pain, needed all the comfort and encouragement she could get.
That's where Wilson came in. Throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening, Wilson helped Aurand change positions, played gospel music, and offered massage, ice chips, and quiet encouragements. As the other nursing students filed out at the end of shift, Wilson remained well into the evening and was there when baby Brielle—a healthy 8 pound girl with a mass of silky black curls—was born.
“Compassion is not something you can teach; neither is empathy,” said Aurand, who noted that the name Brielle derives from the Hebrew word for strength. “Some people you meet, they make a lasting imprint. That’s true of Madi. I’ll never forget her.” read more >>
When it came time to plan our spring `21 magazine, vaccines had been deployed only to vulnerable populations and front-line providers, and we struggled—with constantly changing information—how best to capture the power and poise of our students and soon-to-be graduates as the pandemic churned around us.
What better way, we finally reasoned, than to tell their stories in pictures?
COVID CLASS: What We Know Now—the cover story for the spring `21 issue of our award-winning magazine,Virginia Nursing Legacy—offered 10 portraits of both undergraduate and graduate students, some of whom were already on the COVID-19 frontlines. For the photo shoots - done by talented photographers Sanjay Suchak and Kristen Finn - we asked each subject to bring something symbolic of their nursing. We were surprised, charmed, and moved by what they brought and what they said.
A look back at them and that moment in time. View the full featurehere.
"Rankings are not an end in themselves but rather a lens through which to view our work, strengths, and challenges," wrote Dean Pam Cipriano last March, as U.S. News & World Report released its annual Best Grad Schools Guide for 2022, and ranked UVA's nursing programs (again) among the nation's top 3% (the magazine would begin a new tradition of ranking BSN programs in fall `21, and ranked UVA's undergraduate program #9 among public institutions in a four-way tie.)
"I am immensely proud of what we have done together, especially after the challenges that 2020 and 2021 provided, and proud of the passion, determination, and compassion of our students, faculty, and staff. Rankings capture some things, but do little to capture the depth and variety of incredible efforts taking place within our walls—in equity, diversity, mentoring, research, student programming, interprofessional learning, and global endeavors.
"All of that—and our steady rankings—are something to celebrate together. I have each of you to thank for that." read more>>
Professor Jessica Keim-Malpass studies the use and deployment of predictive analytics in acutely ill and vulnerable patient populations, healthcare economics, and health policy. After several successful research grants to support her work to assess the path of pediatric sepsis, math models for drug allocation, and ways to support children with medical complexity and their families, Keim-Malpass was named one of just ten scholars chosen from across the nation to be part of the National Academy of Medicine's inaugural class of Scholars in Diagnostic Excellence, and the group's only nurse.
Keim-Malpass's work with Randall Moorman—called CoMET, a system that offers clinicians a visual portrait of patients' risk so they can be "proactive, rather than reactive"—has been deployed as a tool to predict decompensation of COVID patients at UVA Health—work that's been highlighted earlier this year in Smithsonian Magazine and on WVTF/NPR.
"There's a total akwardness to death," Professor Kim Acquaviva says in the opening to the New Yorker short film about how she and wife Kathy Brandt shared Brandt's journey with cancer from her diagnosis through death in August 2019. "There is a stigma around talking about death, sharing pictures of death, because most people don't know what it would look like, because it's scary," Acquaviva added. "[But] Kathy said, 'Let's just put things out there.'"
BSN student Davon Okoro spent the early months of the pandemic holed up in a Charlottesville hotel room studying, attending his nursing classes on Zoom, and missing his family and friends. But the solitude also stirred his creativity, and led to the establshment of a clothing line Guerison Globale, which, to date, has five collections of clothes including everything from t-shirts and hats to pants, satin puffy jackets, button-down shirts, and sun and prescription glasses frames.
Okoro, who will earn a nursing degree in spring `23, said nursing and design are separate in his mind, but that there are commonalities, too: "Nursing's a team sport," he said, "and fashion isn't something you can do by yourself, either."
At some point, Okoro plans to improve designs of nursing apparel ("never enough pockets!" he laughed) with some of his signature design elements. After earning his degree (he's set to graduate in spring `23), Okoro, a native of Queens, NY, plans to continue both professions.
“Design comes naturally," he said, "but being a nurse is what makes me feel most human.” read more >>
October 23, 2021, looked a lot like UVA School of Nursing ceremonies from years' past, with some important changes:
First, the BSN Class of 2025 received their first-year pins to mark the beginning of their journey in nursing a few rows over from their third-year peers, who received the final pins of their momentous nursing education;
Second, two classes (the BSN Class of 2023 and the BSN Class of 2024) donned their white coats to mark both the advent of second-years' first clinical rotations and a symbol of the fact of our third year students' clinical work, which they've already been doing for a year.