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The ReNegade Blog

Happy Black History Month! Black History Month is a month to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans throughout history. Let's remember and recognize those who have made significant contributions to the world of nursing. Although there are MANY Black women in nursing we should know about, here are five that played a vital role as caregivers and healers in their era.

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole is known for her medical work in the Crimean War. She was a British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman who created the British Hotel for sick and recovering soldiers. Mary was forgotten about in history after her death in 1881. It was only in 1980 that historians rediscovered her extraordinary story.

Mary Mahoney

Mary Mahoney graduated from the New England School of Nursing in 1879 and became the first Black registered nurse in the US. She was 1 of 3 students to graduate from the program, initially starting with 40 students. In 1903 the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses was established, with the help of Mahoney. The Mary Mahoney Award is considered one of any nurse's top honors.

Hazel Johnson-Brown

A nurse and educator denied admission to Chester County Hospital School of Nursing for being black. She then attended Harlem School of Nursing. She served as a nurse in the US Army from 1955 to 1983. She became the first Black female general in the US Army AND the first Black chief of the US Army Nurse Corps in 1979.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman is well-known in history for escaping slavery and becoming a leading abolitionist, but very few people know she was also an incredible nurse. She cared for the sick people she rescued from the underground railroad and led them to freedom. She then became a nurse in the Union Army, caring for thousands of ill and injured soldiers - both black and white.

Mabel Keaton-Staupers

Mabel Keaton-Staupers fought publicly to include Black nurses in the Army and Navy during World War II. In 1945, the Army Forces Nurses Corps opened its doors to all qualified applicants because of her regardless of race. She then worked to combat the tuberculosis outbreak in African Americans by establishing the Booker T. Washington Sanatorium.

The support for African American nurses has come a long way, such as establishing the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA). The NBNA serves as "the voice for Black nurses and diverse populations ensuring equal access to professional development, promoting educational opportunities and improving health" (NBHA, Inc.).

Throughout history, many Black nurses did not receive any support or advocacy during their time. This month (and every month), we recognize their incredible contributions to advancing the field of nursing.

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This week’s ReNegade 💫 is Sharon!

Check out her interview advice below!

I've been a nurse since 2012. I remember submitting more than 100 applications when I graduated from nursing school and passed the NCLEX. I mean, I was applying near and far at this point because I had a family to consider. Finally, I landed my first interview at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. It was a mass hiring for the nurse residency program. I was more than nervous and anxious. I remember walking in and seeing all these people sitting and standing around, waiting to be called. My stomach was doing flips. I heard my name being called and stood up and went into the HR office. Honestly, I didn't know what their interviewing process looked like, but it was a doozy. The HR woman began asking me the normal questions about why I wanted the job and why I chose the option of wanting to work in cardiology. The one that got me was cardiology because I have always been petrified of the heart all during nursing school. Now, why would I voluntarily ask to be placed on that unit? My answer was honest and to the point. I responded, "well, miss, I feel confident in a lot of the other areas, but I chose cardiac because it scares me the most and if I can conquer that fear then I feel like I can do any part of nursing." She was smiling and told me she wanted to place me there before seeing that I had already chosen it. Whew, I was off the hook, or so I thought.

No, then she says I'm going to call the unit's Assistant Director of Nursing because she'll come down to interview you as well. My heart was beating so fast as I said okay and went to the waiting room to await my fate. It seemed like I was waiting forever, but it was only a few minutes. I looked up to see the HR woman walking toward me with a Black female she introduced as the ADN. I stood up, looked her right in the eyes while extending my hands, and said “I'm Sharon; it's nice to meet you.” Now I thought we'd go into one of the offices, but no, she says “come with me. I'm going to take you to the unit, and you'll meet the Director of Nursing and our nurse managers.” I walked as quickly as I could in my kitten heels in what was an eternity to get to the floor. It's a huge hospital. I was introduced to the unit's floor managers, and they did a quick quizzing of simple questions that were easy to answer. Then on to the DON's office, where I met a tall, well-groomed, Black woman who had the brightest smile. They both offered me a seat, and I handed them a shiny black folder with a cover letter, my resume, three letters of recommendation, and a card.

They asked me to talk a little about myself, and I did. Then the DON said, "we're going to ask you a series of questions and just take your time and respond, there's no need to be nervous." I said to myself, "says who?, Lord I’m about to drown. Whenever someone says there’s no need to be nervous it’s time to be nervous." but I smiled and patiently waited as they started to quiz me. Boy could I use a bathroom break right now, my stomach was bubbling all over the place. I was so scared. And I told you previously that I was scared of cardiac, right? Well, wouldn't you know they'd ask me everything cardiac? Lord, I thought I'd die. I said this is my worst nightmare. I was sweating and trying not to look like I was about to pass out. Remember, I'm fresh out of nursing school now, lol. “So, Sharon, what steps would you take if you walked into your patient's room? Their BP was 68/50, they were barely responsive, shallow breathing, and their heart rate was 55. I took a hard swallow, looked down to the floor while I tried to think of the right things to say. I looked up and said, well, I know the BP is too low, so they're hypotensive (trying to use the big words to impress them). I know they're bradycardic and can hardly respond. They looked at me and said “yes, so what's your next step?” I said “scream for help,” lol. They looked at me and said okay with smiles on their face. As if to reassure me that they were sort of okay with that response. Then the DON said, “well, is there anything you can be doing while waiting for help?” I'm thinking to myself, miss; I just got out of school. All I know is to ask for some help. Instead, I said “I’d take the blood pressure again, maybe even manually, position the patient's bed for CPR just in case, and call for the crash cart.” I was trying to remember what I saw on Grey's Anatomy and Hawthorne but was drawing a blank. It was the best I could come up with, but they were satisfied and said I’d learn more as I go along.

They started asking about how the blood flows through the heart, and I thought, oh Lord, I just lost this job. I started but stumbled through it and told them honestly, I couldn't remember everything. I was honest, and they appreciated me for it. We sat talking a little more, and they opened the folder and said, “what is this? They opened the card. I had written a note expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to interview them. I told them I looked forward to my start date and learning so much from them. The DON said, "well, you already sound like you know you got the job." I smiled and said “I'm getting good vibes.” I was called the very next morning and offered the position. The HR woman said the DON and ADN both raved about how much they liked me and my spirit.

If there were any words of advice I could offer someone going for an interview, it would be this:

  1. Show up like you already have the job.

  2. Be confident but humble.

  3. Dress the part! ( I saw people come in with jeans and tennis, and they were escorted right out when the HR person came to get them and saw how they looked. Some young ladies looked like they were going to the club instead of an interview).

  4. Practice things to say with people who've been on many interviews so you won't be so nervous and stumbling over your words.

  5. Have a folder with cover letter, resume, recommendations, and a handwritten card in hand for at least 4-5 people because you never know how many people you'll interview with on that day.

  6. Please make a list of questions you want to ask about the position-specific to the interviewer. For example, HR (what is the wage, benefits, how is leave accumulated, etc.). Director of Nursing (the patient to nurse ratio, how many techs per shift, scheduling, time off requests, etc.). e They appreciate it when you come with something to say and not just expecting them to do all the talking.

  7. Know something about the organization and be interested in telling or asking them about one or two specific things. Ex. I see your hospital is Magnet; how is it striving to maintain that status? What are some of the committees you offer for new grads to join?

  8. Remember to Breathe! Pause or ask to come back to a question you’re not sure of the answer! Always be truthful, if you don’t know say “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” People respect people with integrity and it shows you’re honest and forthcoming about all things and not just what you know or believe to be true.

Lastly, be ON TIME!!! Early is on time, and on time is late. I live by this. Good luck to you as you embark upon an incredible journey in nursing. It’s well worth it!

-Sharon (IG @Shesthatrn)

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When I hear the term cover letter, my mind puts them in the category of landlines, dial-up internet and mp3 players- old school.

Most employers have done away with the mandatory cover letter for prospective employees and many of my fellow résumé editors and career strategists may tell you there’s no need to submit one in t

I'm with you. If it's optional, why do it? Let’s talk about it.


What is a cover letter?

According to Merriam-Webster, a cover letter is a letter that is sent with something to explain the reason for it or to give more information about it. In the context of job hunting, a cover letter gives more information about the applicant and usually accompanies a résumé and any other supporting documents submitted to a recruiter or manager.

Okay so we know what a cover letter is- why do I need one?

As a new graduate nurse, you enter the nursing job market with thousands of other nurses with pretty much the exact same résumé content. You went to ABC nursing school, recently graduated/ passed NCLEX, have clinical experiences in Psych/ Mental Health, L&D/ Obstetrics, Pediatrics, Medical/Surgical nursing and Public/ Community Health. You may have some fun stuff to add, nursing honor society, clubs and volunteer involvement, etc that can help set you apart from other applicants. You may even have experience as a CNA/ nurse extern too- these are all great accomplishments to be proud of.


What does your résumé really say about you as a person, what you’re like to work with or what your values are? Hopefully not much or it’s probably too wordy and long hahaha

In comes the cover letter to save the day! The cover letter is where you get an entire page to write about how bomb you are! You can elaborate on topics mentioned in your résumé or talk about something completely different that makes you an awesome candidate for the position you’re applying for.


I was a new grad applying to work in the pediatric ICU AND I just so happened to be a previous PICU patient as a child. Of course, this means I can offer empathy and understand what patients are experiencing while in the PICU but where would this information go in my résumé? Nowhere, it would be weird AF to put that in my résumé but does that mean it isn’t important?

Excerpt from my actual cover letter:

“As a previous PICU patient myself battling severe asthma, I have a unique understanding of what my patients are experiencing and thus can offer empathy and and enhanced patient care experience in a way many of my peers may not be able to.”


Now the hiring nurse manager has a little more of a reason to bring me in for an interview over the next candidate. Maybe the next candidate also was a PICU patient but how would the hiring manager know if he/she didn’t submit a cover letter?

Now do I think you should write a cover enter for every job you’re applying to? Not necessarily- that can be super time consuming and I understand how it is. I DEFINITELY definitely recommend submitting cover letters for the jobs you REALLY want- your top 5 choices or so- to give yourself that extra leg up.

See below for some tips to help you with your cover letter process


The ReNegade’s Guide to Cover Letters

1. Know the template of a formal letter- use Microsoft Word for guidance or my favorite friend, Google

2. If you’re not sure of the nurse manager or nurse recruiter’s name, address the letter as ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or ‘Dear Nurse Recruiter’

3. Introduce yourself in the first paragraph including credentials, graduation date, nursing school, NCLEX status (passed, will take on xyz date)

4. Lookup the hospital and unit you’re applying to- know their mission statement and core values and mention them in your cover letter- this is where you impress them hahaha

Example: ‘I truly admire XYZ Medical Center’s commitment to diversity and interdisciplinary collaboration as evidenced by the institutions mission statement’

5. Talk about yourself next- time to hype up your extracurricular involvement, relevant clinical experience, your personal life that brought you to nursing or this particular type of nursing for which you are applying, etc. From my personal experience, this is where a lot of my interview questions came from- “Tell me more about your time in the PICU as a patient”

6. Lastly, talk about how much you want the job- eloquently, of course, no desperation!

Example: “Working at XYZ hospital has been a dream of mine and I’m sure I will continue to build on the skills I have already learned in school while working on the unit among the amazing nurse educators and preceptors that make this institution great!”

7. You can reuse cover letters for other positions! Honestly most hospitals have the same basic idea for core values and mission statement so you probably won’t need to change much there. When I was applying for multiple pediatric units, I used the same cover letter for the most part and tweaked a few things to be more tailored to the specific unit.

BE SURE TO CHANGE HOSPITAL NAME, ADDRESS AND UNIT NAME IF INCLUDED. Don’t embarrass yourself folks, if you’re going to reuse the cover letter, make sure you thoroughly look through the document to change anything irrelevant to the new position you’re applying for.


Overall, I see no downside to submitting a well written cover letter. Do I always submit a cover letter when applying for positions? Nope. Do I always submit cover letters for jobs I REALLY want? Absolutely. You never know when that personal touch can make the difference between securing the position or being looked over...

<3 The ReNegade

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