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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Hi, I'm Chelsea! Travel Nurse, plant enthusiast, and Co-founder of The ReNegade Resume. In August 2021, I took a leap of faith and quit my staff nursing job to start travel nursing and I haven't looked back since.

Why Travel Nursing?

Becoming a travel nurse has been on my bucket list since I first started my career. Taking the leap had been on my mind for quite some time before I finally stopped making excuses for myself as to why I shouldn't quit my job as a staff nurse. I wasn't growing at my job and to be honest, I never really felt "happy" while I was there. I felt like my nursing career was plateauing and if there is one thing anyone knows about me, it's that I am ALWAYS looking for ways to level up.

Don't get me wrong, I achieved and learned SO much during my 3 years as a staff NICU nurse and of course, I would do it all over again.

But, you know what they say... when it's your time, it's your time. I knew this was my time to finally take the leap and start travel nursing.

I tend to be a meticulous planner, but I knew in my gut this is what I needed to do. So, I submitted my resignation letter (yes, without a new job secured) and started applying for travel assignments. Now let me tell you, this was not as simple as I thought it would be. I was not receiving any calls for interviews and I was starting to get discouraged. But then... BOOM. I received an instant offer for a position two days prior to my final shift at my staff job. And you know what made it even better? The position was in the exact location I had been hoping for all along. I was over the moon excited and ready to dive right in.

So, I accepted the offer and took my talents to Philly! Fast forward 15 weeks... I finished my first-ever travel contract and still can't believe I'm living out one of my top nursing career goals. Now that I've completed my first assignment, I wanted to share the top 4 things I've learned thus far in my travel nursing career.

1. You are at the bottom of the staffing totem pole.

It is almost guaranteed that you will get some of the busiest and crappiest (that's putting it lightly) assignments, and you can expect to be floated often. Continuity of care? Yeah, that takes a back seat when the patient assignment is done. There were stretches where I would work three days in a row, and have three different patient assignments. And for what reason? There wasn't one! You will get thrown into a lot of things you might not necessarily want to do, but do not let that affect you.

2. People will assume you don't know what you're doing.

Yes, it is actually insulting. You're the new nurse on the unit, and many of the staff nurses won't give you the time of day (haters gonna hate!). You can't control people's feelings toward you, but what you can control is the way you present yourself. So, my advice to you... prove them wrong! Focus on your work day in and day out and you'll be sure to leave a lasting impression on your patients. At the end of the shift, that's what really matters.

3. You need to assimilate to the unit culture.

Yes, you will need to get accustomed to the unit culture, but that DOES NOT mean you are doing something wrong just because you do it differently. Stand strong in your nursing judgment and continue to advocate for your patient's needs.

4. Know your worth.

I didn't go for the big bucks on this contract because I wanted to get my feet wet in travel nursing. I extended two weeks but was declined a rate increase for the first extension. Whatever, I brushed it off. After the initial extension, I offered to stay an additional two weeks, but again, asked for a rate increase. Guess what? That rate increase was denied again. My response? BYE (professionally, of course). I did not extend a second time. Surrounding hospitals were (and still are) offering DOUBLE the rates to work down the street. Please be sure to do your market research and analysis before committing to an extension. Know your worth because you are worth it. If the agency/hospitals can't pay you for your value, it's time for you to move on.

There you have it. The top 4 things I have learned so far in my travel nursing journey, and I'm not stopping any time soon. I have recently received an offer from AyaHealthcare and officially accepted and signed my second travel nursing contract. And yes, the bag is SECURED this time around. New York, I'm coming home!

Are you considering taking the leap to start travel nursing but haven't taken the time to update your resume or cover letter? I get it. That's what The ReNegade Resume is for. Let's revamp that resume and cover letter together, and get you on your way to living out your nursing career dreams.

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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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