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May 4, 2021

Nursing & Healthcare

Nurse Heroes—Health Professionals Change Lives

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Where would we be without nurse heroes? Because of their tireless efforts on the front lines of emergency care, lending support to other medical professionals, and helping communities to achieve their health goals, we all benefit from their dedication and tenacity. 

WGU offers a variety of degree programs that aim to prepare nurses to make a difference in the communities, whether they're navigating critical emergencies or helping with regular preventive care. In honor of the nurse heroes who impact our lives, we’re highlighting four WGU graduate nursing heroes who have made a big difference in the communities they serve.

Hope Cummings with Patient

Hope Cummings

Director of Patient Care Services, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Greenville, SC

WGU Degree: Master of Health Leadership

2020 was a challenging year for many, but for Hope Cummings, it presented an opportunity. Realizing that she was at a pivotal point in her career, and having worked in leadership roles in the past, Hope decided the time was right to return to college to get a graduate degree. Working as a nurse during the day and caring for her twins at night, Hope still found the time to navigate her course load and graduate with a Master of Health Leadership in just 10 months. 

As a result, Hope stepped into the role of Director of Patient Care Services for Shriners Hospitals for Children, where she oversees radiology, rehabilitation, prosthetics, and—as she put it—“Anything that would involve patient care services; I oversee all of those touches for each child that enters our building.”

How does Hope feel about her position? “Being a nurse makes me get out of bed each morning,” she said. “This position is the equivalent of a Chief Nursing Officer at other hospitals. I just love the career choice, I love being part of the medical team, I love being part of a child's experience—just knowing that somewhere along my path each day that I can do something good for someone and to be able to help and to provide care. That's what keeps me going.”

Andrew Nagel

Case Manager, Registered Nurse, Indianapolis VA Hospital (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs), Military Veteran, U.S. Army (22 years of service), Indianapolis, IN

WGU Degree: Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Andrew Nagel’s journey to become a nurse started early, with a stint as a nursing assistant before he joined the military at just 17 years old. Then, in the year 2000, the military gave him the opportunity to attend a civilian program to become a licensed practical nurse. 

 

He also trained as a combat medic, where he served as support to hospitals and ambulance companies. Andrew banked 22 years of experience before retiring. He now works at the Indianapolis VA Hospital as a registered nurse, where he cares for fellow veterans and helps them optimize their medication regimen, gives them dietary counseling, connects them to other care services such as physical therapists and psychologists, and even makes house calls as needed.

It’s a role that Andrew finds incredibly rewarding, even through the challenges of navigating COVID-19. “For me, the rewards have been being part of a team that goes out and gives vaccinations to patients who are stuck in their homes and can't get out to hospitals or clinics—and they are so thankful,” he said. 

“I can walk into a veteran's home, and we may come from vastly different worlds. Our upbringings may be different, we might be from different parts of the country, but because we have both served our country, we have that commonality. And as a nurse, that can be a very powerful thing because it helps build that nurse patient relationship,” Nagel added. “And they'll chat your ear off. They're just happy that you're there and they're so thankful that you brought this medication out to them that's going to help them save their life hopefully.” 

And if you ask Nagel how he feels about his role, he’ll tell you that, without a doubt, now is a great time to be a nurse.

Michelle Rousseau

Risk Manager, Catholic Health Services, Miami, FL, Lives in Miramar, FL

WGU Degree: Bachelor of Science in Nursing

As a nurse risk manager and patient safety officer, Michelle Rousseau has been on the front lines of COVID-19—and dealing with the challenges of the virus in her own home. Michelle’s daughter, an OR nurse, had tested positive for COVID-19 in early 2020. 

 

And once her daughter’s test results came back positive, Michelle faced even more challenges as she cared for her daughter at home and led her nursing team temporarily on a remote basis. 

Even though Michelle was experiencing hardships and pressure due to the pandemic, she still found the inner strength she needed to pull through. “I am more equipped to face the many challenges brought by COVID-19 because of the skills I acquired as a nurse leader, which allows me to contribute to the organization by looking at things from a systemic perspective,” she said. “I was born a leader and a degree from WGU validates that I am doing what I was made for.”

 

Robbie Reno

Nurse, University of Louisville Hospital, Louisville, KY

WGU Degree: Master of Science in Nursing–Leadership and Management (Current student)

Ask Robbie Reno how he feels about being a nurse, and he’ll tell you it’s his ultimate calling in life. He started his career as a travel nurse, hopping from city to city to support healthcare facilities in need. His professional home is now the University of Louisville Hospital, but in early 2020, he found himself on contract at a North Carolina facility to help take care of critically ill COVID-19 patients who required intensive care. 

 

Working in an isolation unit, Robbie experienced unprecedented challenges as he managed a delicate balance of administering medications to help patients keep their blood pressure and heart rate up but also keep their temperature down. In some instances, he had to employ an approach called proning, which required turning a patient on to their stomach to ease pressure off their distressed lungs and remove built-up fluid.

While he worked in North Carolina in 2020, Robbie found it difficult to be away from his family, but still he managed to stay motivated and keep his spirits up. He found inspiration in his patients, who strived to get better under his care. He’s since gone back to work at the University of Louisville Hospital and reunited with his family. But as he looks forward to the future, he also has some advice to offer. 

“Take care of yourself. Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally. You’ve got people, even though [there is a] six-feet rule, but you’ve got people there that can listen," Robbie said. “And don’t give up, don’t get discouraged. Keep going. And don’t let COVID-19 be what determines your life. Don’t let it define you. Because the only person who can define you and where your future is going is you.”

These are just four out of thousands of stories from nurses who are putting their lives on the line to keep us all safe and healthy during the pandemic. As you honor the nurses in your community, remember the sacrifices they’ve made, the courage they’ve shown, and the heroism they’ve displayed over the past year. We owe so much to our nurse heroes. Let’s make sure they know how much we appreciate them today—and every day.

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