Ernest GrantPhD, RN, FAAN, is the 36th president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the nation’s largest nurses organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4 million registered nurses.
A distinguished leader, Dr. Grant has more than 30 years of nursing experience and is an internationally recognized burn-care and fire-safety expert. He previously served as the burn outreach coordinator for the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals in Chapel Hill. In this role, Grant oversaw burn education for physicians, nurses, and other allied health care personnel and ran the center’s nationally acclaimed burn prevention program, which promotes safety and works to reduce burn-related injuries through public education and the legislative process. Grant also serves as adjunct faculty for the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, where he works with undergraduate and graduate nursing students in the classroom and clinical settings.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
“Ever since I can remember, I always had a natural passion for helping and caring for people. Growing up in the small community of Swannanoa, North Carolina, the women in my church were nurses at the local sanatorium who cared for tuberculosis patients, and was I intrigued by their stories. This was the catalyst for my early interest in health care. As a young Black man and 1 of 8 children with a single mother, I thought my career opportunities were limited. However, my high school guidance counselor and mentor encouraged me to pursue a career path into the health care field – nursing. It became my passion, and the rest is history!”
What is your blueprint to success? What do you stand for? What is/are your life philosophies?
“I have always attributed my success to the many men and women who have come before me – family members, mentors, and teachers who each had a hand in shaping me to become the accomplished professional I am today. Furthermore, my success can be attributed to hard work, determination, and never taking no for an answer! Don’t be afraid to tackle the challenges that life brings you and push beyond limitations placed on you by society – sometimes they can be rewards in disguise, helping you to build character, resilience, and new perspective. As a Black man standing 6 feet, 6 inches tall, I don’t look like the stereotypical nurse, but I didn’t let that stop me from pursuing my calling and helping to shatter antiquated gender stereotypes.”
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
“Being a voice for the nation’s 4.3 million nurses as they courageously combat COVID-19 is the most meaningful work for me right now. Collaborating on important national campaigns, such as Flu Shot Fridays, are always a highlight because we’re reaching the public. I cannot stress enough to communities, nurses, and all health care professionals the importance of getting immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases. I urge everyone to get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19, especially with COVID-19 cases and deaths rising across the country, we face the possibility of a “twindemic”. We are living in an unprecedented moment right now in our nation. We cannot afford to compromise our health care system anymore as many US health care facilities are overwhelmed and health care professionals are exhausted after responding to this pandemic for nearly 2 years. We must do everything we can to safeguard our health and the health of our respected and hardworking nurses and health care professionals.”
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
There are several important things one should consider before becoming a nurse, but one thing I want to stress is that it’s absolutely essential to connect with at least one mentor, preferably two before you begin nursing school. This may seem like an afterthought, but having a trusted mentor proved crucial to my success in nursing school and eventually as a nurse once I finally began my career. Those trusted relationships are not only meaningful for professional growth but can help in preparation for all the nuances you might not be privy to upon first entering nursing school.
What do you want the readers to know (any calls to action)?
“Please make time to go get your flu vaccine, and if you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you also get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Getting vaccinated is extremely important in protecting your health, the health of your loved ones, and those in your community, especially during this precarious cold and flu season. Vaccination is especially critical for adults over age 50 and those with chronic health conditions. To learn more about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines, please take some time to visit ANA’s COVID-19 Resource Center. Additionally, you can learn more about the importance of flu vaccination and discover where you can safely schedule a flu vaccine in your community by visiting FluShotFridays.com.”