Recently, I was asked how I started my nursing career in HIV. To sum it up in a word, mentorship is what brought me to HIV nursing.
My path in HIV started in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where I met a long-standing and HIV nurse, Dr. Susan Gaskins. Dr. Gaskins was the first nursing professor to teach me about HIV including the work of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) and both our individual and collective potential as nurses to make a difference for people with HIV. At the time, in the early ninety’s, HIV remained a death sentence, yet Dr. Gaskins was able to inspire hope in this young emerging nurse leader. Not long after her class, I became a member and eventually president of Students for the Education and Prevention of AIDS at the University of Alabama. We educated high-school and college students about safer sex and held candle light vigils for World AIDS Day, but more importantly we served as volunteer drivers for patients in rural Alabama to UAB’s 1917 Clinic to receive medical care.
At UAB a nurse practitioner and ANAC member, Dr. James Raper, was leading the fight and it was here, as a senior nursing student, that Dr. Raper showed me the potential for nurses to be clinical leaders in the fight against HIV. Like Dr. Gaskins, Dr. Raper was a proud ANAC nurse and again demonstrated the power of the collective in demonstrating change.
Now, as I look back at my journey, I am most confident that the mentorship, leadership and dedication of these pioneers and friends are what drew me to and kept me in HIV care. Now, in October of 2015, I become president of the global voice for nurses in HIV care – ANAC.
To all the mentors out there – Thank You – you truly make a difference in the lives of your students. You gave us strong shoulders to stand on and our lives are forever changed because of you. I hope the next generation of HIV nurses [and remember, Every Nurse is an HIV Nurse] will seek the mentorship and guidance of those who have so much talent and expertise to offer.