Voices of Simmons

Millicent Gorham '76, '11HD Shares Advice for Nurses

We caught up with Millicent Gorham '76, '11HD about her advice to nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Millicent Gorham '76, '11HD is the Executive Director of the National Black Nurses Association, Inc., which represents 250,000 African American nurses in the United States. Millicent was appointed to that position in October 1995. She handles all administrative, fund development, advocacy, communications, marketing and conference planning, with a staff of five and a budget of $1.8 million.

In 2019, Millicent was elected to the Board of Trustees at Simmons University. In 2011 Millicent was awarded an honorary degree from Simmons and became an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She received an MBA from Howard University, with a concentration in health services and a bachelor's in business management from Simmons.

Protect yourself mentally

During this pandemic, doctors and nurses are seeing and doing things they've never done before. They’re making decisions on the front lines about who gets what when it comes to equipment and treatment. Healthcare workers are used to doing everything in their power to keep a patient alive, but patients were coming in so fast and furious that they’re unable to do that.

Because of this, you’re going to need some assistance with mental health. I mean someone to talk to right now. We’re not talking about a webinar — we’re talking about finding the psych nurse, psychologist, clinical social worker, chaplain, etc. Talk to them about the stressors you're dealing with.

Take a moment to yourself

Seek out sessions on mindfulness and how to reduce your stress — even if it’s only for 15 minutes. You're going to have to take downtime and let your support system love you. Don’t brush it off and say “I’m okay," because you’re not. I know that you’re not. The kind of things that you’ve seen and been through are incredibly stressful.

Nurses need a respite. The National Black Nurses Association is meeting this need by partnering with the Hilton so that nurses for the next month can have nights in hotels for free. That’s a major thing for us. We’re also partnering with Downton Locker Room (DTLR) and Puma for a Walk in My Shoes campaign where we'll give 30 nurses two pairs of shoes and give away 300 pairs of sneakers for nurses serving on the front lines.

Keep your heads up

Worldwide there is a shortage of nurses: 6.2 million nurses are needed, and well over a million are needed in the United States. Nursing is an honorable career and this is a very serious time. Keep your heads up! This is not going to last forever, but you need to keep yourself together because nurses really are the backbone of this healthcare system. You are the backbones and you are the heroes and heroines.

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