Darius Fulghum—like so many of our male Nurses of the Week—seems to enjoy complaining about the toughness of a BSN program. “Getting my degree is probably the hardest thing I’ve done,” he told Sky Sports, in the halcyon pre-pandemic days of 2019. “I’m going to the Olympics, and I’m still saying it was hard.”
Covid-19 collided with the 6”1” 201-lb boxer’s Olympic dreams, but he’s now making a splash as a promising pro. His BSN, though, still ranks as one of his proudest achievements.
The Texas-born Fulghum was already an outstanding wrestler when he decided to major in nursing at Prairie View A&M University. How did he end up in a program as academically demanding as a BSN? “I started getting serious about my health and being fascinated by the human body and learning about it, and that’s how I got more into science;” nursing seemed to follow naturally. His father (a graduate of Florida A&M; most of the family are HBCU alums) was the one who first suggested nursing. Fulghum says: “My dad was the one who pushed me into it. When I was in high school, I didn’t really know where I wanted to go, but he said they really need men, and it’s a good profession. It’s never stagnant. You always have something to do. The fact that you can help people is the most rewarding thing.”
As a military brat, Darius was well-prepared for the demands of nursing as well as athletics. Of his father, he told the Prairie View A&M blog, “He is the most disciplined guy I know and he made sure that we learned.” And somehow, Darius not only kept up with his BSN studies, he also trained so effectively that he won the Golden Gloves in 2018, the year before he graduated.
In 2019, when Fulghum graduated and passed his NCLEX, he had expected to store his pin in mothballs when he aced his Olympic trials and trained in preparation for Tokyo. When Covid hit, it was a painful blow (no pun intended, and we promise to make no facetious references to knocking people down and being able to patch them up afterwards).
As a boxer, though, Fulgham has had plenty of experience with making himself get up after being knocked down. Will he exchange his boxing gear for hospital PPE at some point? He’s not sure. But, if anyone is ever in need of medical assistance at a Darius Fulghum match, they will be in good hands and we might see him as a Nurse of the Week again one day.
For more on Fulghum, PVAMU, and his story, see the below video or see this article.
As Nurse of the Week Charlotte Thrall, DNP, FNP-C, CNE, FAANP sat anxiously waiting in the emergency room at Mayo Clinic for news of her husband’s condition after a pickleball accident left him unconscious and unresponsive, her mind spun with uncertainty. Then, among the health care workers that began to fill the room, her eyes settled on a familiar face.
It was her former nursing student, Lexy Richards. Lexy was now a neurosurgery NP for the Mayo team treating Dr. Thrall’s husband.
Their unexpected reunion was bittersweet but welcome, and the following morning, Richards was at Billy Thrall’s bedside, reviewing imaging and lab work, answering whatever questions they had and doing everything in her power to make sure Billy and Charlotte, whom Richards had known since she was a student at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, were taken care of.
“It was so humbling to be in a position where someone who taught you everything you know and who you respect to the highest degree is now in a position of vulnerability,” Richards said.
Fortunately, Billy did not require surgery. But having Richards to reach out to during his recovery was invaluable to Charlotte.
“Those first eight weeks of recovery were particularly difficult, and she was … I don’t even have the words,” Charlotte said.
Now, nearly 20 weeks out from the accident, Billy is making good progress. And Charlotte and Richards are still frequently in touch — though not always concerning Billy.
A clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the Family Nurse Practitioner program at Edson College, Charlotte first met Richards as her professor. Equally impressed by each other, they quickly developed a mentor-mentee relationship, with Richards serving on the leadership team for HopeFest, an annual community health care event Charlotte and her husband launched in 2012, and Charlotte writing a letter of recommendation for Richards’ application to medical school to become a neurosurgeon, mere months before Billy’s accident.
Richards received word that her application had been accepted while Billy was still recovering in the hospital. She’ll begin attending the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine in Fort Worth, Texas, this summer.
“Charlotte and her husband are exceptional people, and she has been hugely supportive of my career,” Richards said. “Even on a personal level, she was so supportive when my husband deployed to the military. My depth of gratitude to her will always be tremendous for all the ways she has shaped my life. It has been a gift for me to be able, in some small way, to help her and her husband through this experience.”
Charlotte and Billy met in Paris in 1984 on a service trip when she was 19 and he was 21. They’ve been married for almost 33 years now, and during that time, they have become well known for their various community outreach efforts in the Phoenix area, where Charlotte works as a nurse and Billy works as a nonprofit consultant.
It was around 2009 when Charlotte realized she wanted to be able to practice clinically in an independent manner, in order to better serve her community. So she enrolled in Edson College’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program and graduated in 2012. She began teaching for the college as an adjunct faculty member in 2013, then became coordinator of the Family Nurse Practitioner program in 2017.
While teaching in the program, Charlotte also served as a mentor to another student, Jonathan Helman. Like Richards, Helman served on the HopeFest leadership team and was moved by Charlotte’s example of care and compassion, both for her students and for the community.
“She’s one of those people you realize pretty quickly is a special individual,” he said.
Helman now teaches at Edson College himself, sometimes alongside Charlotte. He also works in a field very similar to Richards’ — neurology. And when it came time for Billy to transition from recovering at the hospital to recovering at home, Helman was more than willing to provide consult.
“When I heard what happened, I immediately wanted to give back, I suppose almost as a way to repay her for the incredible influence she’s had on my life,” he said. “I’m not just blowing smoke, I quite often think about the type of provider she is and try to emulate that in my everyday practice. She is one of most empathetic people I know. … She has touched so many lives, either directly as a practitioner and through her outreach efforts, or indirectly as a professor who is teaching students who will eventually go out and serve the community, too.”
Former classmates who have remained good friends, Helman and Richards frequently consult with one another about patients because of their closely related specialties. This time around, it was for the benefit of someone for whom they care deeply.
Despite the reason for this, their most recent collaboration, Charlotte feels grateful to have been able to observe them in action.
“They were a gift to us,” she said. “I would never have anticipated having to rely so much on former students to guide us through such a difficult medical situation, but I knew the kind of students they were, I knew how prepared they were and how well they had done, and I knew I could really trust them.
“There were moments I thought that I could actually see them utilizing some of the things that I had taught them, like motivational interviewing or compassionate care, and in my mind, I thought, ‘I need to tell them later what a good job they’re doing.’ I was just so grateful for them, and it really encouraged me and reminded me that what we do when we train people to be clinicians is really, really important. And there’s a reason why we want to do a good job. There’s a reason why the program is challenging. There’s a reason why we are so careful about who we select to be in the program. Because it matters every day to patients like my husband and the hundreds of others out there.”.
We honored Sandra Lindsay, DHSc, MS, MBA, RN, CCRN-K, NE-BC as Nurse of the Week just last week. Did we run out of outstanding nurses? No, our in-box is still overflowing with NotW suggestions (and please keep them coming!). However, after careful consideration, we bowed in the face of overwhelming evidence indicating that Dr. Lindsay is owed a two-week reign as Nurse of the Week. The nursing student who described her as “the [American] face of the Covid-19 vaccine” was merely being accurate, and the events of this week can certainly attest to Lindsay’s iconic status. What has Dr. Sandra Lindsay been doing since last Wednesday? Well, we can only account for perhaps a few hours last Friday and today — but it is clear that she will have to add Vaccination Icon Duties to her schedule from now on.
Last Friday, US President Joe Biden brought her closer to Elvis status (Presley was a dedicated crusader for the polio vaccine in the 1950s) by presenting the Jamaican-born Lindsay with the Outstanding American by Choice Award. “She represents the very best of us all,” said Biden during a special ceremony at the White House, and “pursued her dream of becoming a nurse to allow her to do what she wanted to do most: give back to her new country.” He also shared a bit more of Lindsay’s own pandemic story. “During the height of the pandemic, she poured her heart and soul into her work… With a grandson at home — prematurely — she did what she had to do. She kept her distance and kept him safe. He is safe, but she lost an aunt and an uncle to the virus.”
Linsday responded, “I came to this country for the opportunities – not only for myself but to be able to help others. As a nurse, I do everything to care for the sickest patients and lead by example. More than 24 years after becoming a naturalized citizen, I could never have imagined where I am today, at the White House receiving high honors from the President. It’s truly a privilege to be a part of this great nation and I will continue to lead and help those in need.”
After the White House ceremony, Lindsay was also asked to surrender her vaccination card, hospital badge, and a pair of scrubs into the custody of the Smithsonian Institution. The items will be on display at the Smithsonian’s Covid-19 historical exhibit (She naturally complied with the request, being as eager as all of us to see Covid-19 become History).
Lindsay had more Icon Duty on Wednesday, July 7, as she joined the ranks of Nurse Grand Marshals. For three hours, she presided over New York City’s Hometown Heroes ticker-tape parade. Lindsay was an obvious choice to lead festivities celebrating the courage and dedication of essential/healthcare workers caring for a city that is still trying to comprehend the loss of over 33,400 lives to the virus. “It is truly an honor and privilege to serve as the grand marshal in the Hometown Heroes ticker-tape parade and represent all health care and essential workers whose heroic efforts saved lives during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lindsay said. Photos of the Grand Marshal smiling and waving from the back of a plush red convertible look suitably… iconic.
Dr. Lindsay, it is a pleasure to see a nurse knock The King back into his lane and take over as the US Vaccination Icon. Thank you!
Dr. Sandra Lindsay made headlines around the world (and in DailyNurse) for being the first person—and first nurse—in the US to hold out her arm for a vaccine that was regarded by many with uncertainty. How could they produce a vaccine at such a ferocious pace? (How? To paraphrase Samuel Johnson’s famous remark, when scientists fear that they or their loved ones will be killed by a virus, it concentrates their minds wonderfully). When people’s perspectives on the mRNA vaccines were clouded by fear and political biases coming from every angle, our Nurse of the Week stood up for non-immunocompromised nurses everywhere when she rolled up a sleeve and said, “I trust science.” The Jamaican-born nurse with many letters after her name is an important symbol and one that should be remembered. Nursing is about caring, but it is also about leadership, science, lots of hard work, and engaging in an endless war against ignorance.
So, what has Sandra Lindsay, DHSc, MS, MBA, RN, CCRN-K, NE-BC done in 2021? Well, she received her booster shot in January… We’re not certain about anything particular she did February through May, but she was probably preoccupied with her job as Director of Nursing at the Northwell Health Long Island Jewish Medical Center, waiting for the daily SARS-CoV-2 case rate to fall, and—because she really does trust science—preparing to add a Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) degree to her cv.
Then, this month, Dr. Lindsay responded to the request of a determined new grad, Tracey Smith, president of the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC-SUNY) Nursing Students’ Association. Smith, who describes Lindsay as “the face of the Covid-19 vaccine,” was bent on getting the iconic nurse to speak at the pinning ceremony at the school, which is where she had earned her own first nursing degree in 1994 (and was valedictorian of her class, of course). “She can attest to the safety of the vaccine,” said Smith, who plans to earn a Master’s Degree in Pediatric Nursing. “She can help our new graduate nurses and the BMCC community at large to understand how this vaccine is working to protect us and the importance of mass vaccinations nationwide.”
After somehow finding time for her own new pinning, Lindsay spoke to Smith and the other BMCC nursing grads. She more than fulfilled Smith’s hopes: “It should be the natural choice for us to get vaccinated because it’s how we look out for each other. It gives us a chance to protect ourselves, our healthcare workers and our family and friends. It’s an opportunity to grab onto a much brighter future after a very dark year.”
During commencement, Dr. Lindsay was also awarded the BMCC President’s Medal for 2021, “which expresses the College’s admiration and appreciation for extraordinary service and leadership.”
At the ceremony, Lindsay said of Covid-19, “It’s not gone. I was vaccinated back in December and here I am today, feeling well, doing well. All BMCC graduates are role models. Nurses going out into the field are role models for patients who will look up to you as you model the behavior you want to see in the world.”
Nurse of the Week Kashon Holmes, RN is also our candidate for Father of the Year. Holmes had long dreamt of becoming a nurse. He had done his homework early and was keenly aware that school would require an intense commitment and focus. “I tell people nursing school will not be cheated on,” Holmes told a reporter. “You need to be 100 percent in, or it’s not going to work out.”
Back in 2002, Holmes was ready. Shortly after his first son, Kashon, Jr., was born, Holmes enrolled at Maria College School of Nursing in Albany, NY. However, while the young man was grinding away to prepare for his 2003 final exams, he realized that his calling should perhaps have been midwifery: yes, the stork was on its way to bring another little addition to the Holmes family. So, would he have to settle for being a distracted, part-time parent for the next three years? Having already missed out on some of Kashon, Jr’s first milestones, Holmes just didn’t feel like he could become a good nurse if he was an absent dad. Giving up the nursing program was a painful sacrifice, but he felt there was only one choice. “Knowing that I had to take care of my son and raise him and everything, that wasn’t a hard decision,” he says.
So, for the next 18 years, Holmes worked a variety of jobs, including security guard positions and—when things were especially rough—as a school hall monitor. But it was worth every moment he was able to spend with his sons, Kashon, Jr. and Jashon (both of whom had Dad as the coach of their high school wrestling teams). As the boys grew up, though, and started to graduate from high school, Kashon Holmes, Sr. still “felt a little incomplete.” He had more time on his hands, still yearned to be a nurse, and maybe it would be good for the boys to see Dad knuckling down to study for his Chem Lab tests: “I thought I could be a good example for them in the house, studying every day,” he told his local news station.
In 2017, 18 years after he’d had to withdraw, Holmes once again enrolled at Maria College to work toward his BSN. Then, in early 2020, he realized he’d be a graduate of the Nursing Class of Covid-19. The pandemic began filling New York’s hospitals—and essentially shut down all apparent opportunities for clinical hours. The astonishingly swift development of vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 luckily threw Holmes and his classmates a lifeline to graduation: soon, they were helping to vaccinate Albany and its environs. Kashon, Sr., now a Senior, quickly settled into his clinicals under the aegis of Nicole Pollay, the operations manager for a vaccine site at Hudson Valley Community College. Pollay recalls, “So many of them were nervous because they weren’t sure that they were going to be able to graduate until they were able to obtain those clinical hours.” The students’ gratitude for the opportunity, she said, “still gives me chills.”
Kashon Holmes, Sr. graduated on time in May 2021. The reaction of his youngest son, Jashon, must have made Holmes certain that his 18-year hiatus was worth every moment. “I feel proud of him,” said a teary-eyed Jashon. “He worked his butt off. He always was stressed, and like, he managed to do my wrestling and do school.” What greater tribute could a parent want?
The ED is often the site of hospital workplace violence. Some nights, the atmosphere can be like a growth medium for trouble. Patients with nowhere else to go when they’re sick are joined by people suffering acute pain, asthmatics fighting for breath, hallucinating seniors who were given the wrong mix of meds, and people trying to combat mental health crises.
Add an out-of-control, emotionally disturbed teen to a space filled with fear, confusion, anger, tiredness, and pain, and you could have trouble. In some states, hospitals simply call the police to deal with the more disturbed individuals (with decidedly mixed results), but many EDs look for nurses like Nurse of the Week Heather Cartee, RN to work the heavy shifts. Because contact with a compassionate, well-trained, emotionally insightful nurse can quiet a disruptive patient as quickly as a bullet, and with a far more promising health outcome.
Luckily, Cartee was on duty the night Plattsburgh, NY cops brought a very disturbed, developmentally disabled teen to the University of Vermont Health Network Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (UVHN serves northern New York as well as Vermont). The youth was angry, and according to staff his behavior was highly “aggressive” and “confrontational.” And since this was Vermont rather than Texas, the police did not draw their weapons or shoot the boy. Instead, they stood back and let RN Cartee work a little Nurse Magic.
Nurse Magic is usually behind the special traits that inspired you to become a nurse in the first place. It’s a certain perspective: where many see a disturbed, aggressive young man—and contemplate fight or retreat tactics—a nurse may see a stressed teen who acts out when he cannot express himself. So, instead of firing at his chest, Cartee took aim at the stress with a warm, friendly “smize” that would have won kudos from Tyra Banks herself. She was wearing a surgical mask, of course, but some smiles just cannot be confined. Her sympathetic, humorous comments, evident concern, and that smize relaxed the teen to a point where he began to focus on cooperating with ED staff.
However, when the boy’s stepfather left, the power of Cartee’s Smize waned. Bereft of any familiar faces, the youth again became increasingly agitated. Before the situation could snowball into an actual safety threat, the attending physician asked Cartee to make another appearance in her role of Disturbed Teen Boy Whisperer. Perhaps she could assay a Super Smize this time? By now, though, the boy was in such a disruptive state that even Tyra might have thrown in the towel. But the doughty RN, after surveying the scene, reached for one of the most powerful weapons in her arsenal. That’s right: Heather Cartee went in for a hug.
The doctor—who submitted the nomination that won Heather a Daisy Award—witnessed the entire scene. “It [the hug] was exactly what he needed. He actually smiled. The next thing I knew, the two of them were working out math problems using a dry erase marker on the window of the room.” Cartee cared for the boy that night, reassuring him and keeping him stable with minimal restraints. The doctor told the Plattsburgh Press Republican that she believes Cartee’s empathy and acceptance prevented the youth from incurring further psychological damage, and may have even “changed his life.”
Getting a Daisy Award is a terrific honor, but like most Nurse Magic Practitioners, Heather tries to provide everyone with Daisy-standard care: “This is why I got into the health care profession, to help patients and their family members during what can be the scariest times of their lives when they’re sick either mentally or physically. As nurses, we’re here to help our community feel safe and help them through the hardest times.”