Our Nurse of the Week is Ashley Apple, a nursing student at the University of Virginia (UVA) who gathered a team of caregivers to travel to Texas and help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Apple, 38, was the owner of a coffee shop in Arkansas when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the people and homes of New Orleans in 2005. Feeling helpless as she watched the news coverage of the storm’s aftermath, she decided to sell her coffee shop, enroll in nursing school, and never feel helpless again while witnessing the tragedy of a natural disaster.

Apple is currently enrolled in her second year of the UVA School of Nursing’s RN to BSN program which offers working nurses a path to a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She also works as a floating emergency nurse for Bon Secours health system, and leaps in to help whenever she can, like in the case of Hurricane Harvey.

Apple tells News.Virginia.edu, “Katrina really sealed the deal for me. Sure, I loved the things that you love about a coffee shop – the art, the music, the people, the connections you make – but in the end, I was still counting cups. I wanted to do more in service to my community.”

As she watched Hurricane Harvey begin to take its toll on Texas, Apple rallied a small group of fellow caregivers, purchased first aid kits and supplies to bring along, and hopped on a flight to Dallas. Her team included her mother (a fellow nurse), a small group of local nursing students, and Bon Secours staff. The group spent five days making rounds to Houston shelters to provide well-being checks, offering care to individuals with chronic medical conditions, and vaccinating first responders against tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis.

During Hurricane Harvey, Apple no longer felt like a helpless bystander the way she had during Katrina. She says, “The most amazing part for me was feeling useful.” Apple loves the work she does, and she is proud to show her two children, ages 3 and 5, how nurses can be of help at the bedside, at the disaster site, and in front of the classroom inspiring new learners. After finishing her BSN, Apple plans to work toward her master’s degree then Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. She has grown to love academia in her time at UVA, and she has a passion for teaching that she is excited to put to use in the future.

To learn more about Ashley Apple and her unique path to a career in nursing, visit here.

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