Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN
Ernest Grant, ANA President and #healthynurse, leads by example.
With more than 30 years of nursing experience under his belt, ANA President Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, has learned the importance of self-care for wellness.
“Just like how airlines tell you to put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else, the same is true for your personal health,” says Dr. Grant. “You can’t properly care for others if you’re not well.”
For this reason, Dr. Grant prioritizes his sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mental health. He makes sure to get 8-9 hours of rest each night by going to bed early. In the mornings, he wakes early to go for a 4-5 mile walk outside. This routine is a must-do for Dr. Grant no matter where he is — even when traveling, he finds a hotel gym or walking trail.
When it comes to nutrition, fresh fruits and vegetables are a staple in his diet. A few of his favorites include:
- Steamed corn or broccoli
- Brussel sprouts
- Kale chips
- Turnip greens
In addition to all of this, one wellness habit sets Dr. Grant apart from other #healthynurses: His passion for music.
Music’s Impact on Health
Mental health is important to Dr. Grant, who is frequently sought out for his expertise as a clinician and educator. He’s often busy — not only is he the 36th president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), he’s also a prolific speaker and adjunct faculty for the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing.
Even with his busy schedule, Dr. Grant prioritizes downtime to reset and recharge. Whether at home or traveling, he uses both reading and music to relax. One of his favorite activities is playing or listening to classical music. It’s no wonder — research shows this music has a healthy effect on the brain by:
- Lowering stress
- Improving cognitive skills
- Boosting the immune system
- Reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Evoking memories
Dr. Grant’s love of classical music started when he was a kid and he first learned to play the piano. Growing up, he played piano at his home church, then in college he took piano as an elective.
“I thought about playing piano as a profession, but nursing won out,” jokes Dr. Grant.
Today, he plays back-up organ at his local church and continues to set time aside to practice. He devotes 3 days a week (45-minute sessions) to playing the piano.
Giving Back to Nurses
There’s so much more to Dr. Grant’s wellness journey than his day-to-day healthy habits. He is a strong advocate for vaccination. He participated in a phase 3 clinical trial for the ModernaCOVID-19 Vaccine. The phase 3 randomized, observer-blinded, placebo-controlled trial took place at 99 centers across the United States.
Recommended to the trial by a friend, Dr. Grant agreed to participate so he could give back and show solidarity to nurses on the frontlines. Since it was a blind study, he didn’t know if he would get the actual vaccine or a placebo. But when the vaccine’s typical side effects kicked in, he knew he had received the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
Along with the other clinical trial participants, Dr. Grant’s participation helped get the vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Not only was he one of the first to get the vaccine, but over the past 2 years, Dr. Grant has completed a weekly survey, a monthly phone check-in, and quarterly blood draws with COVID-19 testing.
During this same time, Dr. Grant was also a major promoter of ANA’s national flu vaccination campaign, “The Race to 200M,” with flu vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur and Rita Wilson. He was quoted in press releases, radio spots, television ads, and social media campaigns to help spread the word on the importance of flu vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, Dr. Grant also participated with the ANA, Sanofi, and Jennifer Grey in the national flu vaccination campaign, “Fun, Not Flu.” The 2022 installment, “Not Today, Flu,” is a collaboration with the American Nurses Association, Dr. Grant, actor Jason Alexander, and Sanofi leading the charge .
Dr. Grant’s Advice
It seems that the current ANA President has found a successful balance in caring for himself while helping others. He knows what he needs to do to stay well, so he can best represent the interests of the nation’s 4.3 million registered nurses. With this wisdom, here’s what Dr. Grant wants other nurses to know:
- Self-care is crucial: It’s important to be both mentally and physically healthy. Don’t feel ashamed or guilty for prioritizing yourself.
- Listen to your body: Get enough sleep and have some me-time. Do something that relaxes you and brings you peace each day.
- Don’t let your guard down: The pandemic isn’t over, and you still need to be judicious. Stay up to date on your vaccinations each year.
Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the 36th president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the nation’s largest nursing organization.
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