Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Anna Fitch Courie, DNP, RN, PHNA-BC
Nurse creates life-changing wellness programs for first responders
Anna Fitch Courie, DNP, RN, PHNA-BC, is no stranger to health challenges. When she was a child, she had an autoimmune disease that impaired her hearing. As an adult, Anna survived cancer.
These health challenges are part of what led Anna to become a nurse. For several years, she worked as a bone marrow transplant nurse at Duke Health before transitioning to a job as a health promotion coordinator in Germany. In this public health position, she created wellness programs that promoted physical activity, nutrition, mental health, and social support for active duty, civilians, family members, and retirees in the U.S. Army. The goal: Teach others to foster healthy habits collectively rather than in isolation.
Spreading Wellness in New Ways
Working in public health sparked a flame inside Anna, giving her a deep understanding and appreciation for overall wellness. Her approach to health transformed from one focused on physical health into one that embraces the whole person.
When Anna and her husband moved back to the United States, she got a job working at the U.S. Army Public Health Command. For the next 14 years, she worked with a team to spearhead an initiative to replicate her successful wellness programs from Germany across the entire U.S. Army. She created implementation plans, evaluated programs, and launched training plans to bring wellness to first responders in a broad geographic area.
Putting First Responders First
Many first responders, including nurses, experience adverse childhood events that give them an overwhelming urge to protect and serve. But in those “protect and serve” roles, they’re often exposed to traumatic events that cause burnout, compassion fatigue, and moral distress. These events can lead to chronic stress conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Addressing these challenges is the core of Anna’s mission. As Director of First Responder Health and Wellness at FirstNet®, Built with AT&T, Anna focuses on wellness — from post-traumatic stress and depression to fitness, stress management, and family engagement. Through her work, Anna has:
- Established a network of nonprofit sponsorships to address the health and wellness needs of America's first responders
- Created, funded, and maintained the FirstNet Therapy Dog and Peer Support Team programs
- Developed and executed the First Responder Health and Wellness Needs Assessment
- Published a national call to action through the “Helping the Helpers” white paper
"Creating a culture where we, as health care professionals, can be healthy and take better care of our patients — that's my greatest mission,” says Anna.
Making the World Healthier, One First Responder at a Time
Anna has worked tirelessly to make the wellness of first responders a national priority. Her efforts have transformed the lives of countless individuals and strengthened her own commitment to self-care. She finds satisfaction in her work, which allows her to balance healthy habits, exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, and quality time with her family.
Her unwavering commitment to wellness is rooted in her faith, providing her with a strong foundation and a belief that there is a purpose and meaning to everything, even in the face of adversity. She uses mindfulness, meditation, and prayer to ground herself during challenging times, knowing that struggles are not the end of the story.
"In the midst of adversity, chaos, and struggle, we must do the work and ground ourselves,” says Anna. “We have to remind ourselves that it's not going to be that way forever."
Through her dedicated work with first responders, Anna created a wellness revolution that goes beyond the scope of an ordinary wellness program. She is making a lasting impact that will continue to benefit nurses, first responders, and their communities for years to come.
Anna Fitch Courie, DNP, RN, PHNA-BC, is the Director of First Responder Health and Wellness at FirstNet®.
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