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Ernie Outside Cancer Hospital

Getting to know incoming ANA President Ernest Grant

By: By Susan Trossman, RN

Special September Frontline Preview

This summer, Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, was elected to serve as president of the American Nurses Association (ANA) effective in January 2019. This is one of many firsts for Grant and professional nursing. He was the first African-American man to serve as ANA vice president, which is his current role, and to earn a PhD in nursing from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He also was the first African-American male nurse to lead the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA) as its president.

Ernie Cancer Hospital LobbyAn internationally known expert on burn care and fire safety, Grant currently is the director of the acclaimed burn prevention program at the NC Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He’s received numerous awards, including being presented with the Nurse of the Year Award in 2002 by former President George W. Bush for his work treating burn victims from the World Trade Center site.

Here are some excerpts from our recent conversation.

What do you think about making history as the first man to serve as ANA president?

I’ve never thought of myself as being a person to make history on this grand a scale. I’m extremely excited and delighted to be given the opportunity. I know I stand on the shoulders of many giants—both men and women—who have either served as ANA president, ran for president, or supported the profession of nursing. The title of my campaign was “Moving Forward,” and I look forward to guiding the organization so we’re prepared and proactive in addressing any changes and challenges in healthcare and in the nursing profession.

Can you briefly describe your leadership journey? Did you choose leadership roles or did they choose you?

It was a combination. Sometimes people see leadership qualities and skills in you that perhaps you don’t see in yourself. For me, it [the leadership journey] started when I was a staff nurse at the bedside and was chosen to lead and participate in various committees in the hospital. After a friend told me that being a truly professional nurse means joining your professional organization, I became very involved in NCNA and ANA. One chairmanship led to another and then to board positions. I found it really satisfying to take on challenges and make a difference in other ways. All the leadership skills I gained from serving in nursing and other organizations—such as listening to various perspectives, learning to become a consensus-builder, and in some cases, recognizing that you have to take charge and make difficult decisions—have brought me to where I am today.

What will be your top priorities as ANA president?

One is to advance the nursing profession and healthcare by fostering high standards. I want to make sure nurses are prepared and have the educational opportunities and tools they need to do their jobs efficiently and have the best outcomes for their patients in the face of healthcare changes.

Another is to advocate for legislation and policies that have a positive impact on nurses and the public. As legislative proposals come forward that impact access to quality, affordable care, it’s important that ANA continues to advocate for healthcare for all, not just the privileged few. My mother always said, “The good Lord gave us one body, and we need to do our best to take care of it.” That is certainly true, which is why we must educate the public about their healthcare, and the importance of continued insurance coverage for preventive measures. And we need to inform and encourage the public to contact their elected representatives and others who are making decisions about their care and coverage.

I want to encourage diversity in the nursing profession. In 2015, only 19.5% of RNs in the workforce identified themselves as minorities, and only about 12% of baccalaureate and graduate nursing students in 2016 were men. It’s important that the nursing workforce reflects the diversity of our patient populations to increase our ability to provide the culturally competent, quality care patients need, especially when they are most vulnerable. And welcoming people from diverse backgrounds into our profession with their unique perspectives and experiences will only strengthen it.

As I visit states, I want to talk with younger nurses and new graduates to see what they want and need, and what ANA can do to help them grow.

When it comes to healthcare, what are you passionate about?

Most of my nursing career I’ve spent working with patients with burns and preventing those injuries from occurring in others. Every day when I go home, I feel like I’ve made a difference somewhere – either in the life of someone or in the nursing profession. It can be a patient that I’ve taken care of at the bedside, fighting for legislation to ensure that people live in a safe environment, or educating consumers about fire safety, such as installing smoke alarms that will give them that early warning. Or it can be sharing the knowledge I have with people in less fortunate countries that do not have the resources we have.

I also am passionate about advocating at the state and national levels to make sure nurses have safe work environments, and that all nurses can practice to the full extent of their educational level.

What’s your future vision for nurses and the nursing profession?

I want all nurses to feel pride in being a nurse and seeing it as a lifetime profession, and not just a job that pays the bills. I believe nurses everywhere should be given the respect they deserve, and that means that we also must respect each other.

Nurses need to embrace technology, because it is the future. At UNC we have robots running down the halls doing tasks like delivering patient trays, and picking up specimens and trash. There is no way that robots will replace nurses – not our empathy or critical thinking. But we need to see new technology as something that will help us provide better care and lead to better patient outcomes.

Closing thoughts?

Whenever I talk with students, I first tell them to join ANA and their state nurses association. Then I tell them that I’ve never regretted choosing the nursing profession. I can’t think of any other job that can make me feel the way I do.

And finally, when people see this big guy coming—I’m 6 feet 6—I want them to know I’m a gentle giant.

Interview by Susan Trossman, RN, a writer-editor at ANA.


September 2018 Frontline Ernest Grant Q&A

9 Comments. Leave new

  • I’m a very experienced long time LPN who worked in great hospitals when nurses across the board were much more cohesive. The goals then were providing quality care, working together in tight groups and feeling great (but tired) and full of pride for a job well done and yes progressing to RN level. As time went on, I lost respect for RNs and decided not to join that community though I remained in healthcare. RNs became a tight club where no one was as important except doctors. I still see that ugliness even 30 years later. Its a systemic problem where there is no desire to change. It spills into patient care. Sad.

  • Lorraine Perin Huber ,MSN,RN-PMNE-CNOR
    August 1, 2020 8:43 pm

    You are wonderful.Congratulations for leadership in the area of nursing which so very much needs role models.
    Thank you for being here.
    Lorraine Perin Huber,MSN,RN-PMNE-CNOR

  • 3/27/20
    Please forward to Dr. Ernest Grant for me.
    I am writing in regards to your column written by you for the ANA “American Nurse Journal” – thank you for speaking out and naming the racism, discrimination, and micro-aggressions experienced by by all those who are not in the majority. I was born and raised in Seattle, but through an ex-husband, I have been living in Mississippi for the past 30 years. I have continued to stay in order to help level the playing field for my patients who have been subject to overt and covert racism and sexism. I am now mostly retired, but still believe I can contribute in positive ways by speaking out when advocacy is needed.
    Thank you for your thoughts and for affirming those who have experienced and will continue to experience racism, sexism, ageism.
    Wanda Ikeda, DNP, ACNP

  • Mr. Grant, it is an honor to have you as president of the ANA!!!

  • I worked with him for 7 years and would love to contact him

  • Anyone know how i can contact Ernest Grant?!
    Thank you!

  • Congratulations Dr. Grant!! I love the title of your initiative “Moving On.” Please share more of your philosophy on the future of our profession particularly as it relates to APRNs. God bless you and your mission!

    Thank you from a PMHNP student in Arizona!

  • Eileen M. Dunn
    August 21, 2018 2:08 pm

    Mr. Grant, congratulations!!! In response to your vision for nurses how do you expect to carry your vision out?? I am a nurse of 30 years, still at the bedside. I loved my career for about 25 years. For the last 5 years I have felt disrespected by the patients, administration and some of my fellow nurses. It gets worse every year. I am in the twilight of my career but very unhappy to be leaving the profession with such a bad taste. I wish I was leaving it better than I found it but I am not. Now most hospitals want a BSN. I am finding a BSN doesn’t enhance the care. It is an obstacle to good care!! These nurses are educated with facts but not with hands on care. I would put experienced older nurse up against any of them, they would outshine in critical thinking and in hands on care anytime!! Most “new” nurses are unhappy with their career choice. Many will seek Master degrees in another field or become part of the problem, an administrator, able to forget where they came from but able to please the CEO so they can keep their job!! How WILL you fix these problems??

  • Sherrel A Fry
    August 9, 2018 7:08 pm



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