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UIC Nursing Professor Named Red Cross 'Hero'

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Geraldine Gorman, assistant professor of health systems science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was named the first-ever Nurse Hero by the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

The award is presented to a practicing nurse, nursing student or retired nurse who has exhibited heroism either in their response to an emergency situation or through ongoing commitment to the community. The Red Cross also honors heroes in nine other categories, including firefighters, military personnel and good Samaritans.

Gorman believes there's more to nursing than science. She integrates the arts into her nursing curriculum, pushing her students to use their creativity through reflective writing, narrative stories and poetry.

"Nurses need to be a strong advocate for the profession, and writing helps the students clarify their values," Gorman said. "Writing helps you become stronger when you're speaking out for somebody else."

Most of her students are receptive to combining the arts with nursing, Gorman said. She challenges them to use their imagination, and during her courses they are required to read novels and memoirs of patients. Gorman has also created Arts Day at the college, which gives students the opportunity to showcase their creativity and express themselves.

As an instructor in the UIC College of Nursing's Graduate Entry Program -- designed for individuals who hold a baccalaureate degree in another field -- Gorman has discovered that many of her students are exceptional writers.

"Since many of my students are older they are flooded with experiences and emotions, and adding writing to the mix serves as a creative cauldron," she said. "Writing gets them in touch with their own feelings, as they move into this very stressful profession."

Gorman enjoys writing whenever her time permits. She primarily pens creative non-fiction stories, and she and Paula Sergi, a retired nurse who is now a poet, have collaborated on two books.

In their latest work, "A Call to Nursing: Nurses' Stories about Challenge and Commitment," 25 nurses -- 10 of whom are UIC nursing students -- relate why they entered the health care profession and what makes some decide to stay and others to leave.

Writing has always played an integral role in Gorman's life. She received a bachelor's and master's degree in English from Loyola University Chicago, and for three years she served as a teaching assistant at the school. She then decided to enter the social services field, spending the next 10 years assisting the low-income elderly.

Having a desire to help people more with her hands, Gorman received her nursing license and returned to Loyola for a bachelor of science in nursing degree. She continued her education in the doctoral program.

Gorman worked for 18 months as an oncology nurse at a community hospital before becoming a nursing professor at UIC. She remains active in nursing outside of the classroom, working at the Midwest Hospice and Palliative Care Center on the weekends.

For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago