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Gail Stuart, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Dean of the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing in Charleston, S.C.

November 2012

Q. When did you decide to pursue a career in nursing and why?

A. I made the decision to go into nursing at the end of high school after working at a hospital as a candy striper. I truly enjoyed helping people, so nursing was a logical choice for me, especially with the broad array of career opportunities that nursing has to offer. I also liked the idea of educating others to become nurses. Working in the field of nursing opens so many doors and offers a wide variety of opportunities that you can’t get in many other careers.

Q. What has been one of the greatest moments of your career?

A. I’ve had a long career as a nurse, so my greatest moment is divided between two experiences. The first is when I worked as a psychiatric nurse at a community mental health center. I was responsible for working with teachers to identify children who were having problems that could potentially be linked to developmental challenges. I specifically remember a girl who was acting out in class, and I was able to meet with her and her parents to figure out the problem and offer a solution. It’s great to see the impact you can have on the course of someone’s life like that. We helped to modify her behavior, which in turn, helped her parents and teachers. Being in a position like that, you have the opportunity to mold how people interact with one another. To me, that’s what represents the essence of psychiatric nursing.

The other greatest experience for me occurs every time a class of our students graduates. The look on all of their faces is unforgettable! You can see the future of nursing reflected in the light of their eyes. I feel proud of them for what they’ve accomplished and proud of myself and my fellow educators for what we’ve contributed to the field of nursing and to the future of healthcare.

Q. What was your involvement with the Promise of Nursing for South Carolina?

A. After reading about the success of Johnson & Johnson’s Promise of Nursing galas in other states, we reached out to J&J to encourage them to host one in South Carolina. They had never hosted an event like that in our state, and we knew it would be a great benefit to our under-resourced nursing community. The Promise of Nursing galas are great events because they help raise the visibility of nursing and the contribution of nurses to individuals who may not have thought, in a focused way, about nursing beyond the walls of hospitals. The other equally important part of the program is that it instills a sense of pride in nurses and future nurses. Nurses are typically so focused on their day-to-day work that they don’t have much of a chance to celebrate themselves. The Promise of Nursing gala was an excellent way to give them that opportunity.

After the event in South Carolina, we received so many emails from nurses and nursing students who were so grateful and honored to have been included. As much as the nurses enjoyed the event, it was the students who were really blown away. They had never experienced anything like that. The entire event left everyone with a tremendous feeling of pride for their profession and gratitude for the praise they were receiving. It was like the Academy Awards for nursing but better in that everyone felt like they won that night.

Q. Have you seen a difference made by the Promise of Nursing gala in your nursing community?

A. The Promise of Nursing gala definitely enhanced the sense of nursing in South Carolina. The funds raised by the event were palpable – scholarships are so critical for those in this state attempting to become nurses. With a nursing shortage on the rise, it’s an excellent career to get involved in, and these events not only help give scholarships to students and funds to nurses in need, but they help the public become aware, now more than ever, about the contribution that nurses directly have on their health as well as the healthcare industry.

For more information about the Promise of Nursing events and to view photos from previous galas, visit

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