Nurse.com: How did your professional career evolve to include publishing?
Barbara Gray: After receiving my bachelorís degree in nursing in 1977 from the University of California, Los Angeles, I worked on a general medicine floor. Then I practiced as a critical care nurse during graduate school, before earning a masterís of nursing administration in 1981. After graduation, I started as an assistant administrator at an inner-city hospital. But when my children came along, I wanted more time to raise them and decided to freelance. I interviewed and wrote about Marilyn Quayle, the U.S. Surgeon General and others for Ladies Home Journal. It was fun, but not directly related to nursing. Then I wrote and edited for the Disney Channel, and wrote as a freelancer for Shape, Self and The Los Angeles Times. I consider myself a journalist, a nurse and as a nurse-journalist, all three.
N: What was it like to work on the magazine back then?
BG: The team of people at that time was extraordinary, really smart, really dedicated, and we worked well together. We had a lot of fun. It was one of those ideal times. We delved into some of the issues that were challenging. Our goal was to make the magazine something nurses were delighted to get in the mail, not just to look for jobs, but so that they would want to sit down and read it. NurseWeek would make them feel close to their profession and get them thinking about becoming more involved. When we traveled to professional events, we heard that the content was resonating with nurses. It was a dynamic time.
N: What were the big nursing issues back then?
BG: Managed care, which is still an issue, and how that would affect nursing was a concern. In addition, tensions existed between nursing unions and hospitals as facilities grappled with financial constraints and nurses sought improved nurse-patient ratios and working conditions. Making nursing more professional was important, and increasing the education needed for entry into practice also topped the list of controversial topics. We wanted nurses to see otherís perceptions and trends in healthcare.
N: How did you help transform the magazine?
BG: We did a total cover-to-cover redesign, which to this day, I am proud of the attractiveness and the ability we had to feature a lot of stories in different ways. My editorís note was controversial and generated letters. I would take a personal experience and challenge nurses to think about it. For instance, when taking my daughter for a healthcare appointment, she asked why nurses didnít dress as nicely as flight attendants, and that led to me authoring an editorís note on the topic of uniforms. We were able to bring the magazine to the next level. Our goal was to have it compete with other professional magazines, with thought-provoking articles. And I like to think we succeeded.
N: Where has your career taken you since being editor?
BG: I worked for WebMD, developing its WebRN site. Then I moved to the biotech company Amgen Inc. as head of its foundation, with a $110 million philanthropic program, and as associate director of global corporate communications. I since have started a communications consultancy, with university, foundation and association clients. I write the blog BodBoss.com, which is about being the CEO of your own body, and for the Health Day syndicate, communicating breaking research to consumers, and guest blogs for other websites.
With the advent of healthcare reform, people need to get more comfortable representing themselves. And nurses need to feel more comfortable seeing themselves as leaders in educating people about health and healthcare. Nurses know so much and could help people with these issues.
Read more Q&As with nurses from across the nation at www.Nurse.com/Regions.
Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Send letters to editorWest@nurse.com or post a comment below.