Nurse Leader Writes Book, Sets Sights on Bright Future for Healthcare
Anthony A. Gray '21, MSN RN has good instincts. As an ER nurse in one of Boston’s best healthcare facilities, he has to.
“Nursing school gives you the skills and knowledge you need to become a nurse,” Gray said. “But caring and intuition come from within.”
Sometimes, that intuition can mean the difference between life and death.
“I’ve been involved in countless situations where I’ve saved someone's life,” Gray said. “Reading nonverbal cues is important. De-escalating and recognizing potential dangers are valuable skills to have.”
Such considerations just scratch the surface of Gray’s first self-published book, "A Soul to Care: A Blessing That Came From Trouble." Based on real events, the book “identifies the social determinants of health for premature crime exposure and gun violence” Gray said. It also spotlights a holistic approach to healthcare — one that sees, and aims to understand, the whole patient.
Yet make no mistake — the book is rooted in more than clinical research. Gray has skin in the game.
A Tactical Game
Growing up in Northwest Miami-Dade County, Gray was exposed to crime early in life. As Gray recalled, he was forced to “accept prison and young death as normality,” he said.
This mentality impacted his family, too. In the early 90s, Gray’s father was incarcerated for a 25-year sentence for drug trafficking. As a teen, Gray followed in his father's footsteps by selling drugs, landing him in juvenile detention.
History appeared to be repeating itself — until one conversation changed everything.
“My dad said, ‘You have to learn to adapt to the outside world and survive, '" Gray said. He further encouraged Gray to use some of the same tactics employed in the past – tactics that had been considered tools of survival – to move forward in his life.
“We analyze every situation as life or death,” Gray said. “We pay attention to nonverbal cues when communicating with others, we expect everyone to lie or cross us, and we keep in mind that every moment is an opportunity to come up.”
But what Gray realized in that conversation was that those instincts could also be a ticket to a better life.
So Gray followed his father’s advice. Once released, he used these tactics to his advantage. He listened, adapted and rerouted his goals. He started by earning his GED, then his EMT licensure at 18. By the time he was 24, he became an RN.
Finally, his instincts were not simply a way to survive; he was thriving.
Making the Move to MSN
In 2012, Gray, knowing he wanted to grow his career as a nurse, made the move to Boston — home to some of the nation's best healthcare facilities.
By 2017, he enrolled in the online Master of Nursing - Clinical Nurse Leader program at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
“My time at SNHU helped me grow as a person and a professional by helping me improve the health, safety, and quality of life for people and their communities,” he said. “I’m now able to apply model leadership to the people I serve, both as a nurse and as an author.”
Support made all the difference in Gray’s academic journey. One of his biggest advocates at SNHU was his advisor, Catherine Haefner.
“Catherine was my moral and emotional support,” Gray said. “She helped me get through some challenging times in grad school, especially during the global pandemic.”
Managing his work and studies in the midst of the pandemic was no easy feat. Yet while she recognizes the important role she played, Haefner credits Gray’s passion and dedication in helping him get where he is today.
“I was there for Anthony as his sounding board, but everything that he did was all him,” said Haefner. “Anthony truly loves what he does. He wants to make a difference in the lives of his patients to ensure that they are fully taken care of.”
Laying the Foundation for Change
Today, Gray lives a life he doesn’t take for granted. His father was released early in 2008. They communicate weekly, fueling a shared passion for a brighter future.
“We keep each other focused and talk about how we can change our culture,” Gray said.
As their passion grows, so has their family.
“I have two sons,” Gray said. “They inspire me to appreciate life for what it is. I value my health and freedom. The fact that I can watch them grow is more inspiring to me than anything else in the world.”
The privilege of simply living isn’t lost on Gray. Too often, he’s seen how a lack of care and compassion can lead to destruction, which is why he hopes to inspire prospective nurses to follow his lead.
“I hope that future nurses find a practice problem within their own communities and use the nursing model to address the problem,” he said.
And for those who face challenging odds?
“Set goals that are measurable, realistic and meaningful,” Gray said. “The number one most important thing you need to move forward is to believe in yourself. No one can live your life for you.”
Ready to make a difference in someone's life? Fast-track your MSN at SNHU.
Spencer Hensel is a copywriter in higher education.
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