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Staff by Day: Nursing Prof Turns Novelist

News Story

Lienhard's Joanne Singleton, PhD, RN, has found a novel way to express herself.

Joanne Singleton, PhD, RN, a professor and chair of the Department of Graduate Studies at Lienhard School of Nursing and director of the Doctor of Nursing program, grew up wanting to be a writer. Until, that is, she had what she calls her “nightingale moment.“

“I never had any intention of being a nurse,” she recalls, “but between my freshman and sophomore years of high school I took a summer job at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. I worked side-by-side with some amazing nurses, and it was transformational.”

Though she kept writing, her career as a nurse and, eventually, an educator left little time for nonacademic work. To date, she has written three nursing textbooks and numerous journal articles.

But she had something else up her uniform sleeve: the draft of a novel she had written in the late 1980s, but set aside while working on her doctoral dissertation.

Singleton says she revisited the manuscript now and then over the years, always with the same reaction. “Every time I read it, I would say, ‘Yes, I should get this out there.’”

Still, it wasn’t until last year that she did something about it, revising and publishing White Beret: The Story of an Urban Nurse through her own company, Urban Nurse Press.

Set in the pediattric ward of a New York City hospital, the novel takes place during one eventful winter day in 1987, with a nurse named Rebecca Spence as its central character. “I wanted a nurse to be the protagonist to help people understand how important nurses are in health care and how they are also people living their own lives,” she says.

Although she is no less busy than before, Singleton says she has some ideas for a sequel involving the same characters. Does she have any advice for other would-be novelists with busy academic careers? “You find the time, and you make the time,” she says. “Also it helps to be a bit of a lunatic.”