Everett Moss is busy. His healthcare career is on a steep trajectory, from Atlanta firefighter and EMT to flight, emergency, ICU and travel nurse. And, like most other nurses, he's had a busy and challenging 2020. This year, Everett has treated patients with COVID-19 in the Bronx, New York and Harlingen, Texas, he was interviewed on the Tamron Hall show, received a DAISY Award and helped introduce a children's book. If that isn't enough, he's currently enrolled in the DNP, Nurse Anesthesia Program at Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Luckily, Everett, who is also an AACN volunteer and ambassador, stopped long enough for an interview about his recent nursing experiences.
Your healthcare career path is extraordinary. How did it start and where are you now?
I was 19. My father was a city of Atlanta firefighter. That was my first exposure to anything healthcare related. He was an EMT on an Atlanta rescue unit. Trying to figure out life at 19, I decided, hey, my father's a firefighter and he paid the bills, maybe I'll do that.
I started as an EMT and enjoyed EMT school. As a firefighter it was required. At the station, I latched onto the senior paramedics. I was impressed by their knowledge, so I went to paramedic school. Then, one day, when I saw the flight crews come in, I needed to be on a flight crew! I wanted to go right into nursing after medic school, but I got distracted. I enjoyed fire service, so I let it [nursing school] sit on the back burner for almost 10 years.
I had some critical care exposure through flight, but I had not worked in an ICU. I went to work in the ICU and put forth my efforts to get into CRNA school. I met my program director at a diversity CRNA conference, in Augusta, Georgia, and I was sold. She had the personality, she seemed very receptive, very encouraging, and I decided that would be a good fit for me. Emory University is here in Atlanta, and it made sense. I didn't have to relocate my family or commute back and forth. I'm an Atlanta native, so it all seemed like a really good fit. I applied in October 2019, was accepted into the program in December and started in August 2020.
You left home to help in two hot spots experiencing a COVID-19 surge. Tell us about that.
In April, I was in a transitional phase before starting school. My contracts in the local EDs kept getting canceled. I saw on the news that nurses were helping in New York. With all of my training, my background, it's where I needed to be. I didn't feel frightened. I'm healthy, I've worked in a hazmat environment, and I've been in a building where the walls were literally burning down, so I felt prepared to go into this COVID-19 situation, in the sense of its chaos and danger. In mid-April, I was assigned to North Bronx Central Hospital as an ICU nurse and a code response team nurse. I got there just past the peak, so we were starting to see improvements every day.
After that, I came back home for roughly a month, and then I went to Texas. Texas was definitely a different experience for me, because, unlike New York, I got to Texas in the beginning. So, it was still pretty heavy and not a lot of resources. I was assigned to the emergency department, and we were really busy. There weren't a lot of travel nurses assigned to my hospital. The ED was always full, and we had patients waiting on rooms for days at a time. We definitely had some sick folks come through, and it definitely came in handy having the ICU experience and being a CCRN.
Did you see a difference between New York and Texas in how patients were treated and their therapies?
Yes. In my personal experience, when I went to New York, it was still early, and treatments were kind of unclear. In New York, they were trying to stay away from high-flow nasal cannulas. BiPap was also something they were very cautious about doing.
By the time I got to Texas, whatever they needed we did. How quickly we would intubate someone had definitely changed. The goal was to not intubate as quickly as when I was in New York. Convalescent plasma was used a lot more. It was ordered in Texas, but the volume of patients was so heavy they tried to reserve it for those very critical patients, or critical with a chance of recovery. Those were the two main things: how we managed the airway and what treatments we would consider. In New York, I had a lot of patients who were just mainly ICU and intubated. In Texas, I had a lot of patients who were what we call walkie-talkies. They were on a non-rebreather, a nasal cannula, and they were able to take all their medications by mouth. So, that was different. But, again, that also is reflective of the environment I was in. In New York, it was ICU, in Texas, it was more an ED style.
Our nation is striving to not only spotlight social injustice and systemic racism, but to enact meaningful reform and action. What can nurses and other healthcare professionals do to continue to move the needle on equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism?
Awareness. Awareness is one of the biggest things. Regardless of what ethnicity, what race you are, there is ignorance of another person's race and nationality. That's OK. I was raised in an African American household, so I don't expect to know everything that goes on in an Asian American household, or any other household. So, being OK with not knowing, but also being open to discuss that.
Another thing is not assuming that something doesn't exist because you've never experienced it. That's been one of the most frustrating things for me, a person who is not of my race saying that "it doesn't happen to me." You can't say that I don't experience what I've experienced in life. I think:
- Be willing to have uncomfortable conversations
- Be an advocate
If it looks wrong, address it. As nurses, be truly aware, and make sure there is equity in how patients are treated. We talk about patient advocacy, but it goes beyond just the right medication or the right treatment plan. It goes back to that whole bedside manner, you know, treating our patients like the humans they are, regardless of their race, creed or color.
Tell us how you helped launch a children's book.
Crystal Grant is a CRNA, and she had a vision to start a children's book series called "The Super CRNA." As she started writing the book, she asked me to be the physical embodiment of the character, a portrayal of the Super CRNA. She thought I would be a good example because of my varying professional background, so that a kid reading this book, even if they didn't want to be a CRNA, if they looked deeper into my role, they would see an EMT, paramedic, firefighter, ED nurse, ICU nurse, flight nurse. And in any of those things, they could see themselves. Particularly, young African American males, but anybody for that matter. I wrote the introduction to the book. I was thrilled to introduce the book from my perspective, and then getting accepted into CRNA school was another highlight for being a part of that initiative. I'm excited. Now I have to live up to the CRNA task, so I can truly be the Super CRNA.
On social media, you spotlight family and post about the influence of your father and grandfathers. How did they motivate you?
Wow, yes, my father and grandfathers were staples in their community. They were men who people looked up to. They were seen as hard workers and successful men. Not in terms of money, but successful in the sense of the Albert Einstein quote [paraphrasing], "Try to become a man of value, rather than a man of success." Both my grandfathers and my father, in my opinion, and in many others' opinions, were men of value. Their presence was valued. I remember at my father's funeral, I had never attended a service with that many people present. I was in the ninth grade at the time, and it was awe-inspiring to see that many people being supportive.
It's back to school for you and for your children during an uncertain time. What's it like for you and your family?
It's rough. Shout-outs to all teachers, because just like nursing, being an educator, especially for our young minds, is something that's truly undervalued. It's a skill to teach a 7-year-old, a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old (in my family's case). Trying to do it via Zoom, I think it's harder for the teachers than it is the kids. It's definitely a challenge for me. This first month of CRNA school has been extremely heavy for me. Nowhere in my plans did I envision being home while in school. Balance is a constant juggling throughout life, and this is just another one of those times where I'm balancing the pieces.