Nurses make a difference: May is National Nurses Month

Published 12:05 am Thursday, May 23, 2024

May is National Nurses Month, a time set aside to honor and celebrate nurses for the care and compassion they provide.

Tammy Woods, who serves as president of the Piedmont Black Nurses Association, said it was important as an organization to take this time to honor nurses and let their colleagues know they are appreciated.

“Nobody knows what a nurse goes through except for another nurse,” Woods said, as she shared there are times when they have to just go off by themselves, “shed a tear, come back, put our face on and smile.”

She said everybody should know they are appreciated.

The Piedmont Black Nurses Association, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, is a local chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, founded in 1971. The association serves five counties, Rowan, Cabarrus, Union, Iredell and Mecklenburg, and has grown from 17 members when it first started to more than 100 on their roster.

“We’ve experienced some tremendous growth,” she said.

Sharing the history of the organization, Woods said she had never heard of it until a colleague, who was from Miami, said she would like to join the Black Nurses Association but there wasn’t a local chapter.

So she searched the website and discovered there was a North Carolina Nurses Association and an American Nurses Association and the reason the National Black Association was formed in 1971 was because black nurses could not join the American Nurses Association.

“That was very shocking to me,” she said.

 Ever since she was six, Woods said she has wanted to be a nurse and in the 90s started nursing school. She went through a divorce and instead of continuing school, she had to get a job to provide for the family.

However, when the children were grown and on their own, she remarried and thought now’s the time to go back and “finish what I had started,” graduating in 2008.

In reading the history of the National Black Nurses Association, Woods thought that had she been a nurse at that time, she would not have been able to be a part of the American Nurses Association.

“Being a Black nurse, the experience is totally different than I think from the counterparts. There are things that we deal with that I don’t think happen to our counterparts,” Woods said. 

She and her colleague decided to attend a meeting in Durham where there was a chapter, and they came back thinking “OK, we can do this” and even though that was in February and the deadline to submit an application to start a chapter was March, they moved forward.

Several requirements were needed to form a chapter including 15 members, be committed to the mission of serving the underserved populations and mentorship of nurses.

“Being a nurse, we were like, we can do it,” Woods said, with a laugh.

The nonprofit organization was chartered in July 2019 and now the local Piedmont Black Nurses Association is preparing to have its fifth anniversary celebration June 22 at the Hilton in Charlotte.

The group has developed partnerships in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, said Woods, “where we do quite a bit of outreach.”

She said they also partner with Novant Health in Salisbury, noting that within Novant there is an African American Business Resource Group they partner with providing health screenings for the underserved population.

They have supported Rowan Helping Ministries by conducting a virtual food drive for them and participated in community days in the East Spencer area.

With a smile, Woods said “nurses do it all.”

Additional partnerships they have formed include one with AmeriHealth Caritas in Charlotte, a Medicaid supplemental insurance, they are a new member of the Rowan Chamber of Commerce and several were formed as the result of them participating in the Minority Business Trade Show, she said.

A firm believer that charity begins at home, Woods said, “I want to make sure we are prevalent here in this community. It’s needed.”

Being able to educate the community, helping them to live healthier lives, is one role she enjoys.

Along with supporting those in the underserved community, Woods said the organization also mentors nursing students, and shared that she wishes she had had someone to mentor her when she was a student.

“Nursing is a wide open field and you can do whatever,” as she mentioned the varied nursing career she has had beginning as a med surg nurse, in hospice care, women’s health and as a Heart Failure Navigator.

“You really can be all that you want to be,” she said. “So having someone to mentor you, help you navigate through the profession is very important.”

Even if students move away once they graduate, they can be connected with a mentor from another chapter that is in the area they are moving to.

“This way we can make sure they can continue to be engaged,” said Woods.

Every state has a chapter with some states having multiple, she said. There are currently three chapters in North Carolina – Central Carolina, Piedmont, and a Queen City Chapter, based out of Atrium Health in Charlotte.

To learn more about the organization and perhaps join the local chapter, go to

And those needing assistance can also reach out through the website. Other ways include word of mouth, referrals, and they are on all the social media platforms. Therefore, those needing help can send them a message and request them to come out and provide health screenings, education or whatever is needed, she said.

Those wanting to help the nonprofit organization out for their anniversary event can purchase tickets on the website or make a donation.

Other ways the community can help is by donating items when they participate in community events that might attract people to come and visit their booth and get information, she said.

They want to be self-funding, Woods said, and one way in which they do this is by volunteering with the Bank of America fundraising project scanning tickets and are paid as a nonprofit. This volunteer effort helps them to earn funds so they can continue helping others in the community.

Some upcoming projects they are involved with includes a diaper drive as they are planning a baby shower to give away diapers and a feminine hygiene product drive to support young women and the The Period Project.

Those wishing to donate items for any of these projects can visit the website and click on Make a Donation and call or text the number listed or see the Contact Us section and provide information at this location.

Woods pointed out there is a nursing shortage, and when asked why she would encourage those interested in making nursing their career, she referenced a Johnson & Johnson commercial that shows how nurses make a difference.

“I think that at the end of the day knowing that you made that difference is very satisfying,” she said. We work hard,  and if you come to the profession for the money, you’re not going to be happy. So just knowing that you made a difference.”

Because community needs are great, and calendars fill up, Woods said they try to take breaks to “rejuvenate because self-care is important too. I’m a firm believer that you can’t be effective if you’re pouring from an empty cup. So you have to keep your cup full.”

To do this, she said they participate in social events to unwind and have that balance. They could be going out somewhere together or maybe it’s a call or text to encourage one another and see how they are doing, she said.

Woods is the founding president and is in her fifth year serving in that role. Come June 22 at their gala, they will be installing new officers with current vice president, Sonia Hart, taking the reins as president of the organization.

Woods is running in the 2024 election for an at-large board seat on the national level.