By Dan Metz
Jan. 30 was a normal day for Nishelle Hines. Work started at 7 a.m. at the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Hospital, where she works as a perioperative nurse. Her shift ended at 5:30 p.m., giving her just enough time to eat dinner before driving an hour down to Dover.
At 8 p.m., she joined other volunteers for Delaware’s Place in Time (PiT) count, spreading out across the state to tally Delawareans who are living without permanent shelter. For more than four hours, Hines and others took turns scouring parks, fields, and business complexes in zero-degree wind-chill before she returned home to get some rest before going back to work in the morning.
Hines and five other PiT count participants were members of Black Nurses Rock (BNR), a national nonprofit with a chapter in Delaware. The organization works to inspire and empower nurses, especially black nurses, to give back to their communities and teach health education. Hines is BNR Delaware’s president and CEO, as well as one of the chapter’s most active members. It’s a fact she’s proud of. “I’ll get off work at 5:30 and go somewhere and be at an event from 6 to 8 at night and still have to go home and come in [to work] the next day.”
BNR focuses on education and outreach, finding partners across the state. Most of the Delaware chapter’s events are educational; they’ll set up a booth at community events and health fairs, where they can help members of communities who are less likely to see a doctor.
Some people, Hines says, are more comfortable with the familiar. “When I go out in the community and I look at that older person who is struggling to take care of their health when they go into the doctor’s office, most of the people don’t look like them. When I go out in the community, I have people that come and say ‘Wow you’re a nurse? Can you tell me about X, Y, and Z?’”
The First State’s BNR chapter is small, with just over 20 members, but they’ve already made a big impact. Last year they donated more than 275 backpacks full of school supplies to students at six schools across all three counties. Members showed up at Henrietta Johnson Medical Center a couple months later on Christmas, offering a hot breakfast, a free health screening, and gift bags full of toiletries and other essentials.
The chapter also runs a mentorship program for young teens and, since the chapter’s founding in 2016, they
have awarded $2,500 to aspiring nurses through their partnership with Discover Card’s BOLD (Black Organizational Leadership of Discover) program.
Hines found out about the PiT count through her job at the VA but says that she is always looking for new opportunities. She’ll talk to other members, check the newspapers and search social media to find new events and reach out to build partnerships.
“We are a professional organization here in the community,” she says, “willing to work with all organizations
to help provide health care and wellness education.”
Black Nurses Rock means a lot to Hines, though she says that the name sometimes causes confusion. While BNR’s first members were all black, Hines estimates that 5 percent of the national organization are nurses of other ethnicities who believe in BNR’s mission.
The name, she says, is about celebrating identity: “I’m black. I love my blackness and I love my community and I love to give back no matter what color you are.” To those who want to get involved, she adds, “It’s not about your color. Look at the mission and what we’re doing in the community … As long as you can say you’re for the mission, we’d love to have you.”