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 Ernest Grant 

Nurse Education Clinician for Burn Outreach
North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center
Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, North Carolina

By Evelyn L. Kent
Community College Times

How lucky for Ernest Grant that his fallback plan led him to a passionate love.

Grant, nursing education clinician for burn outreach at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, grew up poor in a small town in the western part of the state. Expectations for high school graduates ran along the lines of finding a manufacturing job that paid relatively well. Grant decided against that course and headed toward a career as a nurse anesthetist or medical technician and, on the advice of a high school counselor, serendipitously decided to get a nursing degree to support himself while continuing his education.

He graduated from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College with a degree in nursing in 1977. He found that he loved the field and went on to earn a BS in nursing and master’s in nursing education. “I went to one-year nursing program and decided that I really loved nursing,” Grant said.

“If it wasn’t for the community college system, I would not be where I am today, ” Grant said. “It was a leg up and to continue my education.”

In 1984 he went to work at the burn center and then began affecting the lives of every resident of North Carolina. Sound like hyperbole? Consider: He implemented a mandatory statewide program to teach fourth graders 25 key elements of fire safety. He’s now working on a version for pre-schoolers that includes teaching them to not be afraid of firefighters in full gear.

He also heads up an effort aimed at teaching fire prevention to seniors. “North Carolina is one of the top three states that seniors are choosing to retire to,” Grant said, and seniors’ risk of exposure increases exponentially as they get older. The burn center’s program focuses on dangers specific to seniors, such as loose clothing and potential drowsiness from prescription drugs.

Grant’s job is “80 percent outreach,” he said, while the rest of his time is divided among research, public relations efforts and some clinical tasks. He does not often work with patients unless there is a major tragedy or shortage of nursing staff, “but I still like to get my hands dirty.”

Most of his efforts are aimed at preventing burns but extend beyond his education initiatives. For instance, he has successfully lobbied the state legislature to require that all new water heaters be set at 120 degrees – a temperature not likely to scald. He also successfully lobbied to restrict the sales of fireworks to those 16 and older.

It is safe to say that most of Grant’s education, legislation and design efforts are geared toward preventing injuries. “I consider myself a preventionist,” Grant said.

Grant is active in state and national nursing associations and hopes to be president of the American Nurses Association within the next 10 years. Already named Nurse of the Year by Nursing Spectrum 2002, Grant may well be on his way. In the meantime, he continues his efforts during days that begin at 6 a.m. and last well into the night.

“There’s not an average day,” he said.

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