UA Little Rock nursing student recognized for exceptional work on the frontlines

Allen Emerson and his wife, Jennifer.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock nursing student is being honored for his work on the frontlines in the COVID-19 pandemic in the Seattle area, home of the first known coronavirus case in the United States.

Allen Emerson, a senior nursing major from Little Rock who will graduate this month, has been named a healthcare hero in the Seattle area by Nurse.org for his work with COVID-19 patients. In addition to being named a healthcare hero, the American College of Cardiology has given Emerson a free membership and is profiling him in an upcoming newsletter.

“This nomination was given by the hospital I am currently at (Evergreen Health Medical),” Emerson said. “They felt that I had gone above and beyond the norm. It was an incredible honor to receive this recognition from these companies. I could not be more thankful. It is an incredible opportunity to be able to work alongside some of the very best doctors and nurses here in the Seattle area, and I am certainly a better nurse for it.”

Now a registered nurse along with his wife of 26 years, Emerson has also worked as a paramedic and a chief flight medical officer in Saudi Arabia. He is a student in UA Little Rock’s online RN-to-BSN program as well as a traveling nurse currently working with COVID-19 patients in Kirkland, Washington.

“This has been a surreal opportunity,” Emerson said. “Each and every day we learn something new about this virus and its effect on the body. I have experienced new ways to meet the needs of these patients.”

Since the pandemic began, Emerson said he and other healthcare workers are trying new medicines that he’s never worked with before as well as new procedures to treat COVID-19.

“There are days that I make a difference, and there are days that it seems I am simply spinning my wheels, but I have always taught both of my boys to try and think of others in times like this,” he said. “I love what I do and the opportunity that it affords me, but there are times when the sacrifice is great.”

A few days after Emerson went to work in Washington, he received unexpected news. Emerson’s son, Briley, and his fiancé had decided to move their wedding up and get married immediately.

“With everything that was going on around them, they had decided to get married in order to face the coming days, weeks, and months together as husband and wife,” Emerson said. “I would have probably done the same thing 30 years ago.”

With his wife using Facetime, Emerson was able to watch his son’s wedding from the stairs of the hospital where he works.

“I can honestly say that the tears that I shed that day while I’m on the stairwell of the hospital were out of excitement for these two young individuals, but also out of the weight of the sacrifice that I just made missing this event in order to help patients from another part of the country,” he said.

 Emerson is dedicated to helping patients for as long as he is needed and able.

“For my fellow nurses that battle this pandemic on a day-to-day basis, I can only encourage you to take it one day at a time,” he said. “While many of us are well versed in multi-tasking and critical thinking, it is important to take one patient at a time. We do our very best every single time we enter the hospital. While there are days where our interventions bring great results, there are other days where, despite all of our efforts, it simply does not work in our favor.”

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