National Capital Chapter

Meet Joan: Hiking Lover and Nurses’ Rights Fighter

Joan Hurwitz, APR is a passionate advocate who has spent 27 years supporting nurses. When she’s not spending hours fighting to get protective equipment for nurses across America, during COVID-19, Joan enjoys hiking, the arts and watching Homeland with her husband. You might hear Joan advocating for self-care and encouraging everyone to prioritize their mental and physical health. Learn more about Joan and hear about how she helped pass a bill in Congress in 18 months!

Q: Joan, what’s your story? What do you currently do? Where were you before?

My story is kind of typical, I first came to D.C. as a college intern many years ago and I was just so stimulated by all the opportunities that I stayed here. I am currently the VP of Communications at American Nurses Association (ANA Enterprise). ANA is actually three organizations – the traditional membership organization, American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Nurses Foundation. I have been with ANA for 27 years. I like to say that I’m on my second tour of duty as I was here for many years, then I left for a short while to work for the Alliance for Aging Research for a while. At that time I also had my daughter, who was very young, so it was one of those things looking for some better work-life balance. Later I came back to ANA.

Q:  Wow. That’s really impressive. What is the best part about working for nonprofits?

I found that, for me, that niche in the nonprofit world was the best fit. I think it goes back to mission, really aligning with the mission of the organization. What we like to say at ANA is, “what’s good for nurses is good for patients.” And so I have been involved in a whole host of health care reform initiatives really looking at what we think are the kinds of changes that improve access to care, the quality of health care. We focus on improving health care, and also health.

Q: Why did you decide to stay in D.C. for so long?

If you are interested in public relations, public affairs, all of that kind of work, the opportunities in D.C. are really kind of unmatched.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do in D.C.?

It’s hard to identify one favorite thing, there’s so much history and arts, then you get out of D.C. and there’s a lot to do if you like the outdoors. It’s a great diversity of lifestyle activities. One of my favorite places to go is the Shenandoah National Park. My husband and I were actually there in November for my birthday and we got iced in on a mountain! Sometimes you just have to kick back and enjoy it.

Q: Going back to your career, what made you join PRSA NCC?

Well, that’s easy. One of my bosses early in my career was very active in NCC, he was a great champion. He created the expectation that of course you would join because that’s what you should do as a professional.

Q: What’s your proudest professional achievement?

I was really proud to be associated with a campaign to get federal legislation passed, “The Needlestick Safety and Protection Act” in 2000. We were able to get the bill introduced and passed in 18 months, really unheard of as the average is usually 5-10 years. We had a good case, the data, grassroots involvement, state-level momentum, grasstops activity and effective storytellers. We had a couple of nurses, who were members, talk about their experiences getting infected from needle stick injuries with HIV, hepatitis and they thoughtfully and courageously told their stories.

Q: What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

Invest in your own professional development. You don’t have to join a lot of organizations or pay for a lot of classes, but there’s a lot to invest in without breaking the bank. You are really responsible for your own professional development rather than someone else carving the path for you.

Q: Outside of work, what do you do during your free time? What are your hobbies?

I like outdoor activities like hiking. I also like reading history and historical fiction.

Q: What are you passionate about beyond communications?

I am passionate about health care and I feel really fortunate that I am able to combine my two passions. Health care is so essential and during this pandemic, it’s a great reminder, as we try to kind of balance reopening the economy but want to make sure we do it safely both on the macro and micro levels.

Q: Can you recommend a movie/show or book you are currently excited about?

My husband and I are currently watching Homeland.

Q: What have you been doing to pass time during COVID-19?

Trying to carve out time for self-care. As you can imagine, at ANA, we were actively involved with COVID-19 since February, even before it was declared a pandemic. Really thinking about all of the implications of COVID on nurses and we find the number one issue for nurses is personal protective equipment – what they need to be safe to care for patients. On the other hand, there is a good number of nurses who have been furloughed or laid off, so we are working very intently and long hours to respond to and plan for the variety of things impacting us as an organization, business and also our nurses.

Q: If you’re comfortable, could you share how you are dealing with the stress of COVID-19?

This is different from anything that we’ve experienced in our lifetime. I was at ANA and very involved with Ebola when that hit nurses in the US, so while we have experience with crisis management this is really uncharted territory for everybody. Good to remind yourself of that. I really do try to practice self-care. That’s a mix of trying to get out for a walk every day — and sometimes that’s at 10:30 PM in the rain, but that helps my physical and mental health. I also aim to get sufficient rest, take a break and have something to look forward to. I also emphasize with my team that during these times, you may not be able to execute in a perfect way, so be realistic about expectations. Communication is also really important, since sometimes there is no substitute for picking up the phone and having a conversation.

PR is stressful under normal circumstances, fast-paced, detail oriented, so we have to reinforce the importance of self-care. This means supporting your colleagues, jumping in and helping with what may not be your regular role.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the interviewed members. “Meet the Members” is a PRSA-NCC initiative whose goal is to spotlight our members, their thoughts and ambitions by connecting and introducing them to more members of the PRSA NCC community.

Want to be featured on Meet the Members? Fill out this form.