Nursing student Maiya Kimbrew

Maiya Kimbrew saw the blue baseball cap sitting in her bedroom, but she resisted the urge to wear it.

She said it would have felt like a lie for her to wear a hat with the UNC Greensboro School of Nursing logo on the front and “Healthy Nurse” stitched across the back. After all, she considered herself anything but healthy at the time.

Last fall, Kimbrew was at her heaviest weight when she was given the baseball cap as a new pre-licensure student at the School of Nursing’s White Coat Ceremony.

During the ceremony, she heard Dean Robin Remsburg speak about the Healthy Nurse Pledge. The pledge states nurses must take care of themselves in addition to their patients and stay healthy, both physically and mentally.

After the ceremony, Kimbrew tossed the baseball cap aside and continued to eat fast food, sometimes twice a day. She also never exercised. A few months later, though, she thought more about the Healthy Nurse Pledge and decided to finally get serious about her health.

Maiya Kimbrew

“I was like how am I going to look at a patient, maybe they have hypertension or something, and say, ‘Eat less sodium, don’t eat out as much, exercise really helps with that,’ and I’m over here not doing anything about it,” Kimbrew said.

With no classes or job to go to because of the coronavirus pandemic, Kimbrew devoted this past summer to changing her lifestyle. She started running, eating a low-carbohydrate diet, and drinking one gallon of water a day at least four times a week.

Kimbrew has dropped 40 pounds since last April, and the senior is scheduled to graduate from UNCG with her bachelor of science in nursing degree in May. She said hearing the Healthy Nurse Pledge absolutely triggered her decision to make a lifestyle change.

“When I learned more about holistic care, I realized being a healthy nurse means being emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually fit,” Kimbrew said. “Over these last few months, I have grown to be kinder to myself. I’ve found my relationship with God growing stronger, and I’ve also developed a can-do attitude with every endeavor in my life.” 

Kimbrew said diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure runs in her family. Up until a few months ago, though, she wasn’t doing much to keep herself healthy.

 Kimbrew can list the fast-food restaurants she used to frequent, including Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s. She also ate regularly at Cracker Barrel since she worked there as a waiter and got an employee discount on food.

However, Kimbrew lost her job at Cracker Barrel because of the pandemic. It ended up being a positive thing. With more free time, she made a commitment to herself to focus on her health.

“I am very proud of Maiya for taking charge of her own health to be an example for the community, which she will care for.”

Crystal Lamb, clinical assistant professor in the UNCG School of Nursing

Kimbrew said she was inspired to make a change after watching the 2019 comedy “Brittany Runs a Marathon” and seeing too many similarities between herself and the unhappy protagonist. In the film, Brittany hates the way she looks in a mirror and doesn’t feel confident when she’s hanging out with friends, so she decides to train for the New York City Marathon.

“By the end of the movie, she’s running 26 miles, and I was like ‘I can do that! I can do that!’” Kimbrew said. “And so I went to the park one day, and I jogged for two minutes, out of breath, dying, bent over, but I was like ‘At least I did it.’”

Kimbrew’s classmates in the School of Nursing noticed her hard work once they returned for the fall semester.

Kimbrew said she was waiting for her first Population Heath Nursing class to begin when one of her friends on the Zoom call said, “Maiya, you lost weight, girl!” Since then, several nursing students have reached out to her on Facebook asking for her workout routine and tips to get healthier.

“I kept seeing the School of Nursing hat in my room, and I always wanted to wear it,” Kimbrew said. “But I was like ‘You know, you’re not a healthy nurse.’”

She has now given herself permission to wear the hat.

Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing

Photography by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing, and courtesy of Maiya Kimbrew