Ali Gorman, RN, BSN, doesn’t consider herself “born to be a nurse” — at least not in the traditional sense of the profession.
“I think there’s something different for everybody in nursing, and that’s what’s great about the field,” says Gorman, who is the Action News health reporter for WPVI, the ABC-owned TV station in Philadelphia.
Inspired by the stories told by her cousin, who is also a nurse, Gorman decided to pursue nursing. She earned a BSN at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and got her first job as a U.S. Navy Corps officer in the gynecology department at Great Lakes Naval Hospital and Recruit Training Center, North Chicago, Ill.
From there, Gorman took a job as an IV nurse at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in New York and then as a staff nurse on the oncology/hematology unit at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Not a Perfect Fit
After about five years at the bedside, Gorman realized hospital nursing was not a perfect fit for her. “I knew I wanted to stay in healthcare, but I wanted to do something different,” she says. “I wanted something a little more creative.”
As a nurse, Gorman says, her strength was in patient education. She enjoyed going over discharge instructions with patients and making sure they could take care of themselves. She sees her job as a health reporter as a type of patient education, but in a format that reaches a lot more people.
She gets mixed reactions from her professional peers, however. “Nurses either really like that I made the change, or nurses look at it as another nurse who left ‘real’ nursing,” Gorman says.
Raised in Voorhees, N.J., Gorman grew up watching Action News. It was her mother, Ann, who recognized her passion and encouraged her to go back to school to become a TV reporter.
So Gorman went to Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and earned a master’s in journalism. After a few years as a TV reporter, she learned about a job opening in Philadelphia.
Her background as a nurse helped Gorman stand out for the health reporter job at WPVI, says Vice President and News Director Carla Carpenter.
“Ali and our HealthCheck producer, Dawn Heefner, are charged with the important task of accurately and fairly reporting the latest in medicine on a daily basis,” Carpenter says. “Having a nurse on board to help us achieve our goal is a definite advantage.” That, combined with a strong work ethic, helped Gorman land the job in Philadelphia.
“I feel like the stars aligned,” Gorman says. It brought her back to the region she calls home and nearer to her family. Her parents live in Haddonfield, N.J., and one of her sisters is in Berlin, N.J. Gorman, 33, is the youngest of four daughters.
But it’s likely she would have gone anywhere in the U.S. to get the job she really wanted. Before Philadelphia, Gorman held reporting positions in Lansing, Mich., and Jacksonville, Fla. “This was my goal. I wanted to do the health reporting,” she says.
Not So Different
To hear Gorman tell it, nurses and journalists have quite a bit in common. For one thing, they both get to hear people’s stories. She remembers how as a nurse she would form strong bonds with her patients and their families, especially during her time on the oncology unit.
“As a reporter, your job is to personalize stories,” Gorman says. “You have that same kind of connection.”
Nurses and journalists both deal with what Gorman refers to as the “stress-time crunch.” And she admits she prefers the pressure of a breaking news story to a nursing emergency.
“The stress of a deadline is much easier than the stress of a code,” she says. “It’s not as intimidating as someone’s life in your hands.”
Being a nurse helps Gorman to be a better reporter because she has clinical knowledge of many of the topics. Her understanding and respect for HIPAA laws and clinical protocol have helped her when working with hospital public relations representatives, whose main concerns are for patient privacy and professionalism of the healthcare staff.Ali Gorman, RN, BSN
Nurses on Camera
Gorman admits she often goes to physicians when seeking a quote from a health expert. “People do like to see the whitecoats,” she says, using TV news jargon for MDs.
But part of the decision about who gets on camera depends upon who is available before Gorman’s deadline passes. “Nurses, by nature, want more prep time and want to be sure they’re giving you the best information,” she says. “They don’t want us to roll up and interview them.”
Having “RN” after her name sometimes means Gorman needs to work a little harder to get a sound bite that speaks to her audience. “Don’t talk to me like a nurse; talk to me like a patient,” she reminds some of the physicians she interviews.
Gorman says she makes an effort to get nurses on camera when she can. “I think nurses are working with the people more often,” she says. “Nurses can give a lot more background on a patient in terms of their whole health.”
She gives the example of a story about new technology to check a patient’s cardiac enzymes at the bedside. The story featured an emergency room nurse demonstrating the device. “I wanted to talk with a nurse then as opposed to a doctor because [nurses] are the ones using the technology, and they know better than anyone else its pros and cons and how it makes a difference,” Gorman says.
Gorman maintains her nursing license in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, just in case. She says she could see herself working as a hospital nurse again someday.
“I admire them so much,” Gorman says. “I really do think it’s the most noble of professions.”