When Dr. Romeatrius Nicole Moss, RN, MSN, APHN-BC, DNP, sees a need nurses can fill, she uses everything at her disposal to meet that need. Working in the community is one of the places where she does that best.
At just 34 years old, Moss is founder of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Black Nurse Association where she serves as executive director and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Medical Reserve Corps where she acts as the unit director. Between the two organizations, Moss has implemented hundreds of community-changing programs that reach thousands of residents.
In between traveling from her home base in Florida to Mississippi each weekend, Moss works her day job of flight commander for medical service flight at Hurlburt Field, overseeing the largest department. She holds a rank of captain which will soon be major, but she has her sights set on being a general.
She was recently honored as one of only six 2013 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award recipients. Nominated for the Advanced Practice Nurse category, Cherokee states the award is given to those “elected for their impact on the lives of others through extraordinary patient care, sacrifice, and innovation while serving as an inspiration to others.”
Although Moss seems like she was on a nursing track from a young age, she actually started out as a premed college student at Berea College. “During my freshman year, I ended up with a roommate who was in prenursing,” she says. “While I was deep in the books with cells and organisms, they were hands-on with patients. I was more intrigued with what she was doing than what I was doing.” She changed her major shortly after.
Moss joined the Air Force after her graduation in 2004 and finished her latest degree, a doctorate, in 2011, all while raising a family of three young boys with her husband, Meko.
“I love the flexibility,” says Moss about her chosen career and says the Air Forces has bestowed several benefits. “I am going on 10 years in nursing and I have worked in seven different departments and all over the world.” As an Air Force nurse, Moss says she enjoyed the mutual respect between nurses and physicians and that helped her feel comfortable giving her opinion as a nurse.
Moss feels very strongly about using her nursing skills and knowledge to help people in the community. By doing so, the community becomes stronger and healthier. Because of her view, nursing becomes not just her career, but also her purpose. “When you go to work, 30 percent of what you can do is to have a mission to help in any way you can,” says Moss. “You are entrusted with this knowledge and you need to share it with the world.”
But she recognizes the continual struggle to get communities to change, even admitting that just getting members of her extended family to develop healthier habits required baby steps.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Moss saw how much people needed health education and how tough it was for nurses to connect to help. “I said, 'Let's go out and provide information to our community,” she recalls. So she did, gathering nurses and outreach to talk with people and provide free health clinics.
In 2009, she started the Medical Reserve Corp., so a cadre of workers would be ready and trained to mobilize when there was an emergency. The group, she says, has no dues and anyone is invited to join, unlike national organizations, so it frees up many professionals who have some medical training and are ready to help if needed. “I felt it was my calling to do something,” says Moss.
Moss is passionate about all health issues, from racial disparities in hypertension and diabetes to educating young children about domestic violence. Moss recently completed a video to educate new parents about RSV in infants. “It's everything they need to know and what to watch for,” she says.
With a seemingly endless amount of energy, what fuels her fire? “I grew up working class,” she says. “We didn't have a lot and we died of things we could have prevented.” She is most proud of her family, and their well being is her driving force. When she sees her sister keep with an exercise program or her family making healthier eating choices, she is thrilled. “I am an advocate for my family,” she says, “and the voice of reason. They bounce ideas off me.”
Her boys, now 6, 4, and 2, accompany Moss to the health fairs and they see what is involved. As a family, they talk about the community, and the boys want to make the same kind of good changes as their mom. She wants them to see all she does so they know that one person can truly make huge changes.
“It is great to have knowledge,” she says. “It is powerful.”