Nursing alumna is COVID-19 meme superhero

Posted on April 03, 2020

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L to R: A meme of Cindric making its way through Reddit, and a meme taken from healthcare uniform maker FIGS’ company Facebook page.

You’ve seen her meme all over the internet. A superhero nurse sporting sunglasses, mask, walkie-talkie, and an arm covered with tattoos, making her way with confidence as though in an epic movie battle scene.

That superhero is none other than UNC Greensboro’s own Grace Cindric, 2016 graduate of the UNCG School of Nursing.

And the battle is real. Cindric is one of many healthcare professionals on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. She is currently a registered nurse at UNC Health in Chapel Hill, N.C.

While some of the memes depict her wearing a cape or starring in a superhero movie-like poster, she is indeed one of the real-life superheroes putting themselves between patients and the coronavirus.

The original photo was taken by Robert Willet for Raleigh, N.C.’s The News & Observer. The scene depicts Cindric entering the UNC Health clinic where she was on duty to help screen patients for COVID-19.

And what does Cindric think about the meme of her that’s gone viral?

“It’s a scary time for everybody. For people to see nurses and healthcare providers in that kind of persona – one that is kind of ‘badass’ as it’s been called – it gives them a little bit of hope. I’ve seen comments on social media such as, ‘This is the nurse on the front lines taking care of us. I feel safe now.’ We want people to feel that when they have to come to the emergency department, they are in good hands.”

Cindric’s UNCG School of Nursing training and all of her on-the-job experience working in emergency wards has prepared her for moments like this.

“UNCG has a fantastic nursing program. A lot of what I learned in the nursing program I am using now. But we are learning to adapt. Every day, every few hours, things change. And we just have to roll with it. But that’s the nature of emergency room nursing: We are quick to adapt.”

UNCG School of Nursing faculty and clinical instructor Dr. Lori Hubbard has stayed in contact with Grace, who was in her maternity nursing clinical rotation several years ago. “We have remained Facebook friends, mostly because she is so inspirational to me,” Hubbard says.

A scroll through Grace’s Facebook page reveals her hiking with her dogs, traveling the world, mastering unbelievable yoga poses, and powerlifting her own body weight.

Hubbard says she had superhero-like qualities even when she was going through the nursing program. “Her strong work ethic as well as her life outside the clinical arena embodies our UNCG Healthy Nurse Pledge.”

Cindric’s 2016 graduation photo.

The viral memes of Cindric come at a time when memes permeate our culture. While memes often depict humor, the superhero memes of Cindric are symbolic of the healthcare profession as a whole, showing the bravery, sacrifice, and level-headedness required in order to help so many during a chaotic and dangerous time.

“Creating and sharing memes can be cathartic, and people are looking for outlets that will help them process their feelings about the virus and its impact on our lives,” says UNCG assistant professor and first-year writing, visual art, and humanities librarian Maggie Murphy.

“Memes resonate most between people with similar experiences and shared cultural references, and people around the world are finding new commonalities around quarantining with family members and pets, adjusting to working or learning from home, encountering unexpected scarcity of consumer goods, and not knowing when, or if, things will return to normal,” says Murphy.

“It makes perfect sense to me that this image of Grace Cindric has not only gone viral, but has been adapted into memes that position her as ‘Badass Nurse,’ a folk hero who could easily serve as the protagonist of a video game or post-apocalyptic blockbuster movie.”

There are new nurses just entering the profession, and their initial on-the-job experience during the pandemic will surely shape them as future healthcare providers. Does Cindric have any advice for new nurses entering the field during this troubled time?

“Now is an unprecedented situation. But it also encompasses what we signed up for and what we took a vow for when we decided to become nurses. It’s our job to keep everybody as healthy as we can, regardless of scale or severity of the situation.”

Story by Matthew Bryant, University Communications


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