Ingred Prince, RN, BSN, Nu’16
Unapologetically Black and human and visually creative and arresting. They still do. With little thought, I ran from hospital to theatre house, class to rehearsals, lab to auditions. I did so with so much energy. I did so with so much conviction. I was Black, queer, immigrant, and low income at a white, elite Ivy League institution while studying a profession where everything truly is “life or death”. Theatre was my coping mechanism.
Fast forward to my first year as a big girl nurse and I was stressed, depressed, and burnt out. Being a nurse is hard. You’re overworked, underpaid, understaffed, and abused for an entire 12-hour shift. Every decision you make directly affects someone else’s life. Sometimes the standardized treatments and biases conflict with your own moral and political convictions. Managing those moments while still trying to get your swerve on in your 20s can be complicated too. So, often after a shift, I would pull a Moesha and write about the misadventures of a young quirky nurse in a journal. I couldn’t devote hours to a theatre house, but I could escape behind the curtains of my words.
Those journal entries soon became scripts. Scripts about a young nurse named Indigo and her work wives, Reese and Veronica as they awkwardly navigate workplace politics, relationships, and Baltimore city. My screenwriting professor encouraged me to film one of my scripts. Even gave me a tip on a potential funding source. I was afraid. I was doubtful. Imposter syndrome was creeping into my spirit. So I did what any scared, enterprising millennial would do – DM a friend. I told a theatre bud from college who then told another college friend and then another. Before we knew it, it seemed we had a collective of 5 boss femmes willing to do the work. All UPenn alums. Guess what we did next? Started a group chat. We held virtual meetings every Monday with a glass of wine as our special guest.
At this time, I was increasingly unhappy with the scheduling protocol and compensation at my first nursing job out of undergrad. So I left, and became a travel nurse. I wanted flexibility and better compensation to invest more time into my interests and I wasn’t able to compromise anymore. I had to set my own professional boundaries. So now I only work 36 hours a week, day shifts and I’ve doubled my salary. I work in cities like LA or Atlanta where I can take meetings, classes, or network with other filmmakers.
Six months after my departure from my staff job, we received the funding we needed. Then we hired an even bigger team – a production company, actors, art department. We didn’t know what we were doing. It was my first time ever making a film. But, we were hungry. Instinct, positivity, prayer, mentorship, and Google fed us. We carried the project with every milestone – new jobs, new cities, new relationships, new living situations. We took our time and worked it around our lives.
After a year of Monday night meetings, we shot and edited the pilot episode of gales.
The pandemic was tough on us. Post-production was almost exclusively virtual. We canceled our cast party and showed the team our work on Zoom. I found myself caught between the principles of self-preservation and duty as the COVID-19 pandemic surged on with a nationwide shortage of PPE. The film and theatre industry went to a complete stop from March to August. The stock market crash and rising unemployment was also a concern for further financing and development of our project. So much of our dream had been delayed, but luckily not deferred.
Our television pilot “The Switch” is currently being pitched to digital, streaming, and network companies for further development. We are also submitting to film festivals. gales. more than anything taught me what it looks like to bet on yourself. Being a nurse isn’t necessarily a pipeline of undergrad, bedside nursing, grad school, and retirement. Nursing is flexible. You can merge your interests and create the lifestyle you want. You just have to be willing to do the work. Nothing about this process has been easy nor perfect. But it certainly has been rewarding. Every day, I go toe-to-toe with my own fears and I rediscover myself. I get to explore the multitudes of my own potential as a woman, nurse, and a filmmaker. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To submit your own story, visit www.nursing.upenn.edu/humans.