CU Nursing - Commencement Spring 2020 - 12

12

MASTER'S PROGRAM

CU Nursing
Graduate: 'You are
not just a nurse'
'NURSE KELLEY' TELLS FELLOW GRADUATES THEIR
MISSION STANDS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

W
By Debra Melani

hen she competed in Miss
Colorado in 2015, Kelley
Johnson, RN, wore a gown
from Craigslist that was too
short for heels. So, she went barefoot.
She borrowed a swimsuit at the last minute and strolled out in her nursing scrubs
for the talent competition, delivering a
monologue she had scribbled down in
the car on the way to the pageant.
She won, and the monologue changed
her life.
"Pageantry wasn't something I was really ever meant to do,"
said Johnson, who will earn her Family Nurse Practitioner
degree from the University of Colorado College of Nursing
this May, even though the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed
her chance at the graduation stage off indefinitely (probably
in December). "It was about scholarship money."
Johnson went on to deliver that monologue about the
power of nursing in the 2016 Miss America Pageant. She
won second runner-up, had her college debt erased, received $10,000 from TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres
for graduate school, and put the spotlight on the nursing
profession more than she could have ever imagined.
Today, as her fellow nurses are being challenged in unimaginable ways caring for the sick and dying during a worldwide
pandemic, the message Johnson has continued to share
since her moment of fame rings truer than ever: You are
not just a nurse.

CU College of Nursing | May Commencement 2020

'IGNORANT COMMENTS: A BLESSING IN DISGUISE'
Johnson, who grew up in Windsor, was a nursing student in Iowa when
she jumped into pageantry hoping to (but not expecting to) earn some
scholarship money. Her untraditional Miss America monologue - a
touching, personal tribute to nursing - ignited a national outcry after
some women on the daytime TV show "The View" mocked her attire.
"Why was she wearing a costume?" they said of her scrubs. "Why was
she wearing a doctor's stethoscope?"
"It was such a blessing in disguise," Johnson said of the "ignorant comments" that caused her email inbox to explode with angry nurses from
across the country wanting to thank her for her monologue. "We were
given a platform and microphone to really talk about our profession,"
she said of the crusade that followed (#NursesUnite). "We were excited
to be nurses again."
Johnson, who knew she wanted to be a nurse at age 4 when she watched
nurses care for her father who passed away from colon cancer, delivered
80 keynote speeches on the importance of nursing in the three months
following her Miss Colorado delivery of that monologue, which earned
a standing ovation.
After Miss America and "The View" comments, a media frenzy ensued.
"I was on Ellen, Dr. Oz, E! News, Inside Edition, The Doctors. It was just
really insane, the outpour," she said, adding that the nationwide support
was the best part of the ordeal.

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CU Nursing - Commencement Spring 2020

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