Her story: When Anna Conrey decided on nursing as a field of study in college, it was solely to help her Greek immigrant parents with their burgeoning medical care needs. But to her surprise, she fell in love with the profession, went on to work in the Intensive Care Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and then eight years ago decided to learn about blood disorders. She landed in the Sickle Cell Branch of the NHLBI and is now one of the most beloved nurses taking care of patients with SCD at the NIH Clinical Center.
Her motivator: “Just bonding with the patients. They’re just great, great people, and they gave me the love for what I do. They call me on my birthday. They sign up for research, donate their bodies for the sake of treatment. They really put themselves out there for the sake of finding a treatment for the disease, and I really admire that.”
Why patients sing her praises: “I think it’s because they trust me. They know I know them. The reality is that every patient is different—what works for one won’t work for another. Some won’t let the doctors touch them unless they call me first because I know them in and out—what medications and doses they can handle, what they can’t.”
Biggest challenge: “Seeing all of the complex psychosocial factors the patients face. They have a lot of pain, which makes it hard to hold down a job. They’re often not insured, and there are a lot of family dynamics involved in trying to get the care they need.”
What excites her: “When I started there was just one FDA-approved drug for sickle cell. Now it’s really blowing up with options and getting exciting. And the patients really have everything to do with that.”