Nurse Leading Change, “Saving Babies’ Lives”

Regina “Jean” Grazel SNC’81, left, and Linda Wray CCAS’74, SNC’76, at the School of Nursing pinning ceremony.

Regina “Jean” Grazel SNC’81, left, and Linda Wray CCAS’74, SNC’76, at the School of Nursing pinning ceremony.

By Will Bunch

When Regina “Jean” Grazel SNC’81 was earning her nursing degree at Rutgers–Camden, one of the biggest takeaways was the notion that nursing isn’t just about collecting a paycheck, but a profession where one is expected to give something back. “That’s really rooted in me—that it’s not a job, but a profession,” said Grazel, who would go on to become the president of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.

Those lessons were still ringing in Grazel’s ears three decades later when officials asked her to play a key role in helping New Jersey become the first state in the nation to implement a program mandating for screening of newborn infants for congenital heart defects. As a program director for the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics since the mandate launched in 2012, Grazel’s work with hospitals and staff to get the program running statewide was so successful that other jurisdictions came calling for advice as neonatal heart screening became commonplace from coast to coast. “It’s a wonderful feeling to know we are saving babies’ lives,” said Grazel, noting that a study this year from the Centers for Disease Control credits screening for a 33 percent drop in deaths from congenital heart defects.

Meanwhile, because of Grazel’s close ties with New Jersey hospitals, she was called again recently to play a similar role to coordinate educational efforts for health-care providers and tracking of mothers and newborns exposed to the Zika virus. That happened in addition to her work in 2015 and 2016, when she used her platform as president of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses—where she’s still deeply involved as a board member—to advocate for better care for newborns needing intensive care and provide top-notch education.

But she said one of her proudest moments came through her work with Rutgers–Camden alumni groups, when she was invited back to officially salute new graduates. “That’s been the mainstay of my career,” she said. “Inspiring others.”

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