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Theatre performs faculty member's veterans-inspired screenplay


For many veterans, having a creative outlet is important for their mental health and the same is true for nurses. For Dawn Goldstein, she found a way to blend her love for creativity, her passion for mental health, and the care she provides as an Army psychiatric nurse practitioner and major.

Goldstein, the College of Nursing's Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program director, has been writing for the “Mighty Pen Project” for years. This free program is a creative outlet for veterans, where participants share their writing projects, which include reflections and memories of service.

“I took a step out of my comfort zone; this time I wrote about my military experience of providing care while also struggling with my own personal issues,” said Goldstein.  

Through the Mighty Pen Project, Goldstein wrote a screenplay during the global pandemic. Four years after its creation, her screenplay is being showcased at the Richmond (Virginia) War Memorial Center from March 15-24, as part of a Firehouse Theatre production.

The play focuses on two patients and the care that Goldstein provided. Both cases were experiencing a mental health crisis. With Goldstein’s help, the patients get the care they needed immediately. Goldstein also faces an interpersonal struggle with her husband and his mental health crisis while treating these patients. Finding a balance between her personal life and patient care guides her growth.

“This screenplay is a reflection on myself as a provider and the patients I was able to impact and help,” said Goldstein. “But it is also about the person I couldn’t help and their suffering, and how it affected me.

“It’s more than just a screenplay. It’s an expressive document that highlights the critical role of nursing in the military, showcasing how compassion and care can bridge vast distances through modern technology, i.e., telehealth.”

The play showcases telehealth onstage through backgrounds and recordings of interactions projected on a screen. The Firehouse Theatre has made a significant contribution to the screenplay’s production by providing stage space, props, and access to their actors.

“The profound significance of conveying this narrative through diverse creative platforms cannot be overstated,” Goldstein noted. “Nursing merges the intricacy of art with the precision of science. Presenting my experiences in a format accessible to a wider audience not only amplifies awareness about the critical roles of Army nurses and specifically, psychiatric nurse practitioners but also underscores the importance of care for individuals with mental health issues on a global scale."

Goldstein’s efforts are an important and creative way to communicate the power of nursing, according to Mary Lynn Davis-Ajami, the college’s associate dean for academic affairs.

“It is so important to blend nursing into the arts,” said Davis-Ajami. “Blending them together reaches an audience who might not know the impact of nursing.”