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College of Nursing

Neighborhood Nurses - Tiffany Harris

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The lobby of the emergency room at the Southfield Campus of Ascension Providence Hospital outside of Detroit is often full of waiting patients.


From victims of car crashes and violence to people who have suffered a heart attack — and now, people suffering COVID-19 symptoms added to the mix — the ER moves at a fast pace.  


For Tiffany Harris, BSN ‘20, starting her career the same time as a worldwide pandemic took hold has been difficult. 


“The most challenging thing for me has been categorizing COVID-19. Something new comes out about it and we’re identifying new symptoms every day,” she said. “There is constant learning and dealing with your own confusion and your patients’ confusion.”


The pace of the emergency room initially drew Harris in, but she enjoys working with the patients and their families. When she first began pursuing nursing as a career, her answer to the question “why do you want to become a nurse?” was “to help people.” 


Over time, her answer solidified. Nursing is a path to make a direct and positive impact, and increase representation of Black women in health care. She is an emergency room nurse at the Southfield Campus of Ascension Providence Hospital, and returned to the Detroit area after graduating in 2020 because she wants to make a change in her community.


“There’s no better place to start than the area I grew up in,” Harris said. 


Seeing first-hand a family member live with more than one comorbidity, and a desire to bring that level of understanding to work, also served as motivation for Harris. 


“I know how scary it can be to have sick loved ones, so I try to make [the emergency room] not such a scary place,” Harris said. “If you get a patient to a stable point, it’s great to see your efforts make a difference.”


Eventually, Harris said she is interested in expanding into other areas of nursing, but right now the ER is a great place for her to learn. 


A first-generation college student, Harris said she knew early on that pursuing a degree was in her future. Through the Achieving Culturally Competent Education and Student Success (ACCESS) program, she received financial and educational support to assist with earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.


“Put your pride to the side because nursing is not for the prideful." —Tiffany Harris


“The ACCESS program helped by giving a bunch of resources,” Harris said. “It’s a community and family away from home that makes sure you’re supported throughout the process.”


As a first-generation college graduate, Harris said she wondered why no one else in her family had done it yet and was encouraged by them to pursue it.


“My dad has always encouraged me to read books, seek knowledge and go after things even if it looks difficult,” she said.


Bennie Harris, her father, said he and Tiffany’s mother are proud their daughter is able to give back through the nursing profession. While there were times nursing school challenged Tiffany, he believes a setback is motivation to move forward.


“It happened to give her more determination and appreciation for what she was doing,” he said. “Graduation was one accomplishment, then passing the exam to get her nursing license was another. We’re very proud of her, her determination and diligence.”


Bennie has been a full-time pastor at Prayer House church on West Seven Mile Road in Detroit for about 10 years. Before the pandemic, Bennie, Tiffany and other members of the family and church would volunteer in different ways, such as taking meals to people without homes at Cass Park downtown. 


“Tiffany has always been caring, even as a child. We think that’s important,” he said. “Be empathetic and mindful of others — don’t just assume. That makes a difference.” 


Tiffany continues to follow her family’s advice to seek knowledge and said constantly learning and asking for help is especially important in the nursing field.


“Put your pride to the side because nursing is not for the prideful,” she said. “Whenever I make a positive impact on a patient … that makes me feel good.”