Images of nurses in white, starched uniforms and caps make a good illustration of the profession.
But those days are long gone.
More casual scrubs or colorful blouses are the norm.
What hasn’t changed is how nurses or almost anyone in the health care field tend to ignore their own well being.
That’s something Ahwatukee Foothills resident and registered nurse Helene Neville wants to call attention to, and hopefully change.
“Nurses take care of others, but they often don’t take care of themselves,” she said.
Neville’s written a book, Nurses in Shape, but she felt she could have more of an impact by doing instead of advising.
So the 49-year-old trainer, called the “Richard Simmons of nurses,” will make a 2,520-mile coast-to-coast run starting May 1 from Ocean Beach, Calif., near San Diego and finish in Jacksonville, Fla., on Aug. 17, her 50th birthday.
The route starts on Interstate 8 and goes through Casa Grande, but for the most part, parallels Interstate 10.
Neville’s goal isn’t a personal challenge, but a tangible way to reach others in her profession.
She feels for nurses to better serve their patients they have to “reach a higher level of mental, emotional and wellness.”
“My run isn’t to realize my dreams,” Neville likes to say, “but to help others realize theirs.”
Neville realized her dreams when she conquered Hodgkin’s disease, survived three brain surgeries and then ran a marathon.
“I was a middle distance runner in grade school, high school and college,” she said. “I only took up doing marathons in 1998 after I was suffering my illnesses. My doctors told me my immune system was shot and that I wasn’t going to get better.”
That was in July of that year.
Neville ran in a five kilometer race three months after checking herself out of the hospital.
“I had it in my head and I knew I could do it,” she said.
Eventually Neville qualified for the Boston Marathon.
“I went to high school in Vermont and the Boston Marathon was close and very popular,” she said. “In case I didn’t survive at least I wanted to be able to say that I had done one marathon.”
Since then Neville has run in 25 marathons, including Boston, New York and London, England.
But if she put all of those marathons together, they would take her only as far as Las Cruces, N.M., or about fourth of her route across the country.
Neville also uses her experiences as a nurse and patient to train runners who are blind or have heart transplants and never thought they would be on a road course.
“It’s my personal mission,” Neville said.
She accompanied a blind runner on his first marathon and said now she can’t keep pace with him.
Neville will be making stops at hospitals along the way and hopes to raise donations for non-profit organizations for children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds in her hometown of Philadelphia. The Maryellen Rouse Niefert Memorial was created for her mother, who went to school there and died of cancer.
Students at the school will be able to follow Neville’s run at www.ontherun.com.
When Neville started to plan her run she realized that she would need specialized training and has been working with Charles Maka at EvoSport in Gold’s Gym in Ahwatukee Foothills.
“They’ve become fans of the run,” Neville said.
She will kick off her journey with a celebration on Tuesday at Rolf’s Salon in Scottsdale, and on May 10 the salon will turn its four locations into a private sanctuary for nurses and offer complimentary haircuts and blow-dry as well as deeply discounted color services to nurses. All proceeds from the one-day event go to support Neville’s fundraiser.
There have been two male runners who have completed the route Neville is taking, but she will be the first female to cover the Gulf Coast course t in the hot, humid months.
And she won’t be running in white nurse shoes.