Nurse Alice Lee Benjamin, — also known as America’s Favorite Nurse — is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and a medical contributor for television. Alice is also a clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, chief nursing officer for nurse.org and host of the Ask Nurse Alice Podcast.
Q: Please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was inspired to become the best cardiac nurse in the world by my father, who unexpectedly died of a massive heart attack. He always told me I would make a great nurse one day because I was caring and always helping others.
After my father passed away and recalling the disappointments our family experienced with the healthcare system regarding his care, I was inspired. I wanted to educate and empower my community about the importance of health screenings, disease prevention, when to seek healthcare services and what to expect in the care they receive. I naturally gravitated to volunteering with the American Heart Association (AHA) in this journey. In my work with the AHA, I started to do heart health community education on the radio and television and at in-person events. The producers later invited me back to talk about other health topics. The next thing I knew, I was doing what nurses usually do — providing health education to patients and families — but now using media to disseminate information on a larger scale.
I’ve been on The Dr. Oz Show, The Doctors, Dr. Drew, HLN, CNN, TVOne, BBC, KTLA and am now a recurring TV medical contributor for NBC Los Angeles.
Q: Let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It was an uphill battle to become the TV medical contributor I am today. Early in my TV career, I was often replaced at the last minute by a physician, and not always by one who had a specialty in the topic being discussed. So it was because they were a “doctor” they were selected. But I didn’t let that discourage me. There are too many viewers and listeners that need a health expert to help educate. And before long, my TLC personality, clinical expertise and media readiness made me one of the most desired TV health experts that audiences wanted to hear.
Something else that was challenging was that I was ahead of my time as a nurse. There weren’t any nurses on TV when I started, and most fellow nurses and nurse leaders didn’t understand why I was going on TV. I was often asked if I wanted to be an actress or a model. Many nurse leaders viewed my early TV work as illegitimate because those people felt I should only be speaking at peer-reviewed and collegial events and forums versus popular, general outlets. This was disappointing because I didn’t feel supported by my profession. I felt like these nurses failed to recognize the impact of having a nurse, a woman and a person of color being on TV as a health expert. This was/is an opportunity for the general public to learn more about the full spectrum of what nurses can do and for nurses to influence nationally and globally through media.
Q: Thank you for sharing that. What an amazing recognition to be honored as, “America’s Favorite Nurse.” Can you tell us how this all came about?
It’s been an honor to be coined America’s Favorite Nurse. This started informally through word of mouth from people I would service and speak with at community events. The next thing I knew, many of the TV producers and show hosts began using that phrase. I think it really stuck once Dr. Oz introduced me using the title on his national show.
Q: How does a medical professional become a medical contributor in your experience? Any advice for those interested or wanting to start out?
That’s a hard question to answer because I never sought out to do this. It was something that naturally evolved through the community work I was doing. However, if someone is interested in becoming a medical contributor, I would encourage them to develop a solid clinical background and expertise and concurrently explore journalism or communications courses to learn the media landscape.
Q: What have been your biggest motivating factors or WHY to keep chasing your dreams and goals?
I literally LOVE the work I do. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I’ve seen how far I’ve come. I never thought in a million years that I would be on TV as a recurring medical contributor or in a position where my job is to use the media as a medium to educate the masses on important health issues. It especially brings me joy when people write or come up to me and tell me how a particular topic I’ve covered inspired them to seek care, and now they’re in better health because of it. I love it here!
Q: What would you tell your younger self?
Don’t allow the expectations of others to limit the things you do. There are several things you can do as a nurse. Someone else’s career path doesn’t have to be yours. Just because your path looks different doesn’t mean you’re off track or that theirs is better than yours. Don’t be afraid to marry nursing with the things you’re passionate about. If you want to be a TV health expert, do that. An entrepreneur? Do that. A nurse scientist? Do that. Do what makes you happy.
Follow Nurse Alice @AskNurseAlice across all social media platforms. You can also check out her website and look for her weekly podcast Ask Nurse Alice on platforms such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify.