Nursing can be a demanding job, complete with tough patients and long hours. But somehow, so many nurses find the time to help others outside their daily tasks, and Gina Miller, RN, EMT, Lancaster, PA, is one of them.
As a full-time nurse at the Chester County Intermediate Unit and Technical College High School Brandywine Campus, she cares for more than 700 students, as well as serves on the safety committee, the advisory board for occupational health and the SAP committee, which organizes a mentoring program. She is also a licensed CPR and first aid instructor.
"We have the best program here; it is incredible," she said. "I love it here. I love my job."
Music From the Heart
On weekends and during the summer, Miller slings her guitar over her shoulder and heads out to pursue her other passion: music. Many a Friday afternoon colleagues see her leaving, bag in hand, on her way to Nashville to perform with Grammy winner Linda Davis, her producer and writing partner John Stoecker or fellow medical professional/musician Rodney Richmond.
According to Miller, Richmond is a physician assistant who, after his shift at the hospital, exchanges scrubs for cowboy boots and hits the road in his own tour bus.
"It's gigs, writing sessions and recording," Miller said. "It's my blood."
ALL TOGETHER: Gina Miller, RN, EMT, poses with her band, Just Us. courtesy Gina Miller
But Miller isn't just a nurse turned weekend musician; her experiences as a nurse are integral to her musical inspiration. Her song, "Tree of Life" honors the unfailing work of EMTs.
Recently, she traveled with her band Just Us to Staten Island Dec. 9 to first volunteer in the hurricane cleanup efforts and then perform a benefit show for the victims and volunteers.
She is also part of the GINA for Missing Persons FOUNDation. As a "gina" artist, she participates in the Squeaky Wheel Tour every year, when musicians across the country use their music to raise awareness of missing persons.
"I am helping people in one way, shape or form, like the EMS song. It's all to help people," Miller said. "Because it's people who are suffering and I want to help. I get that drive because I am a nurse."
While in LA with her producer, Miller met Jannel Rap, who founded the GINA for Missing Persons FOUNDation because of her sister, a musician who went missing in Nebraska in October 2000. Miller was touched by Rap's story and her dedication and got on board, adopting her own missing person to profile during her performances.
"Jannel started this organization to help other people who are missing because, when you go missing, it's on the news for a week, then it's off the news and everybody forgets about it," Miller said. "It's frustrating.
"I had the awful experience of going into a warehouse where there were boxes of missing person files and it just ripped me up," she continued, "because all these people are missing. It's all files that are closed. .You get put on the dusty shelf and get forgotten about."
But the project got personal when friends from Miller's area heard about her mission and reached out. Toni Lee Sharpless, RN, went missing August 2009 in Gladwyne, PA, and her family wanted Miller to help.
"I didn't know anything about it. That just goes to show you," Miller said. "I taught her CPR and when I saw her pictures I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I know her!' I know half her family."
Miller adopted Sharpless as her missing nurse and has since been showing posters and mentioning her at shows and appearances.
Miller's dedication to nursing, her music and the GINA for Missing Persons FOUNDation all melded together while she was working with another local artist, Nicole Zell. After deciding to write a song together, Zell asked Miller what she wanted to sing about. Miller's response?
"I really want to write a song about this missing person, about the nurse."
With inspiration at their fingertips, the two wrote the song in 20 minutes - Miller supplied the lyrics and Zell the tunes. "Missing Piece" captures the despair and hope families of missing persons feel with lyrics such as "cases closed on a dusty shelf, we won't give up on those who offer help" and "never gonna give up on missing you, never gonna give up on finding you, never gonna give up on loving you."
Miller always shares her passion with others and advocates that all of the musicians she meets join the cause and adopt a missing person.
"I picked a nurse because I am a nurse, but I think it is important to adopt anybody," she said. "Everybody who is missing is important, whether you are a nurse or a maintenance person, or whoever you are. It's important if anybody is missing because nobody should be missing."
So while she hums down the halls at work, happily caring for her students, Miller is also mindful of those in need beyond her reach. Her music allows her to spread her nurse-fostered passion for helping to listeners, and hopefully contribute to a growing number of missing persons found.
Rebecca Hepp is an assistant editor at ADVANCE.