Katie Duke on Female Empowerment, Social Media, and the Surprising Value of Bad Decisions

When it comes to the need for female empowerment in healthcare, Katie Duke pulls no punches. “Nurses treat each other like sh**. And you can quote me on that.”

The Acute Care Nurse Practitioner has worked in a variety of clinical environments, and has been bullied, personally and professionally. “Women are not naturally good to each other,” she claims. “We need to lift each other up.”

This is the idea Duke intends to bring forward in her new line of scrubs. Introduced today, the Katie Duke x Cherokee collection represents the first-ever collaboration between a healthcare professional and a major medical apparel company. It’s also one of the first to carry a message: Empowered women empower women.

Duke has made a second career as a champion of female empowerment, fueled in no small part by the many challenges she’s faced along the way. “I’ve lost jobs, had weight struggles, been in abusive relationships,” she says, joking that if she were to write a book, its theme would be ‘Bad Decisions.’

At the same time, she has found strength in these setbacks, and wants to encourage others to do the same. “Ask any woman who has failed miserably, told to let their dreams go. Those people are always the most  .”

In the past decade, Duke has gone from being “a regular average nurse” to an Ivy-league-educated Nurse Practitioner, sought-after public speaker and mentor, and one of the most influential female health professionals on social media, which she credits for giving nurses the support they may not find in their offline lives.

“Some see the negative sides (of social media), but that’s the exception, not the norm,” she says. Online, nurses can make connections, find mentors, get advice they can relate to,

most importantly, support and celebrate each other. Duke says her Instagram and other online platforms serve as a “space for people who need positive messages and an empowering spirit,” and a place to build community and supportive relationships.

Through the Katie Duke x Cherokee collection, she hopes to help bring these positive vibes to the workplace. She realizes a slogan on an underscrub won’t change the world, or fix systemic issues like burnout and unequal pay. But combined with daily reminders and encouragement, it could begin to chip away at the idea that women must compete in order to succeed.

“You never know what will spark a trigger in somebody to do something positive for another person,” she says. “You will always work with people who are miserable and unhappy. You don’t have to join them.”

“You are valued. You are unique. You have things that can benefit others,” she adds. “Pay that good energy forward.”

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