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Marvel Unveils Nurse Comic Book Featuring Real Frontline Workers


It’s a plane. It’s a bird. No, it’s a nurse in scrubs!

After a year of unparalleled sacrifice, nurses are getting the all-star treatment thanks to Marvel Comics. The company has just released a new comic book featuring nurses as the ultimate heroes. The project was in collaboration with Allegheny Health Network (AHN), a non-profit health system with 13 academic hospitals across the state of Pennsylvania.

“The Vitals: True Nurse Stories” features real-life nurses and frontline workers currently working at AHN hospitals. It’s a great way to show young people just how inspiring and exciting it can be to work as a healthcare provider.

A Devastating Year for the Nurses at AHN

With 2020 being hailed as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, this comic book couldn’t have come at a better time. The entire state of Pennsylvania has been dealt a devastating blow over the last ten months as COVID-19 infections keep rising. The state is currently reporting a 14% positivity rate as public health officials issue dire warnings to the public, urging them to wear a mask and avoid in-person gatherings.

As a non-profit hospital, Allegheny Health Network relies on private and public donations to keep its 13 hospitals running, with few resources to go around. Meanwhile, nurses and doctors have been feeling the heat. AHN has created a hotline for nurses struggling to cope, as well as counselling and decompression rooms, so nurses can take a breather during their shifts.

According to the latest estimates, there are 300 coronavirus patients in AGH’s system and around 100 COVID-19 patients in the ICUs.

Hershey Health Center nurse Maureen Casey recently pleaded for additional help from the state’s governor, saying, “Like waves on a shore, it just keeps coming. As a nurse, we just have one simple ask: please wear a mask. Nurses go home, cry in the shower, cry in their car alone because of the desperation and exhaustion they feel.”

In Pittsburg, AHN Chief Nurse Executive Claire Zangerle says she’s seen some of her nurses struggle to keep up with the pressures of working during the pandemic. “We’ve been seeing people die, right in front of our eyes, alone without their family,” Zangerle said. “It’s causing them to sometimes step back and say, ‘Can I continue to do this?’”

Bringing the Comic Book Together

As the pandemic lingered on, marketing executive Lisa Huckestein decided to pitch the idea of a comic book about nurses to executives at Marvel. The company asked for more information and, soon, it was drafting up three initial stories for review. Marvel Entertainment eventually greenlighted the project.

Now, some of these amazing stories will live on forever in the form of a comic book. AHN worked with Marvel Comics to design and create the images based on real-life heroes. 

Marvel Entertainment President Dan Buckley says, “It tells a story about our everyday heroes, the nurses and health care professionals working tirelessly and courageously to save lives. Along with AHN, we are honored to help tell these stories, which we dedicate to the real heroes who are saving the world.”

The project was done in complete secrecy, according to AHN. The nurses were awestruck when managers unveiled the first printed issues at the end of last week.

Zangerle was thrilled with how they turned out, adding:

“We are so proud of them, and we want to make sure they know how much we appreciate their exceptional work. We hope that in seeing themselves as real Marvel Comics super heroes, they can take a moment to look back in pride on their exceptional work and compassion during an exceptionally difficult time for our communities.”

The comic is filled with true stories, including one about a healthcare worker trying to save a man in his 60s struggling to breathe and one about a nurse helping their patient connect with their loved ones using technology. One of the last panels reads, “Because this virus doesn’t stop. And we can’t either.”

In all, the book features eight providers from AHN facilities across the state, including Jessi Showalter, who works as a nurse at West Penn Hospital.

“I think that, ‘Why me? I’m not anything special.’ I kind of just come here and do what I love every day and try to help my patients. If that makes me a hero, I guess that makes me a hero,” she told a local news outlet.

It will be distributed throughout all AHN facilities. Officials say they also plan to use the comic as a recruiting tool to counteract the growing shortage of healthcare workers. 

You can see the full comic book, as well as all the real-life heroes it’s based on,via the AHN website. It also features a video where nurses read the comic to their children who haven’t seen their parents much over the last ten months. “The Vitals” is showing these kids how their parents are making a difference, even if they can’t seem them in-person as much as they’d like. 

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