Looking at these people now, you may not believe it, however, everyone featured on this list were, once upon a time, nurses. In fact, many of today’s and yesterday’s biggest celebrities once held regular jobs down before they hit the limelight and became known as musicians, television actors, movie stars, politicians, and everything else in between.
We have no doubt at all that their nursing careers, some long and some short, helped shape who they became as people and set them on the right path as celebrities. Here are some famous people who were nurses once upon a time. Some you may know, some you may not.
#1: Paul Brandt
Somebody we are certain you will have heard of is Paul Brandt, the famous country movie artist. Originally from Canada (Alberta, to be exact), Paul Brandt completed his medical program at Calgary’s Mount Royal and went on to work at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. It is likely that he got his love for nursing through his family as his father was a paramedic. He worked at this hospital as a pediatric nurse for a short period of 2 years. After which, Paul broke into the world of music and became a very famous face indeed.
It wasn’t until 1996 that Warner Bros. Music took a gamble on his musical skill and took his country music prowess to the masses. Through the same label, Paul Brandt released his first record My Heart Has A History, something that became a worldwide hit almost instantly, reaching the Top 10 Billboard Hot Country Songs in the same year.
#2: Alberta Hunter
Somebody you may not have heard of before is Alberta Hunter, the African-American Jazz Singer and famous songwriter. Although she is known throughout the world, it is the “older” generation that will be more familiar with her music. Beginning her music career at the age of 15, Hunter moved between different venues to perform the blues and jazz to make enough money to live on. Over time, she became noted for her improvised lyrics and musical compositions. Touring the U.S. and Europe, Alberta Hunter soon became a big name worldwide.
After the death of her mother in 1957, however, Alberta Hunter retired from the music business and went into nursing… without any credentials, something that wouldn’t happen today! Somehow, Hunter was able to fake her age and high school qualifications so that she could get into nursing school.
She worked in nursing at Goldwater Memorial Hospital for two full decades. At the age of 70 (or, rather, when her falsified record said she turned 70) Hunter was forced to retire. At the time, however, she was 82 years old!
Following her retirement, she began singing again.
#3: Naomi Judd
Another famous country music star is Naomi Judd, the singer and songwriter. After giving birth to her daughters at the young age of 22, Judd ended her marriage with her husband and found herself as a struggling single parent. To make some money, Naomi Judd enrolled at the College of Marin to study nursing, later graduating and going on to become an intensive care unit nurse. Judd cites her younger brother’s early death as the primary reason for pursuing a career as a nurse.
As Judd worked as an ICU nurse, her parents pushed her to audition with the RCA record label together with her own daughter, Wynona. The duo would later become known as The Judds and become very known throughout the country music industry, winning several Grammies and selling over 20 million albums in under a decade.
After contracting Hepatitis C from a needlestick injury during her work as a nurse, something that was not diagnosed until much later, Judd retired from the music industry, later founding her own charity, the Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund which raises public awareness about Hepatitis C.
#4: Julie Walters
One for the Brits is Julie Walters, a famous British writer and actress. Julie Walters struggled in school quite severely and it was because of her mom that instead of aiming for high-flying professions, she instead pursue more socially-involved professions such as being a teacher or a nurse. She pursued the latter and completed her training as a nurse, something that was a lot less involved back in the day and required few qualifications, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Following her training as a nurse, she began work in the coronary care, casualty (ER), and ophthalmic wards of the hospital where she trained. After one and a half years, she left her job as a nurse to pursue an acting career, studying English and Drama at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) before performing in theaters up and down the country.
She clearly made the right decision—Walters has appeared in the likes of Harry Potter, Paddington, Mamma Mia!, and Mary Poppins, to name a few.
#5: Cindy Birdsong
Cindy Birdsong, part of the female trio The Supremes, always wanted to become a nurse when she was growing up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania during the 1940s and 1950s. Her ambitions, however, were stunted because of her extraordinary vocal talent. First, she was a Bluebelle alongside Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles and later went on to become one of The Supremes alongside Mary Wilson and Diana Ross.
After Diana Ross left The Supremes in the 1970s, Cindy Birdsong stuck around, however, she left the group twice during the 1970s. The second time she left in 1976, she never returned and stepped out of the musical limelight for good.
Rather than pursue a career as a solo singer as most individuals from split-up groups do, she instead followed her childhood dream and became a nurse at the UCLA Medical Center. Birdsong has also worked in other jobs since she left The Supremes, as a secretary for example, and became an ordained minister.
Aside from releasing one solo single in 1987 and appearing on TV specials alongside Diana Ross and Mary Wilson for TV anniversary specials, Cindy Birdsong has been estranged from music for the best part of four decades.
#6: Bonnie Hunt
Another actress we can add to this list is Bonnie Hunt. Hunt broke into a movie career by signing on to play a minor role in a major movie, Rain Man. Prior to playing a role alongside Tom Cruise in this blockbuster, though, she spent her days working as an oncology nurse.
She, like some of the others included in this list, was pushed into acting and music by her patients and parents. She was very afraid to pursue a career in acting at first, so much so that Bonnie Hunt has publicly stated that many of her patients told her that it was better to try and fail rather than to never try and regret it forever.
Today, she is a major success—a writer, actress, and talk show host.
#7: Carolyn McCarthy
It is not just actresses and musicians that nurses go on to become, many go into politics, too. Carolyn McCarthy is one such example as a former nurse who went on to pastures new. Known for her efforts pursuing higher gun control (in the early 90s, her husband was killed and her son was severely injured in the Long Island Rail Road Shooting) she joined Congress in 1996.
Prior to the Long Island shooting, McCarthy worked as an LPN (licensed practical nurse) a career she pursued after caring for her boyfriend following a motor vehicle accident
#8: Tina Turner
We are sure Tina Turner needs no introduction here. She is perhaps one of the most famous singers, dancers, and actresses of all time with a musical career that spans decades.
Known for several number one hits, the recipient of several awards including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the owner of one of the world’s most famous voices, Turner began her musical career in the 1950s. Listed at spot 17 in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, she is perhaps the most famous faces on this list.
Prior to her fame, however, Turner worked as a nurse’s aide at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Interested in Pursuing a Nursing Career or Advancing?
Nursing is one of the most popular and noble professions in the U.S. and it is no surprise that thousands of people each year pursue it as a profession. The fact that some of the world’s biggest names have once held careers as a nurse should speak for itself—it attracts the best, brightest, and most good-natured of people.
There are several options if you want to become a nurse in the United States. From traditional college programmes that cater to brand new students to master’s programs, some of which can be done online such as the nursing MSN from Baylor College, that help existing nurses advance in their field to become leaders, there is definitely no shortage in terms of your options.
Given that there is a huge shortage in nurses throughout the country, there has never been a better time to get involved.
This, however, is a topic for another time.