UArizona MEPN Alumnus Ties His Love of Writing to His Desire to Teach Kids About Health Literacy

June 24, 2022

Throughout his varied career, University of Arizona College of Nursing alumnus Michael Dow always knew he wanted to be a writer. He has earned advanced degrees in biology, psychology, management, health administration and most recently a Master of Science for Entry into the Profession of Nursing (MEPN) program from UArizona Nursing in 2020. After eight years in the United States Air Force, he worked as an Army Wounded Warrior Advocate helping Army veterans managing PTSD. Since earning his MEPN degree, he has worked as an inpatient psychiatric Registered Nurse (RN) at Palo Verde Behavioral Health. But throughout it all, he had the itch to tell stories for young readers tied to his passion for health literacy.

“My mom told me years ago,” Dow says, “’Michael, if you ever write a book and things take off, I’ll bet it will be a kid’s book.’ That stayed at the back of my mind.” At the tail end of his time in the MEPN program, after seeing how talented his niece was as an illustrator, all those elements fell into place. “My health administration degree taught me how poor our country’s health literacy levels are, and that adults and kids could improve on their health literacy. All these ideas just came together, and I thought, ‘What if I did a kid’s book series?’” Dow envisioned a series that would teach kids – and their parents -- about human science and the human body.

Maybe one reason kids become a future doctor or nurse is that they’re exposed to this information at a young age. I hope the series will produce a lot more nurses because we have a nursing shortage," ~ Michael Dow

Nurse Florence, Dow’s fictional nurse instructor, debuted the week he received his RN license. Titled “Nurse Florence, Help I’m Bleeding” the book informed readers about blood clotting and how to put pressure on a wound. “It’s very basic information, but that book won a Nautilus Silver Book Award,” he says. “That really encouraged me that maybe I was onto something.”

Since then, the Nurse Florence series has expanded to 24 books and won multiple additional awards for two other books, including the 2022 Independent Press Award, a Next Generation Indie Book Award, and a National Indie Excellence Award. Dow has trademarked Nurse Florence in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia and trademarks are in the works for New Zealand, Ireland, and Canada. Translated versions of the series are also in the works for Spanish and French readers. Long-term, Dow sees many opportunities for growth for Nurse Florence. He envisions an animated kid’s series and possibly a live-action movie.

In the spirit of inclusivity, Dow also imagines a line of Nurse Florence dolls that represent every race and ethnicity. “A unique thing about the series is that each Nurse Florence in every single book is different,” he explains. “Already we have Nurse Florence as an African American, a Hispanic, an Asian and a Caucasian.  I can imagine little girls going to Walmart and saying, ‘Mommy, I want that Nurse Florence doll.  She’s like me, and I can be a nurse too.’ I want to help inspire kids, give them the confidence to follow their dreams.”

Inspiring future nurses is one of Dow’s major motivations. “That’s another thing that was in my mind for all these years,” he says. “Maybe one reason kids become a future doctor or nurse is that they’re exposed to this information at a young age. I hope the series will produce a lot more nurses because we have a nursing shortage.”

Early on, Dow made the decision to keep the Nurse Florence franchise in-house, where he can maintain creative and financial control of his creation. He publishes the series himself and offers illustrators royalty percentages for their contributions. Although he hopes to ultimately recruit a book publicist in the future, Dow’s strategy appears to have paid off. “We are about to partner with our first children’s hospital in Ohio,” he says. “I’m told they’re going to have Nurse Florence for checkout on their book cart. The medical librarian there plans to share the info about the series with all her associations, which could be a big next step for us.”

So far, young readers and their parents are appreciative.  “This was a great informational, easy-to-read and understand book!” a recent GoodReads review says. “My nine-year-old great niece loved it. She was fascinated with the illustrations and the manner with which Nurse Florence presented the facts about how we hear things. I highly recommended it to share or give as a gift to elementary or middle school students interested in the human body, science, biology and the amazing sense of hearing.”

Such accolades are music to Dow’s ears, letting him know he’s on the right track. He counts UArizona Nursing as a major factor in his success – not only as a nurse, but also as an author. The jacket copy on each Nurse Florence book says, “Sometimes it seems only a nurse can bring technical information down to an understanding that an ordinary person can grasp,” which turns out to be Dow’s mission statement for each book in the series. It’s an iteration of a statement he first heard from two of his MEPN instructors, Heidi Kosanke and Karin Blasko. “They would tell us in our clinicals and during class, ‘Don’t be afraid to talk to your patients to try to re-explain things, because sometimes only a nurse can bring it down to their level.’ The UArizona MEPN program has such great instructors. In the dedication page of every book, I do give a shout-out to the University of Arizona stating that I’m very grateful for the outstanding instruction that I received.”

Find out more about the Nurse Florence book series here.