Arkansas is continuing to face a nursing shortage, with health care workers leaving the state for more pay or turning to other fields after getting burnt out.
One Northwest Arkansas nurse who left the field at the start of the pandemic is now making a living decorating cookies.
Former nurse, Danielle Henderson is now the owner and founder of Rollin’ in the Dough Cookies, a Black-owned business operating in Northwest Arkansas.
Decorating cookies is something she started focusing on in her free time in 2019.
“I saw some [cookies] on Pinterest one day and was like, ‘I’m going to give it a shot,'” Henderson said.
Henderson didn’t plan on making it a business until she got her first order from a customer, her husband’s friend, in February of 2020. She later began posting her work on social media, getting millions of views.
Within three hours of posting her TikTok of decorating a cookie, she got thousands of views.
“I had already gained like 40,000 followers from that one video,” Henderson said.
Before going viral on TikTok, she worked as a nurse. She was pregnant when the pandemic hit and eventually left the industry because of the fear of the unknown and a lack of PPE.
“We didn’t have enough gloves, we didn’t have enough masks, we didn’t have enough gowns,” Henderson said.
Arkansas Center for Nursing Executive Director, Dr. Ashley Davis, says this is not uncommon.
“We had more patients being admitted,” Dr. Davis said. “They were sicker patients.”
More patients than staff, receiving lower pay than traveling nurses and fatigue caused a lot of nurses to go elsewhere.
“We already knew that we had trouble on the horizon,” Dr. Davis said. “It was just that COVID got us there faster.”
However, for Henderson, COVID gave her the leap of faith to try something new to support her family.
“I definitely didn’t think that I would be doing this,” Henderson said.
Henderson now ships from coast to coast.
As for nurses, Arkansas is still trying to find ways to recruit and retain, but it keeps running into speedbumps which includes a lack of nursing teachers to teach students.