Anthropologist Receives Library of Congress Fellowship for Documenting Nurses’ Experiences

Alana Glaser
July 30, 2020

Alana L. Glaser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, is the recipient of a Library of Congress American Folklife Center Archie Green Fellowship in the amount of $15,000 for her research project, “Nurses’ Experiences of Caring at the Veterans Health Administration.” Dr. Glaser’s project is one of seven awarded the fellowship in 2020. 

For the project, Dr. Glaser will interview nurses working for the Veterans Health Administration (VA) in California, Florida, and Washington, DC. During the interviews, she will document their daily routines, experiences, and career trajectories, and ask them what led them into nursing and to working for America’s largest direct-care health provider, the VA. The population of interviewed nurses will represent diverse backgrounds, genders, and training, including many nurses who previously served in the military themselves. The collection of interviews will be available to researchers at the American Folklife Center (AFC) and to the general public through AFC’s Occupational Folklife Project webpage. Dr. Glaser’s project will also complement materials in AFC’s Veterans History Project

The Archie Green Fellowships were established to honor the memory of Archie Green (1917-2009), a pioneering folklorist who championed the establishment of the AFC at the Library of Congress, and who was awarded the Library’s Living Legend Award and honored in the Congressional Record. Green documented and analyzed the culture and traditions of American workers and encouraged others to do the same. Archie Green Fellowships are designed to stimulate innovative research projects documenting occupational culture in contemporary America. 

Dr. Glaser, who completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Northwestern University, focused her dissertation research in the field of medical anthropology. After finishing her degree, she spent five years working as an educator for National Nurses United, the largest professional union of registered nurses in the United States. In that role, Dr. Glaser led day-long continuing education courses for registered nurses around the country that connected issues of political, economic, and social justice to the nurses’ experiences providing care in hospital facilities. Because many of the nurses represented by the union are VA nurses with special concerns about protecting the VA from privatization, Dr. Glaser continued working with this population as she developed her scholarly research.  

In addition to recording interviews for the AFC, Dr. Glaser will also be collecting a second set of ethnographic observations aimed at understanding how recent political changes affect nurses’ experiences, especially attempts to privatize and de-fund VA services. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Glaser plans to begin conducting and recording the interviews for her project via Zoom.  

“Nurses are frontline workers providing in-depth, humanistic, person-centered care,” said Dr. Glaser. “The labor issues they face affect the care they can provide to their patients. This interrelationship between respecting nurses as a workforce and ensuring equitable, holistic care for patients is especially urgent now during the COVID-19 pandemic."