Most of us have experienced that moment of surprise when we see a familiar face in an unexpected place, like our teachers at the grocery store or an old friend while we’re on vacation. For those who have been admitted to PPMC’s Cupp 4 East unit, that moment might come when they settle in for game day and suddenly recognize one of their nurses on their TV.

When she’s not in scrubs, Gabriela Bren, BSN, RN, can be found on the field cheering on the Philadelphia Eagles. After an intense audition process earlier this year, Bren’s energetic spirit and athletic prowess earned her a coveted spot on the 36-member NFL cheerleading team. Though balancing football season with the needs of her patients requires a lot of focus (and regular 4:30 a.m. workouts at the gym before a 12-hour shift), Bren has certainly proven herself to be up to the challenge.

Q: What inspired you to audition for the team, and what was the process like?

A: I’ve been a dancer since I was two years old. Ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop — I tried everything. While I was in nursing school, I needed to put dance on the back burner for a while, but one of my friends has been an Eagles cheerleader for three years, so it was always in the back of my mind. When I heard that auditions were scheduled, I decided to give it a shot and see what happened. It was an open call that started with about 200 women, and there were only 61 of us left by the final audition in April. I gave a short speech about my job as an orthopaedic trauma nurse and about how my dad’s experience being treated for prostate cancer at Penn inspired me to pursue nursing. It was nerve-wracking, but I made it!

Q: How have you been able to balance two careers without getting overwhelmed?

A: With a lot of help. The veteran cheerleaders have been so helpful to us rookies, and they’ve taken us under their wings. It’s a really tight-knit group. And my unit has been amazing. Cheerleading can take up a lot of time, but all of my coworkers have been super encouraging. Whether I need to switch my shift, or if I need to work a specific weekend so I can be at a game, I can always count on them. I wouldn’t be able to participate in both of my passions without such a great support system behind me.

Q: Do you see any links or similarities between cheerleading and nursing?

A: Absolutely. As a nurse, I’m constantly practicing my public speaking skills. I need to be very personable and to communicate effectively with our patients and their families, and that carries over into cheerleading. Aside from entertaining our fans, we’re ambassadors for the team. We advocate for different causes. We attend appearances with clients and work with community members. Being able to be a confident, outgoing individual and a supportive, professional teammate is really important in both fields. And that’s the coolest part; every member of the team is furthering their education or has a full-time job. We’re all really successful and work really hard, and each of us brings so much more than a pretty face to the team!

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