’94 BS Nursing
School of Nursing Alumnus of the Year
The word “hero” has been used a lot throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as it pertains to medical professionals who have selflessly battled it on the front lines. What most of us forget is these individuals were heroes long before this devastating virus arrived, and they will continue to be long after it’s finally eradicated.
Nobody understands this better than Kristin Bell-Peistrup, whose husband discovered a passion for nursing as a medic in the U.S. Army, then devoted the next three decades of his life to saving the lives of others as both a nurse practitioner and registered nurse who worked in emergency rooms throughout Southern Nevada. Tragically, Gregory Peistrup tested positive for COVID-19 in early September 2020 and died 12 days later despite being physically fit with no underlying conditions.
That Peistrup almost certainly contracted the virus while treating a COVID-positive patient in his care underscores his heroism.
“Being able to put your fears aside and act regardless of the situation — that was Greg,” Bell-Peistrup said. “As a result, he saved and impacted so many lives.”
Peistrup found his way to UNLV’s nursing program after being honorably discharged following his service as a medic for the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment — a troop known as the “Iron Dukes.” He went on to work in various capacities as a nurse but truly was at home in the emergency room, where he was able to deploy his broad range of skills and where his genuine empathy and quick wit were of comfort to patients, regardless of their ailments.
“He loved the frenzied pace of the ER — he talked fast and his brain worked even faster, and that quick thinking and acting was fundamental in the ER,” Bell-Peistrup said. “He also enjoyed putting to use his broad applications of medicine — in the ER you never know what might walk through the door, so he was constantly seeking learning opportunities, be they classroom or clinical. New medicine, new modalities, new cases — they all challenged his brilliant mind.”
And as countless nursing colleagues would surely attest, Peistrup’s willingness to offer support didn’t end at the bedside of his patients.
“Greg really thrived from helping others,” Bell-Peistrup says. “He not only loved helping patients but also mentoring others in the health care field to be their best selves.”
Bell-Peistrup offers additional insights about her late husband:
What inspired Greg to join the military?
Like many young men, he was at a bit of a loss in terms of what direction to take his life after graduating high school. He liked the opportunities the Army could afford him — tactical- and tradesmanship-type training, travel, and the camaraderie the military provided. His time in the Army is what first exposed him to medicine. From that moment, his passion for nursing was ignited, and it only grew with fervor throughout his life.
Explain how Greg embodied the phrase “Courage Conquers,” which was the motto of his Army battalion.
Greg did not seem to really fear anything. In fact, his courage and adventurous spirit gave rise to many cool hobbies and experiences. He was an equestrian, a SCUBA diver, golfer, rock climber, archer, skier, snowboarder, shooter, and he traveled the world.
Professionally, he was always one to raise his hand for a certification or opportunity to learn new things. I often joked with him about how many letters came after his name — he was an MSN, APRN, ENP-C, FNP-C, AWEP, and EMS-RN.
What would Greg say to the UNLV student who is considering pursuing a nursing career but might be a bit hesitant?
He would say you never know until you try. Then he would chat them up to see if he could help them determine what it was about medicine and the medical field that sparked their passion. He also likely would explain different opportunities available to those with a nursing degree and what those positions could look like — for instance, working in the ER vs. ICU, or working in home health, in a clinic setting, etc.
At the same time, he would be very realistic about the challenges and possible barriers the student might encounter so they could prepare, anticipate, and overcome those challenges.
What do you think Greg’s reaction would’ve been upon hearing he was named the School of Nursing’s Alumnus of the Year?
In a word, honored. He would be thrilled to be able to represent his profession, his colleagues, and the university, and full of delight knowing that the sacrifices he and all members of the medical community make are recognized and valued. He also would appreciate that it would mean greater visibility for the UNLV nursing program and be proud to have been a part of it — and it forever a part of him.