They Told Me It Was Impossible

Written By: Colea Owens MBA, BSN, RN

The Reality of Nursing

Well actually she said I want you out of this program. You don't deserve to be here.

 

Our Truth. The reality is nursing isn't the same experience for everyone but for a lot of African Americans this is our untold reality. Mid-way through a struggling first semester in Nursing school a white faculty member pulled me into her office and told me she wanted me out of the program. I was confused as she questioned me about my life and things that were going on outside of school. She asked about my parents, where I was from, and other causalities. She then stated she would "look into" a few things and to rest assured she was getting me out.

 I was the only Black person in my co-hort of 50 students.

There were hundreds of students that applied to the program that semester. Only 50 got in and I was the only black student. It was rough. I desired support and connection with my peers but when I attended group sessions after class, it was clear I was not welcomed. After a few attempts I finally just stopped attending. I maintained the required GPA to stay in the program, but I worked part time as well as participated in collegiate organizations. I soon felt isolated from my nursing class and became depressed and anxious by the thought of going to class or the anticipation of someone trying to "get me out the program."

Trust the process.

Eventually, I stopped going to class altogether. I started studying from home and only showing up for labs, clinicals or to take the exams. This also made my presence in non-mandatory nursing activities scarce. My lack of presence was interpreted by faculty as I didn't care and at that time it was looked down upon to do anything else while in nursing school. When faculty pulled me aside that day, I knew the disdain came from my lack of presence. Her statements were about me not working hard as the other students and that I had the audacity to not show up to classes. She wasn't the least bit understanding when I explained my story and yet she couldn't tell me exactly what I had done wrong. 

An act of courage.

I knew intimidation was a form of racism. I had watched as my mother endure it on her job growing up, although scared, I escalated the situation. It takes a lot courage to stand up to intimidation. But it was later resolved and she admitted it to be scare tactic of "concern." Said she had no intentions of failing me, only to test how dedicated I was to the program. An additional test i'm sure the other students did not have to endure. 

The Lessons in Survival.

Nursing school is like survival of the fittest. Each semester students dwindled down as test became harder and clinicals became longer. Once I realized that this person couldn't hurt me, it became easier to accept the fact that I was somewhere unwanted. I took my power back. I knew she doubted I would make it in the program after that. And that's good- because doubters teach us more than surety ever will. It teaches us the power of endurance. The power of overcoming despite your obstacles. It teaches us that not everyone will believe in you- so you have to believe in yourself even when it's hard.

Find your Resources.

Shortly after that situation as I prepared for a nursing mission trip to Costa Rica and Panama, a Black Nursing Mentor sought me out.  She was able to give me guidance and support throughout the rest of my program and would even become a lifelong mentor and friend. I joined non-nursing related campus activities which gave me both the social and leadership skills I would need to add to my resume upon graduation. The campus activities gave me opportunity to engage with my peers and pull me from the depression, although the anxiety would last for years to come.

The Power in Truth. 

The experience was traumatic, but it taught me a lot. This was my first lesson on adaption and it has been integral in creating success and finding my purpose in Nursing. I held this and other nursing lessons close, as similar situations would occur in my career and educational advancement. But thats for a later story. 

As African Americans in healthcare we have to work twice as hard to get half as far. And while mom, dad, uncle or sister may have told you the rules to the game- you still had to play it for yourself. What were my options? Either I quit the program because someone didn't want me there, or I became the hero that I needed, with the hopes to inspire others to do the same. Needless to say, I later went on to obtain a MBA in healthcare administration by 24 and become a Nurse educator and Entrepreneur by 27. I guess I did deserve to be there. And so do you.

Don't Quit! Find your Purpose. 

I initially started this blog as an outlet to what I solitarily have been experiencing as a black nurse. The joys and frustrations but mostly the immense amount of knowledge I've gained by embracing my purpose in healthcare and in nursing.  In addition to my own experiences, I would encounter girls who wanted to enter nursing and didn't know how to get started, or nurses who were frustrated with finding the resources and support to get ahead in their careers. I frequently made myself available for support and mentoring. As a Nursing Professor, I contributed unique ideas to the development nurses and specifically the issues related to minority nurses.

Helping other succeed became my passion, and I became my own brand, with a personal mission to see others succeed. It grew to become a business focused on inspiring minority healthcare professionals to find their purpose and providing the tools they would need along the way. 

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Colea Owens is a Registered Nurse and the Founder of Black Girl Blue Scrubs, LLC, a platform for  Nurses to Engage, Connect, Learn and Grow. It is a career development resource for confident and motivated healthcare professional to further their career. We have career development workshops, discussion series, tutoring and mentoring opportunities, NCLEX preparation and engagement activities. There's something for every nurse across the spectrum. So indulge- it's for you.