Meet : Colea Owens
Hometown : Cleveland, Ohio
Colea Owens is the founder and owner of Black Girl Blue Scrubs, LLC an organization that provides the tools for Minority Healthcare Professionals to advance in healthcare. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio she graduated with a Bachelors in Nursing and went back for an MBA in healthcare administration.
TCS: Describe your journey in health care/nursing industry
Colea : I worked as a cardiac nurse to open heart surgery patients at Cleveland Clinic and then later went on to teach as a Nursing Educator while also pursuing travel nursing. I had a lot of challenging experiences as a young black nursing professional. I was the only black student in my nursing program, and I also was the youngest and only black nursing professor where I taught. A lot of my peers and colleagues were unfamiliar with working with and supporting a driven young black professional. That lack of support really effected both my personal and career growth and I almost considered changing my professions. I was fortunate enough to have support outside of my professional circle that really kept me focused and gave me the confidence to continue to build my career instead of quitting. As I began working in different healthcare environments I noticed similar issues prevailed for other black nurses. I was passionate about doing something to make their career journeys easier so when travel nursing lead me to Dallas it was the perfect opportunity to create this organization. Even though we have made so many stride as African Americans, I think that healthcare overall neglects the African American community and I hope this organizations empowers us to succeed in our careers so we can have the power to make changes not only for ourselves but for our communities as well.
TCS: What has been the biggest change in the field over the past 5 years?
Colea: So many people who aren’t in healthcare would be surprised to know that the biggest challenge has been the national shortage of nurses. A lot of factors play into that. There is an increase demand for nurses as the population is continuing to grow more complex illnesses and the baby boomer ages begin to grow old, both requiring increased hospital care. Then you add that nurses aren’t staying the field for long due to burnout. The average nurse stays in a hospital setting for less than 5 years before getting burnt out and pursuing jobs in non-hospital settings. That leaves a big burden for those still caring for people at the “bedside” or within the hospital setting, and eventually those who stayed in the hospital end up leaving and the cycle starts over again. It’s a really a difficult and complex cycle for healthcare organizations to solve.
TCS: What has been the shift in the demographics of minorities in nursing?
Colea : Most recently Minority healthcare magazine reported that 14.6% of black or African-American nurses have related master’s or doctoral degrees, compared to 13.4% of white nurses. To me that’s definitely a win on the education side but translating those degrees into good paying, long term careers has been the issue. My observation has been that a lot of African Americans are going back for the degrees but unable to really apply them to find fulfillment on the job. For example: minority nurses who back to become nurse practitioners because of the freedom to practice and increase pay, to find they are either still unsatisfied with their roles or unable to find jobs at all. Black Girl Blue Scrubs will focus on aligning personal and professional development goals so that the long-term career growth and satisfaction will remain.
TCS: Where do you see the nursing field growing in the next 10 years:
Colea: Nursing used to be a very rigid and traditional profession. I’m excited that the role of a traditional nurse is expanding and we are utilized in almost every industry on different healthcare and wellness platforms. In the next ten years I think that the idea of a nurse will continue to evolve with more influence and responsibilities in leading the healthcare industry. What I hope stays preserved is the focus on quality CARE. It takes a lot of character to continuously care for people even when they don’t properly care for themselves or treat you with respect as their caretaker and a lot people get into the profession for the wrong reasons. Nursing is so undervalued because it really is such a noble and influential profession.
TCS: Who influenced you to be a nurse?
Colea: I’ve always had an instinctive care and protect for people and I’m empathetic and compassionate. I saw early how important mental health is for our black communities and how it affected my family members who had hard upbringings. Because mental health is essential for creating a healthy lifestyle and caring for yourself, their health subsequently was began declining and I became the main caretaker for many of them. I also always had a love for science, especially the body so nursing was a naturally good fit. When I got into the profession and saw how nurses impacted care with their knowledge and influence I knew I would be a life-long learner of the profession. My role in nursing is constantly evolving and I’m happy I stuck with it and can impact it so many ways.
TCS: What is the purpose of Black Girl Blue Scrubs?
Colea: Nursing is so influential, the main goal for Black Girl Blue Scrubs is to give Minority Healthcare Professionals the tools to empower them to succeed in their careers. That success entails navigating healthcare with support and encouragement, gaining personal and professional development skills that can be used find purpose in your profession and further your career, and using your healthcare skills and talents to preserve the community. This is offered to Nurses and other healthcare professionals across the career spectrum. For instance we have a NCLEX test prep program and personal tutoring that helps collegiate new graduate nurses pass their classes and prepare for licensure exam. We have a mentorship program that connects healthcare professionals in the community to those aspiring to be in their profession. We also have monthly meet ups to foster social engagement and support. We are currently looking for a middle school to introduce our early nurses program to the community.
TCS: What community impact do you expect to make with Black Girl Blue Scrubs?
Colea: Dallas is home to the nation’s largest healthcare system and has over 300,000 nurses. Only 30% make up Minority Nurses and of that 10% make up African American Nurses. I hope to be a valuable resource for both healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations in creating more job opportunities and increasing career satisfaction. If we provide the tools to prepare minorities for the profession it will be for easier for them to transition and grow into roles that matter to the community, a better fit for their jobs and provide purpose and personal satisfaction to grow their careers. I also want Black Girl Blue Scrubs to have a personal influence on the journey Minority Professionals have in building their careers by building confidence and empowering them to find their voice, challenge traditions and impact the future of healthcare.