Published September 1, 2019
You may have already heard of Charnelle Lewis – but if not, you will soon.
Charnelle is a nurse and an African American woman. She also happens to be an Instagram influencer, YouTube star, business owner, mentor, diversity advocate and an all-around good person. She achieved her many successes through hard work and determination, even while facing many challenges along the way.
Charnelle knows firsthand how hard it can be to be a minority in health care. When she first started out as a registered nurse, patients would mistake her for a nurse’s aide. She would have to correct them, explaining she has her bachelor’s degree in nursing and is working toward her doctorate.
“They would just be floored as if it’s impossible for that to happen,” says Charnelle.
Based on her own and others’ experiences, Charnelle has made it her mission to encourage more minorities to join the nurse anesthetist profession and to promote diversity.
“Diversity to me includes a lot of different things. It’s not just the representation of one particular culture; it’s a representation of all cultures and having a spectrum. I think diversity means everyone is represented in some way.”
Charnelle is the only African American in her nurse anesthetist graduating class and one of a handful in her DNP program. This, she says, was challenging at times.
“In general, it’s kind of tough because you always feel like you have to prove yourself to everyone. I feel like I have to do more than everyone else around me because I felt as if they didn’t think I could do it because I am African American,” she explains.
As a result, Charnelle has successfully taken on the part of role model.
In 2014, Charnelle created her blog, “Nurse Nelle.” She reestablished the blog in 2017 when she found there was little information about applications, studying tips and tricks, general advice, and program culture for nurse anesthetist programs.
“There really wasn’t much information out there, and the information that was available was from five, 10 years ago. I didn’t find that to be quite applicable for now. So, I thought, I need to start something.”
Charnelle designed the blog to provide relevant and up-to-date information on nurse anesthesia programs and to promote diversity. She later added Instagram and a YouTube channel after encouragement from her professors. “Nurse Nelle” has continued to grow, and now Charnelle offers mentoring services for prospective nurse anesthetist students.
“There are so many people who are down on themselves, but then they call me and say, ‘I got an interview’ or ‘I got accepted.’ It’s just the best feeling in the world knowing I helped them get to that point.”
Charnelle graduated from UB’s DNP nurse anesthetist program in May, and she continues to inspire and encourage many as Nurse Nelle.
“I’m blessed to be in the position that I am to help others.”
-ANNA KATE BEIGEL