Continue to stick up for yourself — while my field is not particularly male-dominated, it is lacking diversity. You’re not there to prove yourself to others, you’re there to learn, grow and be the best woman of color you can be.
Who is Dr. Charnelle Lewis?
Dr. Charnelle Lewis is a newly credentialed doctorate prepared Nurse Anesthesiologist. She graduated from University at Buffalo in May 2019. She received her Bachelors of Nursing from St. John Fisher College in 2013, and worked in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY for 3 years prior to matriculating into the Nurse Anesthesia Program. During her second year of schooling, Charnelle began an Instagram page chronicling her journey through CRNA school. Her purpose was to motivate and inspire minority nurses to pursue advanced degrees. Through this Instagram page, she identified a deficit in self-efficacy amongst her peers who desired CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse/Anesthetist/Anesthesiologist) school but weren’t quite sure they could achieve it. Her Instagram grew into a YouTube Channel, and then a website where she provides information about CRNA school as well as mentoring to nurses interested in the profession. On Instagram, Charnells is known as “Dr.Nurse Nelle”.
She desires to increase the public’s awareness of the “best-kept secret” in the operating room — CRNAs. In addition to breaking down barriers, served as the Vice President of the Graduate Nursing Organization (GNO) at UB and was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Award from Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society. While she enjoys connecting with nurses and students from across the nation, she expanded her influence overseas and completed a medical mission to Kenya in January of 2019 providing anesthesia and volunteer services to the Migori Community. Charnelle hopes to continue to inspire others, share her journey and provide resources and information for those interested in the field of nurse anesthesia.
Educational and Professional Background
Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society, Outstanding Graduate Student Award
Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?
My biggest inspiration that guided me to this field was the fact that I didn’t know anyone of color personally when I decided to pursue it. That was my biggest inspiration — was to become the person I wish I had. Since starting school, I connected with a host of minority CRNAs who have helped me achieve my goal.
Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?
My intended field was Pharmacy — this was a goal I had since I was a sophomore in High School. After two years of Pharmacy school, I considered switching my major to nursing. The problem was, I didn’t want to “just” be a nurse. While nurses are the most trusted health care providers and the foundation of this healthcare system, I initially thought others would look down on me and believe all I did was place patients on bedpans and pass out pills. I wanted to be in a career that would automatically give me elite occupational prestige — something I believed I needed to be accepted in the medical community because I was black. “Just” being a black nurse… at first thought seemed so inferior. I was settling, I told myself. As if I wasn’t smart enough to be a medical doctor. During my second year in Pharmacy school, I worked at a group home and enjoyed what I did much more than what I did during my Pharmacy internship. The care, compassion, and empathy came so easily to me, I knew what decision I needed to make. It was tough, but once I stopped thinking about what others thought and stopped allowing their expectations to dictate how I should live my life, I was determined to be the best nurse I could be. There was no need to rank high on the occupational status ladder — instead, I wanted to rank high in my own self-worth.
What do you love most about your job or career?
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?
The most rewarding part about school (since I haven’t started yet)…well, the most rewarding part about nursing, is being able to care for those who can’t help themselves. I was able to travel to Kenya and Peru on mission trips that gave me a different outlook on life. It was rewarding, challenging, but the foundation of nursing, the care, the selflessness and education that it takes truly takes a special individual.
What things would you want to see changed about your current field of study or job?
I wouldn’t change a single thing about being a CRNA — yet. I think that hopefully lawmakers will understand our important role and allow those who desire to, to expand our scope of practice and continue to have CRNAs provide anesthesia independently as they have been in many areas such as the military and rural communities across the United States.
What tips would you offer to anyone thinking about entering into your profession/field of study?
It takes a special individual to go into nursing and an even more special one to enter into Nurse Anesthesia. The road is quite bumpy, but it is worth it. Always remember that even if you don’t believe in yourself, believe in others belief that you can do it. I say that to say, I’ll always believe in you!
How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?
Currently, only 1.3% of the field of nurse anesthesia is African American, less than 11% being of a minority. By putting my journey out there and succeeding school by being the only African American in my class, this is how I’m combating that stigma.
What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?
To continue to stick up for yourself — while my field is not particularly male-dominated, it is lacking diversity. You’re not there to prove yourself to others, you’re there to learn, grow and be the best woman of color you can be.”
Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?
What is your favorite quote?
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt. 5:13-16.
As a Christian woman, it’s important that I set a good example for others. I hope to use my light, and my saltiness to light the fire in others and help them become well “seasoned” individuals.
How has your family been a great influence or support system?
My family has provided me with such an amazing Christian foundation and taught me the meaning of hard work and dedication. I could not have done this without their support.
What are your future goals related to your career?
My hope is to continue working as a CRNA and branch into independent contracting as a CRNA.
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