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Black Nurses Rock chapter in East Texas recognized for work

February 13, 2019

TYLER, Texas (AP) — The freedom to connect with her patients on an emotional and spiritual level is what drew family nurse practitioner Onissa Mitchell to Bethesda Health Clinic about four years ago.

“What we do is serve hardworking people who have either no insurance or are underinsured,” she said. “I’m allowed to pray with my patients and take care of not only their physical needs, but also their emotional needs. So I look at the whole person, not just their physical illness.”

The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports when a Tyler chapter of Black Nurses Rock began in 2016, Mitchell was similarly drawn to the organization’s mission to inspire and empower innovative leaders that will serve and educate vulnerable communities.

Her involvement in the Tyler chapter of Black Nurses Rock has since led her to health fairs and various community events where she’s educated the public about cardiovascular health, taught CPR and fielded questions. Mitchell has also been available to mentor and give advice to young nurses and nursing students.

In October, she was recognized at the Third Annual Black Nurses Rock Convention in San Antonio as the Advance Practice Nurse of the Year. Black Nurses Rock is the largest minority nursing association in the country, representing over 174,000 African American nurses and students, according to the organization’s website.

While Mitchell was highlighted for her passion and hard work, the dedication and concern she shows to those most in need seems to be a common thread among the more than 70 members of the local chapter.

“All nurses rock, but due to health disparities most African Americans are at the top,” said Lisa Williams, president of the local chapter and a licensed vocational nurse. “They’re affected the most with HIV and AIDS, hypertension, strokes .

“On the local level, I saw (Black Nurses Rock) was much needed here in Tyler,” she later said.

Members of the local organization regularly attend events where they provide blood pressure screenings and educate the public about ways to live healthier. Some of the chapter’s main focuses have been to teach people about HIV, infant mortality and lupus.

The organization also strives to provide outreach in communities where there may be distrust in the medical system.

“We can go into our communities and have a seat with them and kind of talk their language and let them know how important (their health) is,” said Willie Jean Mims, secretary of the local chapter and a licensed vocational nurse. “We can speak the language from both ends — from the medical professional end and from where they are.”

Because of the variety of nursing backgrounds represented by the chapter’s members, the group is also able to help those who reach out to them with questions.

“We work closely with coalitions around town where if people call we can follow through and make sure they get where they need to go,” Williams said. “If they have a status or they’re concerned about what may be going on with HIV, cancer or any kind of diagnosis, we have nurse practitioner Onissa Mitchell who works at Bethesda, we have Patricia Branham (director of clinical services at HOPE Cancer Center of East Texas). We use all the resources we can.”

Patricia Crowder, vice president of the local chapter and a registered nurse, said membership in the organization also has its perks. Members have access to scholarships, tuition discounts through various universities and opportunities to earn continuing education units. More information can be found at www.bnrtylertexas.com. People of all races are able to join the organization, and those who are not nurses can sign up to be ambassadors.

In 2018, the local chapter was recognized with five awards from the national organization. While members appreciate the recognition, their biggest goal is to continue to build a strong presence in the communities they serve.

“The more you’re present, the more people feel that they can be comfortable with you,” Mims said. “We want to let people know that they can be comfortable with us (and) that we’re here for them.”

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Information from: Tyler Morning Telegraph, http://www.tylerpaper.com

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