Evelyn Coley, RN, BSN, MSA
Director of Nursing
Wayne County Health Department
I began my nursing career in a hospital intensive care and sub-intensive care units. I thought that nursing could not be greater. I enjoyed the fast pace and excitement of helping critically ill patients. However, I was not too fond of missing my family events, working holidays, long shifts, and being called back to work on my days off. I had an African American respected public health nursing role model who inspired me to try public health nursing. My goal was make a major impact on the health of my community therefore I heeded my call to work in public health.
I began my career in public health in 1974 as a Licensed Practical Nurse and worked for six and a half years in all clinics at the Wayne County Health Department. My nursing and medical knowledge base and experience exploded dramatically. I left public health for six years to take care of my children. My aspiration was to become a registered nurse, therefore I enrolled in a community college and earned an Associate Degree in Nursing. My diverse work experience in public health made obtaining my nursing degree easier.
After graduation, I worked three months in a facility that served physically and mentally challenged adults. Although the job was rewarding, nothing fulfilled my professional interest like public health nursing. I prayed earnestly every day for God to make a place for me in public health. In December 1987, I accepted a job at the Wayne County Health Department as a High Risk Infant Tracking Nurse (later Child Service Coordination). I loved working in the community setting with these families, hospital staff, and other community partners to meet the needs of my clients and families. Working with some of my clients was challenging but all of them had strengths. I learned to utilize individual and family strengths to obtain desired health and social outcomes. I gained a healthy respect for the value of individuality and self-determination. Working with this population enhanced my professional growth, because I was able to see situations through the eyes of my clients, offer solutions, provide hope and help individuals overcome barriers and stereotypes. These families experienced positive outcomes for their children. I regularly see many of my former clients and families in the community and most have positive outcomes. Many of those infants are now college students or working in the community. Working in public health nursing provides both immediate and long term gratification. Public Health Nursing requires nurses to be creative and innovative in dealing with challenging situations.
Public Health Nursing has afforded me many leadership opportunities. I worked in the prenatal program as an Enhanced Role Nurse and provided prenatal care to low risk pregnant women; worked as clinical nursing Supervisor and I am currently working as Director of Nursing and Deputy Health Director. I earned a Bachelor Degree in Nursing in 2000 and a Masters Degree in Business with a Concentration in Health Service Administration. My continued education has opened up new opportunities for leadership and has greatly enhanced my performance as Director of Nursing. I have also served as Interim Health Director. I love my job and the professional opportunities it affords me. I am in the driver’s seat to improve the standards and quality of nursing practice at the health department.
If you are ambitious, willing to learn new knowledge and skills, committed to lifelong learning, enjoy working with diverse populations and community partners, desire to affect the health of your community and want an exciting and rewarding career, Public Health Nursing is the specialty for you. The public health system is a caring family of professionals who share their resources and expertise with each other.