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RN Donulae Knuckles-Copeland prepares next group of nurses for health crisis

Donulae Knuckles-Copeland (Photo provided)

Donulae Knuckles-Copeland is a dedicated nurse and educator. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Nursing, in Ann Arbor, and currently works at Wayne State University College of Nursing. With over 23 years of experience as a registered nurse in the areas of labor and delivery, cardiology, ICU, home care and more, she continues to exude passion and dedication to the empowerment of future nurses. As a stroke survivor, Knuckles focuses on research culturally specific to the prevention and control of high blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and stroke prevention in African American women.

We spoke with Knuckles about how she is preparing the next generation of nurses for a health crisis.

What led you to a career in nursing?

When I graduated from high school and went to the University of Michigan, I went to study medicine. I wanted to be a cardiologist — a heart doctor — and that was my goal. At the University of Michigan, I was part of the Black pre-med association, and we had a health sciences day where other health professionals would come in and talk. We had dentistry, public health, nursing, etc., come and talk to us about what their profession does and why they enjoyed it.

The nursing group that came to present was very electric. They talked about the variety of jobs that they can have in the hospital, outside of the hospital, in policy, and advocating. I was very drawn to that because of the freedom that I enjoy and I felt like I wanted to do as much as I could and still live my best life. So I decided [on] nursing back in 1990 and I graduated in 1997. Now, after that 23 years, I’m back in school as a Ph.D. student and a graduate teaching assistant and clinical instructor at Wayne State University.

Being a nurse in Detroit, and understanding the virus, how are you preparing students to understand the level of service that they’re going to need to be able to provide to the community?

I’m responsible for teaching them a class called foundations of nursing and part of that course is a lecture. There’s a skills lab section and then a clinical experience. As a nurse, I lead them into that clinical experience in an actual hospital. Due to the COVID-19, we had to cancel that and protect our students. I spoke to many students. We did things virtually and some were cool with it. [For] some, it was more difficult. This is the reality that they are entering and I want to try to make sure that the nursing students understand that and are well prepared for it.

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