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Dianna Cobb, manager of the cath and interventional labs at both Indiana University Health’s North Hospital and Saxony Hospital, would love to see more minority nurses. Not only do minority nurses more accurately reflect the patient population, she says, but they also can rise to leadership positions where they bring diversity to the boardroom.

But changing the face of the nursing profession isn’t easy. “Recruitment is a challenge,” says Cobb, “but more of a challenge is retention.” Nurses who feel out of place or who do not build the friendships essential for a comfortable work experience will leave.

And Cobb knows what it feels like. Overseeing 40 staff members as the head of two labs, Cobb says she is often the only minority face in leadership meetings. “Minority nurses have to have the skills and leadership, network with the right people, and get beyond the uncomfortableness of being the only [minority] in the room,” she says. “They have to be up for the challenge.”

Cobb originally entered nursing school as a reaction to seeing a family member’s substandard care. “I did my best to not let that happen to anyone else,” she says. She graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 1997 and is currently working towards a master’s degree in nursing leadership (“I thrive off of organized chaos,” she jokes about her schedule.)

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Cobb started as a student nurse extra in 1995 and worked as a cardiac unit staff nurse, in a coronary critical care unit, in a prep and recovery cath lab, and even spent 5 years as a nurse recruiter/consultant during a relocation to Virginia. She joined Saxony Hospital’s cath lab eight months ago. “The rest is history,” she says.  Cobb’s leadership focus is to provide strategic management in terms of growth, to ensure quality, provide staff support, and to work with physicians. Her overall goal is to make sure patients receive quality care.

“What drives me is to support nurses,” says Cobb. And minority nurses, who have knowledge of different cultures, treat patients with a culturally appropriate understanding of things like dietary traditions or even modesty. “They are more creative with their options,” she says. “And nurses who relate to a patient’s culture help with compliance.”

As a young nurse, Cobb says a minority CNO inspired her. “I learned just watching her and watching her interact, and she was someone who looked like me,” says Cobb. But Cobb admits the feeling of being the only minority once discouraged her. Instead of leaving, she reached out and joined her hospital’s affinity group, and later became its co-chair. The move broadened her connections and established relationships. “It forced me to invest in the hospital,” says Cobb.

Cobb’s advice to nurses is pretty straightforward: “I would say work hard, go above and beyond expectations, build relationships, and learn as much as you can about your specialty,” she says.

And don’t be easily discouraged. “I am still the only one in the room,” says Cobb, “but I am more confident about it now.”

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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