Michelle Cole, DNP, MSN, RN, CPN, is an Associate Clinical Professor in the UConn School of Nursing. Her main areas of scholarship involve global health, global learning, and pediatric health. Cole graduated from Saint Joseph College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). With an interest in children and children’s health, Cole accepted her first job as a Registered Nurse (RN) in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. After gaining proficiency within her nursing role, Cole became a preceptor, a supervisor of new nurses on the unit. She later assumed the position of nurse educator at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, a role she found satisfying and rewarding. Eventually Cole was inspired to go back to school and earn her Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a focus in nursing education from the University of Hartford. “I continued to learn and develop myself as an educator as well as a nurse. I look back and value how my education has helped me to be where I am today,” says Cole.
Cole continued to work at Connecticut Children’s after earning her MSN and took on a new role as a clinical faculty member and mentored nursing students in their clinical rotations. During this time Cole’s interest in pediatric health shifted from critical care to prevention, eventually prompting her acceptance to the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she focused on public health. Cole graduated with her doctorate while teaching full time at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.
During her tenure at Sacred Heart University, Cole assumed the role of program director and became involved with global learning. With her colleagues, Cole developed a working relationship with communities in rural Guatemala. For 12 years, she led global clinical immersion programs with the Sacred Heart nursing team. The program provided general health care, education, and preventative nursing services to women and children. The program prioritized collaborative work with Guatemalan community leaders and medical providers. Cole’s priority is to foster a safe and comfortable learning experience for her students while providing culturally sensitive care. Learning about the community and their values is enriching to Cole and her students’ personal and professional growth. “One of the most beautiful things about the Guatemalan community is their love for their family. It’s all about their family and you can really see that love in the community,” says Cole. Her team also works on providing health education to females and distributing reusable menstrual hygiene products, since even the most basic health care needs are often not met due to very limited funds. Cole led students on UConn’s inaugural Guatemala clinical immersion in March 2023.
Cole and her colleagues recently wrote about their personal lived adoption experience from three perspectives: the adopted child, the parent of an adopted child and the sibling who discovered as an adult that she had a biological sister. Their work continues in a qualitative study exploring experiences and perspectives of people touched by adoption using photos and narratives. Having a personal experience as adoptee, Cole appreciates learning how adoptees and their families reconcile the unknown, as well the identify the diverse and dynamic ways to construct and understand both individual and family identities. “It is very inspiring to hear from the voice of others what family is to them,” says Cole.
Involvement with CSCH
Cole values the Collaboratory on School and Child Health’s focus on children’s health and well-being and enjoys the connection with the CSCH community.
“One of the fulfilling things about growing as a person, and growing as a nurse is that you’re exposed to so many things, and your life can follow what is calling to you,” says Cole. “ For me being a nurse is part of who I am and so as I look back, the Michelle that graduated from undergrad would have been very surprised at the Michelle today.”
Cole enjoys cooking, traveling, days at the beach and spending time with friends and family. She also has a dog named Winston. “Finding joy in the moment is something that I feel is important to capture. Be present today and find those moments, because there’s so much joy that we can find in our lives,” says Cole.
Undergraduate Researcher Jannell Brown interviewed Dr. Cole and wrote this profile.