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Kellye Nelson

Kellye Nelson

For Kellye Nelson, 42, of Laurel, Md., pursuing a career in health care has been a story in persistence, self-advocacy, and hard work.

Nelson was identified with a severe hearing loss at age 2 and, with the help of hearing aids, attended mainstream schools in Montgomery County, MD. There she used notetakers, one-on-one resource help, oral interpreters, and sat front-and-center in every class to better lipread her teachers.

“My parents and teachers believed in me and encouraged me in my endeavors,” she says. “They never allowed me to dwell on my hearing loss.”

As a senior in high school she received an award for outstanding accomplishments in education, leadership, and service. She was also featured in an educational book about communication and support for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

At Spelman College in Atlanta, Nelson saw firsthand the value of deaf trailblazers. “I was the first deaf/hard-of-hearing individual to go there and at first the college was not receptive to providing support,” she recalls. But her self-advocacy and example prepared Spelman for when the next deaf student enrolled. “During my junior year, a deaf freshman attended and the college did everything it could to make sure she received all the support and resources she needed….”

Nelson received a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. She attributes her mother’s support for giving her the confidence to pursue her health care dream.

“My mother was my number one supporter and she made sure I had the same opportunities as everyone else,” she says. “I was sick a lot as a child with asthma and my mother died of breast cancer. I received and saw the excellent care that was given to me and my mother from the nurses and wanted to be able to help other people the same way.”

Currently, Nelson is a Nurse Clinician at Johns Hopkins Hospital and also is a clinical instructor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

“I really enjoy my job,” she says. “It has been a very rewarding experience.”

Despite her successful career and growing responsibility, and ever improving health care technology such as e-scope stethoscopes, Nelson still finds herself needing to assure people that she is up to the task, saying, “Usually, people assume that I can’t do anything once they see the hearing aids.“

She has learned to turn this experience into an opportunity. “Once I educate and tell them how they can help, people are usually receptive. I think you have to have a strong backbone in the health care field. Be open and willing to educate people about your disability and turn it into a

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