As a native Coloradan and first-generation college student, Gilbert was encouraged by her mother to pursue higher education, but it was her eldest sister who was the reason she wanted to become a nurse.
Danyelle and her sister support each other through good and bad times
Love for nursing came from an intimate encounter with her sister who has lived with a lupus diagnosis since the age of 14. “She was recovering from one of many surgeries and I was helping her bathe when she confided that she felt she was a burden,” says Gilbert. “At that moment, I saw her, she was at her most exposed, vulnerable, and raw. I felt honored that she shared that information with me and allowed me to care for her." That encounter provided a truly authentic connection that motivates Gilbert to meet people where they are and to create an environment of trust. She tries to do that with every person and patient she meets.
A Passion for Maternal and Child Health
Her true passion lies in maternal and child health and changing the abysmal mortality rates for women of color in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women; this disparity increases with age. “Most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. I had such a wonderful experience giving birth at Rose Hospital. It was a safe space. I felt comfortable and heard. I want that for all women,” says Gilbert. Unfortunately, for many women of color that is not the case.
Gilbert wants to guide and help the process and “put health institutions in a place where they are culturally competent and better able to treat and hear patients.” As part of the Colorado Council of Black Nurses, she embraces the organization’s mission to achieve representation, health equity, and cultural competency. “Steve Jobs said, ‘The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.’ Though hesitant to call my sanity into question, I do plan to change the world.”
Medical challenge leads to temporary pause and reset
Originally scheduled to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in May 2021, Gilbert faced her own medical challenge and had to take a semester off from the program to recover from life-threatening complications due to a knee injury. Having never encountered a serious health issue before, she felt discouraged. “I couldn’t believe that such a minor injury would unexpectedly turn into something much worse and would end up interrupting my plans.” She turned to her sister. “Through her, I’ve learned that life comes at you, and you have to live it and make the best of it. Life is tough, and you may experience things that delay your progress to your goals. Ultimately, if you have a passion, you persevere and keep moving forward.”
Spending time taking care of herself and doing some self-reflection during her time away from the program, she “ended up valuing where I was. I was so grateful to everyone at CU. This situation was a temporary setback.” With future plans to pursue midwifery and owning her own practice, Gilbert is on track to graduate with her BS in December 2021 and become the change agent she aspires to be.