Hazel Brown has dedicated her entire career to the Cayman Island Health Services Authority, for which she has served as chief nursing officer since 2004.
“From the time I started thinking about what I wanted to be, nursing was always the plan,” says Hazel. “I never, ever wanted to be anything else.” Hazel graduated from West Indies College in Jamaica with the BSN in 1980 and returned home to the Cayman Islands. She worked in pediatrics for several years until leaving home once again to get the MSN—at the University of Miami. After a time leading the government’s School Health Program that provides care to students in government and private schools on the island, she moved into management positions in quality assurance, community health, and women’s and children’s services.
Timing her doctorate
A few years after becoming CNO for the Cayman Islands, Hazel learned of American Sentinel’s program. “The keynote at our national nursing conference was Dr. Roy Simpson, now a graduate of American Sentinel,” she says. “That was the first time I’d heard of the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Executive Leadership.” I always knew I would get a doctorate eventually. Really, I think I was waiting for a program like this, one that is practical and allows me to apply research to my work.”
Years later when her youngest child graduated from university, Hazel decided it was her time. She had browsed several programs, but American Sentinel stood apart from the rest. “When I looked at the curriculum, what the program entailed, the residencies, and the tuition, American Sentinel ticked all the boxes,” Hazel says. She started the program in 2014.
Learning from her cohort
Throughout the program, Hazel grew close with her DNP cohort. “This is a very challenging program, and it really did help to have a support system to turn to,” she says. “In healthcare, the problems are pretty universal, whether you’re in a rural hospital or a large metropolitan area. This program provided a forum of colleagues with whom you can commiserate safely. You learn from each other. It’s been really great to grow close with them and support one another.”
In the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a group of 20 countries (15 member states and five associate members), Hazel is in esteemed company. There are currently three chief nursing officers with doctoral degrees in Ministries of Health in the Caribbean. “Leadership at this level can be very isolating,” Hazel says. “It is wonderful to have these support systems on this journey.”
Planning her future
In February 2016, Hazel graduated with the DNP Executive Leadership. Her goals were multifaceted as she laid out her future. “I really think the DNP opens up opportunities that I might not have otherwise,” she says. Teaching and consulting are on her mind, and in 2017, she began teaching as an adjunct professor at the University College of the Cayman Islands.
Hazel also plans to focus on leadership development at the Ministry of Health, which has over 800 employees and a nursing workforce of 250. Over the course of her 36- career, healthcare and nursing have changed dramatically—thanks to scientific and technological advances, enhanced focus on nursing education and a commitment to quality of care. “Part of my role is to ensure that there is a succession plan for nurses in this country,” Hazel says. “I want to ensure that when I leave here one day, I leave a cadre of leaders who are well prepared for the 21st century.”
Inspired by Hazel’s story? A DNP with a specialization in executive leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in the healthcare system. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.