AAPI Mentorship, Representation, and Entrepreneurship: A Conversation With Nurse Clara

Gayle Morris, MSN
Updated March 3, 2023
    Clara Jones, known as Nurse Clara, shares her journey as an entrepreneur and the impact AAPI mentorship and representation has had on her career.
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    Clara Jones was 7 years old when she immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea with her family. After arriving, she witnessed her mother struggle with infertility, including miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and surgeries.

    Jones witnessed the compassion of the healthcare providers who cared for her mother as she journeyed through these challenges, and she was inspired by the people who cared for her family in their most intimate time.

    In addition to her mother’s hardships, Jones grew up with spotty healthcare coverage due to financial hardship, cultural barriers, and language barriers after immigrating.

    “I, unfortunately, learned the hard way the importance of healthcare and the inequities that minority groups experience,” she says.

    These experiences led Jones to become a labor and delivery nurse from Atlanta, Georgia. As a first-generation Korean American, feminist, nursing student, nurse, and now family nurse practitioner, her story has appealed to a lot of people.

    In the past several years, she has created a lifestyle brand that encompasses her personal growth and development. In our interview, Nurse Clara shared the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) representation in healthcare and how The Asian Care Unit (ACU) helps to meet the needs of the community.

    She has also collaborated with Clove, a healthcare shoe company, to create a shoe that celebrates community. Jones speaks about the nurse entrepreneurship collaboration that led to the development of the shoe and the importance of finding an AAPI nurse mentor to support new nurses’ efforts.

    AAPI Healthcare Representation and The Asian Care Unit

    At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nurse Clara experienced increased fear and hatred, like many of her other AAPI friends. She found herself experiencing xenophobia on the train after the start of the pandemic and witnessed many others who looked like her being attacked and murdered in public.

    She realized that when the public was generalizing fear and hatred toward all Asians, there wasn’t a place for her community to gather and support each other.

    This was the motivation to found The Asian Care Unit. The ACU is an online community of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who meet on Instagram and Facebook to share their stories and network with others.

    “Our community at The ACU allows us to come together, share our experiences, and be our whole selves without fear or worry of judgment or hate,” she says.

    The AAPI community is under-represented across society. For example, from a report released from the Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change (LAAUNCH) in 2021:

    • Nearly 80% of Asian Americans say they do not feel respected and are discriminated against in the U.S.
    • 37% of white Americans say they are not aware of an increase in hate crimes and racism against Asian Americans over the past year.

    AAPI representation in healthcare has had a significant impact on patient care. Jones’ own mental health provider is also a Korean American woman, and Jones experiences firsthand the benefits that healthcare representation and shared experiences can provide.

    “There are so many intricate details of growing up as a multicultural immigrant that many do not know or understand,” she says. “It eases my mind when I know that I don’t have to teach or explain certain traumatic and stressful experiences in my past.”

    A shared culture allows healthcare providers to meet the specific needs of their patients. While providing patient care, Jones provides culturally sensitive care to birthing individuals during labor and delivery.

    This looks like not offering ice-cold water after childbirth or knowing that patients of Asian descent prioritize modesty. It also looks like knowing Asian women are more likely to refuse pain medication or are more likely to hemorrhage after delivery.

    Jones has also been able to translate and care for laboring patients of Asian ethnicities and see that patients can trust the care they receive.

    “The comfort that I have witnessed come over them when they see that their provider looks like them is an honor,” she says.

    Mentorship in AAPI Communities Fosters Successful Careers

    Research data demonstrates that mentoring relationships in nursing positively impact a nurse’s future career and nurse resilience. An effective mentor can expand a nurse’s professional network, improve career development opportunities, and increase their confidence in their skills.

    Representation in mentorship takes this a step further. Mentored nurses also demonstrate a higher level of resilience, which may help reduce challenges with burnout.

    Traditionally, experienced nurses have challenged new nurses in a way that was not supportive and led to the expression that “nurses eat their young.” Nurse Clara knew from the outset that she didn’t want to surround herself with nurses who held this belief.

    “Nurses can make the most of their mentorship by being honest, taking every connection and relationship with gratitude, and most importantly, giving back to ensure that our profession is no longer associated with ‘nurses eating their young,'” she says.

    Importantly, AAPI mentorship relationships are valuable. Being mentored by someone of a similar background creates an environment where new nurses are shown and supported in becoming strong and successful nurses. Nurse Clara relied on the Asian nurses who went before her, so that she could practice and contribute in the healthcare field.

    “It becomes a trickle-down effect that eventually allows for so many more brown and black girls to take up more space and seats at the table,” she says.

    This is the basis of The Asian Care Unit — to offer support and mentor opportunities to AAPI nurses. The ACU community opens the door to mentor relationships outside a nurse’s geographical area. They also encourage communication and support throughout the community.

    Clove x Nurse Clara: Pursuing Entrepreneurial Collaborations as a Nurse

    Another path of Jones’ nursing journey led her to an entrepreneurial collaboration with Clove sneakers. Jones worked with Clove to create a sneaker specifically designed for healthcare professionals who spend many hours on their feet caring for patients.

    Many of the designs are liquid and stain resistant. Yet the company still sought to make them creative, fashionable, functional, and comfortable.

    Clove was founded by the husband of a nurse who witnessed firsthand the special challenges of being a nurse. He collaborated with designers and healthcare providers to develop modern footwear specifically for nurses.

    The company name is written with a line above the “C,” which, as all nurses will know, is medical shorthand for “with.” With Love is the mission behind the company that strives to provide comfort and support for frontline healthcare workers.

    Nurse Clara discovered Clove just as they were launching and became a member of the brand’s Clove Collective. Clove Collective is a give-back ambassador program with members from every healthcare profession, including nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and pharmacists.

    She and the team collaborated on the design for about one year before the shoe’s release called The Clara 1. Her shoe is the first to incorporate a lace-free, v-shaped elastic band.

    Another thing Jones loves about the shoe is the Mugunghwa flower, a beautiful flower with great significance in Korean culture that represents resilience within Korean stories.

    “What better way to pay tribute to my upbringing than to include this flower throughout the sneakers detailing and in the logo!” she says.

    Jones also used her years of experience learning photography, editing, and marketing to collaborate on the campaign shoot. Her goal was to portray that nurses are more than their chosen profession. She showcased the different sides of her personality through her wardrobe and easily included the shoe with her look.

    “This shoe is to serve as a reminder of our own purpose and encourage healthcare professionals to embrace all elements of themselves, personally, professionally, and culturally,” she says.

    Her goal in designing the shoe was to give nurses the support they needed without being clunky or heavy, all while being fashionable too. The shoes have multilayer insoles that are machine washable to help fight odor since many nurses are in their work shoes 12 hours a day or more.

    Nurse Clara encourages nurses to remember that there is room at the table for them. She provides a few tips for other nurses seeking entrepreneurial adventures:

    Nurse Entrepreneurial Collaborations Tips

    • checkCollaborate, and don’t compete. Collaboration trumps competition every time for nurse entrepreneurship.
    • checkKnow it is possible. Developing collaborations and becoming an entrepreneur is not only possible but even necessary. It opens the marketplace to culturally diverse ideas and options.
    • checkSeek out others who are doing what you want to do (for example, running an app, managing an Etsy store, or teaching an online course).
    • checkBecome familiar with the entrepreneur’s story and the journey they took to get where they are.
    • checkLook for free resources that explain the entrepreneurial process you want to follow.
    • checkReach out to entrepreneurs to ask about courses or programs they have in place that teach what they are doing.

    “More importantly, I believe that you should always remember that you have your own unique story and gifts,” Jones says. “Use that to your advantage!”

    Meet Our Contributor

    Portrait of Nurse Clara Ga Yeon Jones

    Nurse Clara Ga Yeon Jones

    Nurse Clara Ga Yeon Jones, an Atlanta-based influential healthcare professional from Jeonju, South Korea, is a role model and mentor. She has had a major impact on the nursing community through offering educational content about her personal and professional journey as a nurse. Jones is a recent graduate of Georgia State University with a master’s in nursing, and she is a newly certified family nurse practitioner. Jones had worked as a night shift labor and delivery nurse for four years at Northside Hospital.

    Jones is the founder of The Asian Care Unit, also known as The ACU, a community for networking, mentorship, empowerment, and self-reflection amongst AAPI individuals within the healthcare industry.