PROFILE: Natalie Cole

July 23, 2021
By T Michele Walker

The newest member of the Boca Grande Health Clinic team is Natalie Cole. The conversation started something like, “Wow! Natalie Cole, like the singer?”

“No relation,” she quickly replied with a deadpanned smile. Apparently, that wasn’t the first time she’s been asked that question.

Natalie might not be a famous singer or the daughter of Nat King Cole, but she still possesses some of the same “Sophisticated Lady” like qualities and is certainly “Unforgettable.”

That’s the last bad Nat King Cole reference. Promise.

This Natalie Cole is from Warsaw, Indiana, which is also known as the orthopedic capital of the world. “All the big orthopedic companies like Zimmer Biomet and Depuy, they all started in Warsaw. That’s their headquarters.”

After her husband Josh got a job in Florida, the family was excited about the move. “We’ve always traveled down here to the Fort Myers area, so when this opportunity came about for us to relocate, we were all for it.”

Now the Cole family is living in South Gulf Cove, right off island. “It’s nice for a little short drive over here and a gorgeous drive to work every day,” she said.” It can’t be beat.”

Natalie grew up in a family with a lot of medical personnel, so it was no big surprise when she decided to attend nursing school.

“I went to nursing school probably 18 or 19 years ago and graduated from a little town called Goshen, Indiana, from Goshen College,” she explained.

Now a registered nurse, Natalie started working in private practice for an obstetrician, specializing in women’s health.

“The doctors that I worked with, I grew up with their kid,” Natalie said. “I did women’s health for the past 13 to 14 years, so The Boca Grande Health Clinic is different for me. I thoroughly enjoy it here though, because it’s something different. With my background, I feel like I have something to contribute.”

Women’s health is important to Natalie: Her eyes light up when she talks about the different issues.

“I’ve always been passionate about it. I just think empowering women, teaching them, whether they’re young girls or pregnant moms, I’ve always loved that whole area. I just think it’s so important and empowering.”

It is a fascinating subject, and shocking when you learn that as late as 1990, women’s health was not a subject of serious study. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Prior to 1990, women’s health, as we now know it, did not exist in the collective consciousness of internal medicine physicians as a topic to be highlighted in medical education. Indeed, we hadn’t even thought of many of the important questions about women’s health that are now being asked. We were not aware that a glaring deficit existed in our curricula. Internal medicine was taught, for the most part, in a unisex fashion. Yes, some diseases were more common in men or women, but we didn’t treat diseases differently based on patient sex, nor did we ask why the differences existed. Yes, women’s care was complicated by hormonal fluctuations, but for the most part that was the purview of obstetrics and gynecology and was not our concern.”

Natalie said she feels that if there are ways that the medical profession can help women feel better about themselves or help them get through something, it’s a positive step.

“There is such an issue with women comparing their bodies to others, it’s huge and extends to physical and mental health,” she said.

Leaving her job in Indiana and moving to Florida was a lifechanging move for the Cole family. Her husband, Josh, sells sewer cameras and pipe cleaning items, so his whole territory is Florida.

“He’s got to cover the whole state and he loves it,” Natalie said. “He’s good at doing that, just very personable, outgoing, and friendly.”

Natalie and Josh have two children, a girl and a boy. She said they’re adapting well to Florida.

“I’m very glad my youngest is not quite in school yet, because he just turned 5,” Natalie said. “My daughter, she’s very outgoing, has a very good personality, so she just kind of maneuvered her way right in, which I was so thankful for. It’s hard being the newbie.”

Even though the move has been positive and exciting, it was tough to leave their Indiana family. In fact, they are the first to move away. Natalie said it was hard, but in all she felt it was good for their family.

“It’s been good for us to explore together and to do new things together, building our family,” she said.

Taking some time off from her nursing career after the move allowed Natalie to make sure her family was settled in. It also gave her the time to look around and carefully decide her next step.

“When we came down here, I had decided I was not going to work for a while,” she said, “but I was just looking around at the different places and, you know, I just missed working. I missed nursing, and I missed having a purpose other than being a mom and a wife, I went to school and became a nurse because I love it.”

Natalie started to look at the different medical facilities and hospitals, then stumbled upon the Boca Grande Health Clinic.

“I started looking at everybody’s profile online, and then I noticed Jonna (Foos) was from Goshen, which is literally half an hour from where we lived,” she said. “I decided to reach out to her to see if they were hiring, and it just fell into place. It was definitely God’s timing, for sure.”

People come to the island for the stunning views, the Gulf of Mexico and the loveliness of it all, but they stay because of the people they meet in Boca Grande. “Everyone’s been lovely, and it’s nice meeting people. I just kind of started my own little network of people that I work with and it’s great. I’m excited to continue the relationships with the patients that I’ve already met.”

The majority of the patients she sees are visitors to the island dealing with things like noseeum bites, fishhook injuries or children with colds and earaches. “We still have the regulars that we love to see, but there’s a lot of new faces, too, that we probably won’t see again. There’s a lot of variety,” she said.

Most young moms who work full time have little energy left for hobbies. Natalie is no exception, but she does enjoy a good book from time to time and sitting on the beach. “Sometimes we’ll come over here on the weekends and just let the kids play and sit for an hour or so. My husband and I like to golf. And there is just something about being out on the water, the complete quiet even when you’re out on a boat. It’s a cool feeling.”

Natalie is excited about the future, and eventually wants to continue with her education.

“As I said, I come from a family with a lot of medical personnel,” she said. “My sister’s getting her doctorate as a nurse practitioner and that’s something on my radar. I want to go back to school, but I want to wait until my kids are a little bit older.”

Natalie believes it all begins with education and feels like there’s not a lot of information about women with menopause and what they’re going through.

“You can find lots of information about teen pregnancy and childbirth, and how to raise a child. But there is nothing for older women about how to get through menopause … and that is a huge area. There’s not a lot of support for women going through post-menopause, either. After you’ve gone through menopause, there’s a lot of life left.”

Natalie joked that what is needed is a book called “Menopause for Dummies.” “Just don’t ask me to write it,” Natalie laughed. “But it would be fascinating. To me, women’s health is just something really interesting and cool.”

As it is with most people who come to Boca Grande, it was the drive over the causeway that sold Natalie. “It was just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I was trying to look at the view, but I was trying not to drive off the bridge either. I can’t even really describe it, it was so amazing, just gorgeous, and then to think that I actually work here and that this is going to be my drive to work. It doesn’t get any better than this.”