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Spotlight on Walden // May 07, 2015

Beyond Patient Care

Editor’s Note: May 6–12 is National Nurses Week. Nicole Brown, a PhD in Nursing student, and Nancy Pavelko, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) student, prove that there are many nontraditional ways that nurses can serve patients and the profession.

The word nurse conjures many images. We usually think of compassionate hospital workers, who comfort us at our bedsides. Or maybe we think of the kind nurse practitioner at the local doctor’s office, whom we often see more of during our visits than the doctor. But there is so much more to nursing than patient care. Walden nursing students Nicole Brown and Nancy Pavelko have more than 35 years of experience in the field between them, and throughout their careers, both have found creative ways to serve the profession.

Nurse educator and entrepreneur

After more than 20 years working as a home health, ER, and traveling nurse, PhD in Nursing student Nicole Brown decided to use her experience to educate future nurses as a member of the nursing faculty at Virginia State University. As an entrepreneur, she launched a new venture, the Nursing Success College, which offers mentoring programs and career coaching to student and practicing nurses. “This is my eighth year teaching both in a university setting and privately. My programs supplement nursing education,” she says. “I share the real-world nuances of nursing that students don’t learn in the classroom.” Through her business, Brown seeks to increase minority participation and interest in the field among younger students. “Many of my students enter the field in their 30s and 40s. I want nursing to be a first career priority,” she says.

She also wants to teach nurses and students how to leverage their nursing skills for maximum earnings, reminding them that, “You don’t have to be a bedside nurse for your entire career,” unless, of course, you want to.

Brown is on track to graduate this year. Her plans include organizing a nurse appreciation gala in Richmond, Virginia, and publishing a book about how to become a professional nurse.

Improving VA care through new systems

Nancy Pavelko has more than 15 years of experience as an operating room and same-day surgery nurse. She initially entered the field because of her desire for a dynamic working environment. “As a nurse, there are several different specialties I can work in and there is always something new to learn,” she says. Pavelko is currently a revenue utilization review nurse in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revenue department. Her position requires her to assess whether patients’ appointments are related to their service. She is also a certified legal nurse consultant, which allows her to provide expert medical evidence review and testimony for court cases.

A project Pavelko completed for a course in her Nursing Informatics specialization resulted in a national process change to the way the VA medical centers handle billing. The department used to process approvals by placing medications on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, requiring her and her coworkers to review each individually. Her course taught her how to simplify the process for reviewers and make it more holistic. Now, the process works by running patient names through a computer program that allows reviewers to see the full picture and make approvals faster. The VA has adopted the program she helped develop, which will lead to shorter billing wait times for patients and significant taxpayer savings.

After earning her degree, Pavelko wants to work in quality management in healthcare. “I love looking for ways to improve things and produce better outcomes—figuring out what we don’t need, getting rid of waste, providing quality care, and improving patient care.”

For more information on Walden’s nursing programs, visit