By Caitlin Clark and Megan Hinners
*Disclaimer: The views and responses below are the opinions of the subject and are not intended to reflect the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG).
An ordinary day for Melanie Krause is anything but ordinary. As the assistant inspector general (AIG) of management and administration for the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA OIG), Krause wears many hats. In her role, she is responsible for providing comprehensive services throughout the VA OIG. “For all intents and purposes, I am my agency’s chief operating officer because I oversee day-to-day business functions,” she explains.
Krause was appointed to her position in January 2018 after serving as the acting AIG since July of 2017. At the age of 32, she became her agency’s fourth-ever female senior executive. Now, at 35, she oversees a team that is essential to her agency’s continued ability to meet their mission. “Currently, I oversee nearly 140 staff who provide comprehensive administrative services, including human resources, contracting, information technology, space and facilities, and budget/financial services. I also oversee the OIG’s Hotline, which receives, analyzes, and dispositions over 30,000 contacts per year regarding VA programs and services, as well as a team of data analysts and contractors who provide analytic files and predictive analytics support to further OIG oversight activities involving the detection of fraud, waste, and abuse.”
One of the first seven nursing students to have joined the School of Nursing’s early-entry PhD program upon its inception in 2003, Krause earned her PhD from the School of Nursing in 2010. Beginning with her work as an RN in Dane County at an assisted living facility, and carrying through to her work in the federal government, she has found herself on a career path that allows her to make a bold impact on quality of care. By blending her interests in research, policy, and advocacy, as well as nursing and health care delivery, she has been able to develop a career firmly rooted in supporting her interest in long-term health care systems.
Krause emphasizes that nurses bring unique traits to the table when it comes to working in the federal government, including being able to tackle complex issues and shift gears at a moment’s notice. “Nurses tend to be exceptionally flexible and adaptable to meet whatever surprises, challenges, or opportunities come our way,” she points out. “To that end, learning how to quickly ‘figure it out’ is a core aspect of our training due in part to the fact that medicine and nursing practice are constantly evolving, and it’s imperative that we stay ahead of the curve. In addition to serving me well while I was in clinical practice, my ability to get up to speed quickly and hit the ground running helped me to climb the ranks in the federal government.”
“Nurses’ training and clinical experience make them uniquely qualified to identify areas of concern within the health care system and then communicate those concerns to policy makers in a manner they can understand and use. Also, the rigor of nursing education can prepare a student to pursue higher education in different fields, including law and public policy.” —Melanie Krause ’06, PhD’10
For Krause and her team, the opportunity to make a broad scale lasting impact on quality of care is where the true reward lies. “Nurses have a vital role in OIG’s oversight of the quality of care provided to America’s veterans,” she says. “We have teams of nurses who regularly travel to inspect VA health care facilities, review patient records and lead other data collection activities to identify gaps in services, and formulate actionable recommendations to improve services for veterans. Nurses’ training and clinical experience make them uniquely qualified to identify areas of concern within the health care system and then communicate those concerns to policy makers in a manner they can understand and use. Also, the rigor of nursing education can prepare a student to pursue higher education in different fields, including law and public policy.”
Like Florence Nightingale, Krause understands that her team’s work and efforts are affecting positive change that has a lasting impact on items both large and small. Always looking for intellectually stimulating challenges in her work, she says she is ready to take on whatever comes her way. “Because I moved up so quickly, it wasn’t until I started in my current position that I had an opportunity to really learn, stabilize the status quo, and partner with my team and other stakeholders to innovate,” she admits. As she continues to guide her team to innovate and create change that will positively impact the future of her organization’s work and efforts, Krause is excited about what the future has in store. “I don’t know what those new challenges will entail,” she says. “But I can assure you that it will be interesting, that I will learn a lot, and that I will work very hard to be successful.”
When asked what her advice would be to those who are considering a career path that focuses on health care delivery, research, policy, and civil service within the government ranks, Krause says, “I would encourage them to take a deep breath, lean in, be kind, work hard, and bloom where they are planted. Nurses tend to be highly flexible, adaptable, and resourceful. To that end, nurses often have ample opportunities to reinvent themselves if they hit a dead end, so there can be great value in taking some risks and trying new things.”