By Caitlin Clark and Megan Hinners
Illustration by Alexander André
From providing tests and contact tracing, to administering patient care and leading interdisciplinary teams, nurses and midwives have been essential to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic response. While nurses and midwives have always been at the core of the health care workforce, their heroic actions during the pandemic have garnered attention around the globe. It seems only fitting that this is occurring during “The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.”
The World Health Organization recognizes “The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” as a celebration of the work of nurses and midwives, highlighting the challenging conditions they often face, and advocating for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce. The 12-month initiative also marks the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Nightingale paved the way for nurses as health care professionals, educators, public health advocates, and statisticians — contributions that cemented her legacy as the founder of modern nursing.
Nurses and midwives have since expanded upon the groundwork Nightingale laid. The workforce is more diverse than ever, and these professionals are no longer treated as “doctors’ assistants.” In honor of this momentous year, we want to highlight some of the outstanding Badger nurses who are continuing Nightingale’s legacy in the new age of nursing.
Five Badger Nurses
Aniqueka Scott Moulton ’19
“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought to be distilled into actions which bring results.” — Florence Nightingale
Aniqueka Scott Moulton graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing in May 2019 as a member of the first cohort of the accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) program, but she will be the first person to tell you that she didn’t always consider a career in nursing.
“Although two of my sisters are registered nurses, I never imagined that I, too, would become a registered nurse,” Moulton admits. “After losing our father suddenly to a massive heart attack in 2003, my family became more health conscious. We wanted to help others to lead healthier lives, as well. I became involved in church health fairs, youth groups that visited sick people at the local hospital, and assisting with health education seminars.”
While her path to a career in nursing has led her down multiple roads, it has been a journey that is deeply rooted in volunteerism and service to others. Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Moulton became more involved in health care when she left her home and headed to Mexico to be a missionary English teacher at the Centro Misionero de Salud (Missionary Health Center) in Nuevo Leon.
There, Moulton taught English at the center’s secondary and elementary schools. After hours, she found herself receiving training in hydrotherapy, herbal treatments, massage therapy, spiritual care, plant-based cooking and baking, and leadership. “I had several opportunities to practice these skills at free community health fairs and churches,” says Moulton. “Eventually, I taught community members simple, natural remedies and techniques they can apply at home. Although I was not at a conventional medical center, I was intrigued by the use of simple, natural remedies for health promotion and prevention of lifestyle-related illnesses.”
It helped spark an interest within that would eventually lead her to her current career path.
Throughout the year she spent at the lifestyle center, she visited the University of Montemorelos (UM) and met her now friend and mentor, fellow Trinidadian, Dr. Zeno Charles-Marcel. “At the time, he was the director of the School of Medicine and Public Health at the university,” Moulton says. “He talked to me about the master of public health (MPH) program with an emphasis in health administration, and encouraged me to apply. The MPH piqued my interest, and I felt that my previous training in administration would combine well with health care.”
Moulton applied to the program and was welcomed with open arms. After completing her studies at the UM, she was given the opportunity to work at Haiti Adventist Hospital in Port au Prince, Haiti, where she worked as the director of education and training, teaching English and basic computer skills to hospital staff every evening after work.
“Haiti was a challenging, yet amazing, experience,” Moulton confesses. As she was developing training plans, schedules, and calendars for hospital staff, she was also spending time organizing Red Cross blood donation drives and free community health clinics. “Health care in Haiti is expensive, and access is limited, particularly for persons who live in rural areas,” Moulton points out. “The hospital’s administration was supportive of hosting these health clinics, but did not have funding for it. That is when I had the idea of buying Haitian paintings to raise funds for community health clinics.”
In the end, she was able to raise over $7,000 and had clinics up and running in a few months. It instilled a desire in her to want to do more and be more involved with patient care. This led to her decision to enroll in the ABSN program and join the ranks of Badger nurses.
Moulton is now a registered nurse for UW Health, working in the acute medical/progressive care unit where the team specializes in respiratory illness, including patients with cystic fibrosis and COVID-19.
“I enjoy interacting with patients the most and offering them hope.” —Aniqueka Scott Moulton ’19
“I enjoy interacting with patients the most and offering them hope,” says Moulton. “I often ask patients about themselves and what they like to do. I take the time to get to know them and take their minds off their current stressful situation for a moment. This is even more important for me now that I work with COVID-19 positive patients who do not have access to much human interaction.”
At a time when cultural competency is a proficiency that is needed more than ever in nursing, Moulton is using her diverse background and experiences to connect with patients on a deeper level in her day-to-day interactions. “I have learned to appreciate my background and allow others to learn about other cultures through me,” Moulton explains. “I see everyone as human beings worthy of respect and excellent care, regardless of their background, race, country of origin, sexual orientation, or education level. People often ask where I am from and I think that also helps them to realize that we are part of a global community.”
Moulton’s foundation in volunteerism drives her to continue to give to others through service so she can provide patients with the best care possible. “Throughout my experiences in my home country of Trinidad and Tobago, in Mexico, and in Haiti, I have seen firsthand how health care workers can help underserved populations by volunteering to do health screenings, and health lectures, or just by giving information of where people can access resources,” Moulton adds. “Nurses can make a positive impact through volunteerism.”
Amy Hermes ’10
“Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses… we must be learning all of our lives.” — Florence Nightingale
For Amy Hermes, the decision to build a career in nursing was easy.
“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help people,” says Hermes, a 2010 graduate of the UW–Madison School of Nursing’s rigorous BSN@Home program. “I started my career in a local nursing home while I was in high school working as a nursing assistant. I knew immediately I wanted to become a nurse. I fell in love with it because, while it can be challenging at times, it allows you to make a difference in the lives of other people. In the nursing profession, you can deal with so many aspects of patient care. It is a profession that constantly drives you to learn and think outside of the box so you can provide the best care possible.”
Hermes has seen it all after working in the field for over three decades. As she has taken on new roles and responsibilities, both in her career and within her organization, her constant driving force has been to never become complacent. While she finds plenty of fulfillment in her daily work, Hermes constantly pushes herself to step out of her comfort zone and find new ways to improve through professional development. “I am a firm believer in lifelong learning. It is critical for maintaining and elevating competency, leading to better patient and personal outcomes,” she says. “I have always enjoyed the stimulation of the academic world and set goals for myself in continuing education.”
Her journey through professional development and continuing education has provided her with new opportunities and growth. After receiving her associate degree from Southwest Technical College in Fennimore, she began her career in nursing as a staff nurse. Hermes always knew that her academic endeavors would not stop there, and her desire to continue to grow in her career led her to the School of Nursing where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in nursing through the online program.
When she was appointed to an associate vice president role within her organization, Hermes felt it was the right time to pursue her graduate degree; she completed her master of science in nursing (MSN) in 2014 from Benedictine University’s online program. “I considered graduate degrees in either business or nursing,” she explains. “Given my passion is in nursing, I felt that an MSN program with a concentration in nursing leadership would be the most appropriate for me.”
Hermes’ endeavors to further her education have stretched beyond the classroom through an expansive network of memberships in various associations and organizations. She is currently a member of the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA), American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA), and American Nurses Association (ANA). In addition, she is a member of the Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Leaders (WONL), where she acts as their liaison on the Wisconsin Center for Nursing (WCN) Board. She is also on Herzing University’s and Edgewood College’s Nursing Advisory Boards.
“The value of networking is the most important reason why I try to be involved in a variety of associations and organizations,” she explains. “Membership in these different groups has afforded me a large resource base of experts that have helped me advance my knowledge and skills. It has helped me stay on top of best practices and standards, and promote excellence in patient care within my organization. My memberships have also given me a more comprehensive understanding of health policy, allowing me to be a stronger, more informed advocate for legislative decisions impacting nursing, which I in turn share with my team.”
Now in her 34th year at Stoughton Hospital, and her third as chief nursing officer (CNO) and vice president of patient services, Hermes’ appetite for learning has not slowed down, admitting, “Even in my current position, I learn something new almost every day from colleagues and our patients.”
“Continuing my education has given me credibility in our organization and has allowed me to be a strong nursing advocate as well as a strong leader.” —Amy Hermes ’10
This synergistic learning environment has helped Hermes appreciate the immense value in not just her own professional development, but in encouraging those around her to pursue the same. “As a leader in my organization, I feel it is imperative for me to be a good role model,” she adds. “I believe it is important for me to be supportive of continuing education for our employees, as well as continuing my own education. Continuing my education has given me credibility in our organization and has allowed me to be a strong nursing advocate as well as a strong leader.”
Encouraging her colleagues and team members to seek out their own professional development opportunities is an endeavor that is close to her heart. “At this point in my career, what I am probably most passionate about is helping create and shape the next generation of nurses,” she says. “We need to continually attract new nurses into the field as well as ensure they are properly educated and remain nurses for years to come.”
Hermes’ passion connects her to a long list of nurses with the same excitement and enthusiasm, beginning with Florence Nightingale who said, “Nursing is a progressive art such that to stand still is to go backwards.” For Hermes, it means continuing the pursuit of learning and growth in the profession she loves, while also inspiring those around her to never stop with their own professional development. “I am a firm believer in lifelong learning,” she concludes. “It is critical for maintaining and elevating competency, leading to better patient and personal outcomes.”
Phuoc Hong Nhan ’20
“Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.” — Florence Nightingale
Phuoc Hong Nhan grew up in Hyattsville, Maryland, an ethnically diverse city with over 18,000 residents. Nhan says that even in a city as diverse as his hometown, he was a minority. “There wasn’t a lot of Asian people there; it was mainly Black and Hispanic populations. Growing up around those cultures was interesting and exposed me to a lot. I had a very eclectic experience with everyone, and I grew up in different ways that I think are unique to my personal experience,” says Nhan.
During his senior year of high school, Nhan’s guidance counselor nominated him for the Posse Scholarship Program, one of the most comprehensive and renowned college access and youth leadership development programs in the United States. After three months of interviews, he was accepted into UW–Madison’s Posse Program, and he had to complete nine months of training before coming to campus. “I didn’t know UW–Madison existed until I received the scholarship,” Nhan admits. “I hadn’t visited until I came here for SOAR [Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration].” Soon after arriving, though, he began to fall in love with the campus, especially the lake, and felt more at home the more he learned about the university.
Similarly, nursing was not on his radar when he arrived in Madison. He initially started his undergraduate career as a math major. He learned quickly, however, that his interests were elsewhere. “I always knew I wanted to help people. When I did my internship as an EMT, I got to be at the bedside. I got to do small nursing skills such as taking vitals, and it really cemented my interest [in nursing]. It just felt right to me.” Nhan joined the pre-nursing program his sophomore year and then the traditional bachelor of science in nursing (TBSN) program his junior year.
Coming to an unfamiliar university in a brand-new state can be challenging for anyone, but being a multicultural student added additional challenges for Nhan. “I can’t say that it [was] easy. Adapting and acclimating to this climate [was] kind of hard being, you know, the minority on campus and navigating your way through a predominantly white institution,” he says.
“I [was] fortunate enough to be in the Posse Scholarship Program. It gave me the tools and the right people to help me navigate this campus and kind of make me feel [at] home here on campus.” Nhan also credits School of Nursing diversity officer, Mel Freitag, PhD, as a vital member of his support system. From declaring himself as a pre-nursing student through graduation, Freitag continually provided guidance, resources, and support to ensure his needs as a minority nursing student were met.
Naturally curious and tenacious, Nhan sought out numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth during his undergraduate career. He spent a summer as an intern at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, researching speech and language disorders, specifically using measures to correctly diagnose children with such disorders. In his senior year, he was a resident assistant at Sellery Hall; worked as a certified nursing assistant on the internal general medicine unit at UW Health; and served as president of the Multicultural Student Nurse Organization. On top of that, he graduated from the School of Nursing Honors Program in May amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I feel as if the pandemic has put me on a straighter path to my career plans. Being inside gave me a lot of time to think and reflect on what I want to do, what I want to be, and how I can improve myself.” —Phuoc Hong Nhan ’20
With classes moving to remote instruction and in-person clinicals being cancelled, Nhan took advantage of having limited outings and personal interactions by using the time for self-reflection. “I feel as if the pandemic has put me on a straighter path to my career plans. Being inside gave me a lot of time to think and reflect on what I want to do, what I want to be, and how I can improve myself. It also gave me a lot of extra time to study for and take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).”
“When I was a CNA at UW Health, I was on the COVID unit. It was a little jarring because in the earlier stages of the pandemic, no one knew what was going to happen and how we were going to handle it,” says Nhan, who is now a registered nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Fortunately, Nhan has not been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients during his first few months on Johns Hopkins’s infectious disease unit. However, the experiences he went through in his final months as a student are helping him maneuver through uncharted territory. “The ones that I’ve seen have been through a lot. It hurts to see someone who had no previous health conditions deteriorate so much, even after the infection has cleared.”
Nhan’s biggest challenge since entering the workforce is seeing patients struggle to receive care due to financial strains. “I want to advocate and help as much as I can, but there is only so much that I can do with my role,” he says. “Though, it does give me the opportunity to build strong relations with the social worker and case management to find solutions for my patients.”
Like Nightingale, Nhan is not content with the status quo and continuously seeks ways to improve himself, his community, and the nursing profession. For now, he is soaking up every opportunity presented in the infectious disease unit. In the future, he hopes to gain experience working with all patient populations, especially pediatrics, before entering a Family DNP program.
Melanie Krause ’06, PhD’10
“Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in her head (not, how can I always do this right thing myself, but) how can I provide for this right thing to be always done?” — Florence Nightingale
*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.”
Andrew O’Donnell ’11, DNP’14
“Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion. Remember he is face to face with his enemy all the time.” — Florence Nightingale
Andrew O’Donnell inherited two things from his family: a love for the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a passion for helping others.
While O’Donnell grew up in the Twin Cities, he was born and raised a Badger. His parents, grandparents, and wife are all UW alumni. His mother, Lori Padgham O’Donnell ’83, and his wife, Keeley Houlahan O’Donnell ’14, are both School of Nursing alumnae. After completing his own bachelor’s degree in nursing, coming back to UW for his doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree was an easy choice. “I feel incredibly fortunate to have a world-class university and nationally recognized DNP program in my backyard,” says O’Donnell. “The DNP program at UW is unmatched in its value when compared to other programs around the country.”
Similarly, O’Donnell credits his family as the guiding light for his career. His mother’s career as a nurse started him on his own career path. His father, Dennis O’Donnell, also spent his career in a variety of health professions, including physical therapy, hospital administration, and digital health. “My parents set the example for me when it comes to the foundational competencies of nursing: compassion, respect, empathy, advocacy, and determination,” says O’Donnell. He adds, “My wife [Keeley] is also a nurse and most definitely my smarter and more compassionate half. She challenges me to be a better nurse leader and human being.”
Nowadays, O’Donnell is working on the front lines of COVID-19 as the interim co-manager of the Trauma Life Support Center (TLC), a 24-bed medical/surgical intensive care unit (ICU) at UW Health. This unit was designated as the COVID-19 ICU in March, and his team was tasked with leading the ICU-level preparation for managing the pandemic in the community. In a very short period, they expanded their ICU capacity, trained staff to care for COVID-19 patients, and implemented new systems and protocols to meet an unprecedented demand for ICU-level care. His primary responsibility is to support a staff of 120 employees, including 90 ICU nurses. He works closely with an interdisciplinary group of physician, nursing, pharmacy, and respiratory therapy leaders to support daily ICU operations; identify, triage, and address opportunities for improvement; and support frontline workers caring for patients and families.
“UW Health and our ICU team’s response has been nothing short of remarkable,” says O’Donnell. “What has been most inspiring is the response I’ve seen from frontline staff. This international pandemic has brought anxiety, fear, and uncertainty about our future. It has challenged our health care system like never seen before in my lifetime. I have witnessed incredible teamwork, innovation, and bravery from the frontlines. We’ve had an overwhelming response from current and former ICU nurses asking, ‘How can I help the team? What can I contribute as we weather this storm together?’ Additionally, it has been inspiring to see the outpouring of support from our community. Everyone is rallying around our health care heroes to fight this virus and keep our community healthy and thriving.”
Prior to this role, O’Donnell worked at the bedside as an ICU nurse in the TLC for five years, and then as a program manager of the Critical Care Nurse Communicator Program for three years, a program O’Donnell and April Buffo ’09, DNP’20, designed and implemented at UW Health in 2017.
As Florence Nightingale observed, “Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion.” O’Donnell, Buffo, and their colleagues observed that poor communication, inadequate emotional support, and a failure to focus on the patient’s goals, values, and treatment preferences lead to excessive use of life sustaining therapies at the end of life.
“ICU patients are often incapacitated and unable to make their health care decisions known. Subsequently, surrogate decision makers are often required to make complex, high stakes, end-of-life decisions for their loved one under immense stress,” says O’Donnell.
“Additionally, evidence suggests that communication between patients, families, and clinicians in the ICU is often delayed and inefficient, coupled with frequent missed opportunities to support the emotional needs of surrogates, particularly at the end of life.” The Critical Care Nurse Communicator Program aims to tackle these issues head-on by having two palliative-trained critical care nurses work as patient and family navigators to support the informational, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients and families.
“It is this intimate knowledge of the patient and family experience that makes nursing leaders dynamic, innovative, and absolutely vital to designing effective and sustainable solutions.” —Andrew O’Donnell’11, DNP’14
Whether running a COVID-19 ICU unit or leading an interdisciplinary team of health professionals to improve systems and quality of care, O’Donnell says his training as a nurse has been an asset: “Nurses bring a special set of skills to the table. We have developed our skills closer to the bedside, the patient, the family than most health professionals. This experience provides a perspective few other health care leaders have. It is this intimate knowledge of the patient and family experience that makes nursing leaders dynamic, innovative, and absolutely vital to designing effective and sustainable solutions.”