Ann Colleen Falkenberg Olson

I have been blessed in many ways in my lifetime... my profession as a nurse allows me to give back in ways that are fulfilling and life-changing. As an undergraduate nursing student in the late 1970s, I chose the opportunity to participate in clinical internships with advanced practice nurses (APNs)... a new and emerging nursing role at the time. My student experience with certified nurse midwives and my personal experience (as a young mother of twins) with certified pediatric nurse practitioners significantly influenced my worldview and professional direction. I was profoundly impressed with the interaction of these APNs... how their relationships with their clients were instrumental in promoting health… and how partnering with their physician colleagues added true benefit to the health care system by improving outcomes. I made "the decision" at age 21… that the APN role was truly one that "best fit me"... and my passion for my profession has gained momentum since then!

I was one of the first NPs in my community... and was originally certified as an OB-GYN NP. Recognizing the impact, but often 'invisible contribution', of nursing within the health care system, I decided to pursue a MA in Human and Health Service Administration, and studied primary health care service utilization among women in the region. This study led to the development of two subsequent clinical practices, which have grown significantly and have added more APNs within both these practice sites. Later, I returned to classes to expand my clinical skills and to provide a more comprehensive approach to my practice, subsequently completing a MS in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

My educational background has influenced my work as an NP, which has evolved tremendously. My past work experiences have included non-profit clinical positions, university adjunct faculty teaching and student preceptorships, women's health programs development, and women's health center development and integration into a multi-specialty medical clinic. I believe that the NP role certainly has impacted health status at the individual level, but I also believe that community focus and involvement is integral to overall improved health status. My work and educational background have been instrumental in the co-development of regional programs that are multi-organizational and multi-disciplinary. A community-based program that provides out-patient management for persons with eating disorders has been highly effective in reducing individual morbidity and has gained professional support and recognition regionally. A non-profit organization was developed to assist individuals and organizations with program start-up grant partnering opportunities that focus on improving the health of women and families in the region. I truly believe that strong communities are the basis for strong and effective health care systems… and that collaboration and appropriate use of resources is paramount.

My passion to be partnering with other professionals and organizations in systems that provide the highest quality health care service has led to the awareness that nurses need to become more involved in decision-making positions that affect our profession as well as the wellbeing of the clients and communities in our care… thus, I am keenly interested in socio-political efforts. I have served as legislative chair in a state NP organization, and have lobbied locally and in Washington DC on several occasions on issues that affect nursing professional development and health care decision-making, APN roles and accountability, as well as evidenced-based systems designed to effectively track APN practice outcomes. I hope to participate more in the future.

My most recent career endeavor includes my present goal of pursuing a PhD in nursing. I chose the University of Arizona… and as one of its second-cohort online students, I am having the time of my life in being challenged by its high quality curriculum and 'cutting edge' use of technology at the highest level of education. I have chosen to study health promotion among perimenopausal women using bone densitometry as an intervention and as an educational tool. As part of my research goals, I became certified as a clinical densitometrist... and hope to contribute to nursing knowledge that directly translates into meaningful clinical practice.

I truly am humbled and honored to receive this recognition… nursing is an incredible profession with endless opportunities to contribute and share in its legacy as a main stakeholder in our country's health care system.