Pam Elzy grew up thinking she would become a history teacher, but when her mother nudged her toward nursing school, she quickly discovered that healthcare was a perfect fit. “Choosing nursing was the best career decision I could’ve made,” says Pam, who has lived most of her life in Louisville, Kentucky.
As a nursing diploma graduate, she started out in the operating room and transitioned to critical care, earning her BSN along the way. Thereafter, she became an administrative director with oversight of surgical services (operating room, post-anesthesia care, and same-day surgery), women’s services (pediatrics, labor and delivery, postpartum, nursery and an outpatient maternity clinic) and nursing education. A few years later, Pam earned a Master of Arts in health services administration.
A move into perioperative education
While her daughter was young, Pam took a step back from administrator roles and worked as a charge nurse in surgical services and later as a perioperative consultant, but a decade later became a perioperative educator at the University of Louisville Hospital. There, numerous opportunities came her way. Pam worked as an educator for seven years before becoming director of the education and research department. Most recently, Pam served as director of nursing education, research and clinical informatics, handling leadership and administrative duties for the nursing education and research department and clinical informatics areas. In 2015, she earned a Master of Science in nursing administration.
A joint-operating agreement, a big opportunity
The 2013 joint-operating agreement (JOA) between Catholic Health Initiatives-owned KentuckyOne Health and the University of Louisville Hospital opened new doors for Pam. In 2014, she landed the system director of clinical education role at KentuckyOne Health. “It was a huge challenge and opportunity to bring together three legacy education systems,” says Pam, referring to the 2012 merger of Louisville-based Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Healthcare and Lexington’s Saint Joseph Health System to form KentuckyOne as well as the KentuckyOne-University of Louisville JOA. “My role is to create one cohesive department. It is fun, interesting, and extremely challenging in today’s dynamic healthcare market, and I take the professional development of my staff very seriously.”
A longtime goal
For several years, Pam had been thinking about pursuing a doctorate and even looked into several Ph.D. and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. After securing her new role at KentuckyOne, the time was right. “I remember calling American Sentinel to get information and being so impressed with their admissions team, and I even got a personal call from the program chair,” she says. “There was no question that the DNP would push me to my limits and benefit me, but the dedication of the entire staff to giving students the tools they need to be successful is what sold me.”
Never too late
Pam surprised colleagues when she started the DNP Executive Leadership program in February 2016, but she remains steadfast. “A few people thought I was crazy to do this at this stage of my career, but I knew I’d never be satisfied if I didn’t,” she says. Another reason: her professional influence. “I can’t be the champion for professional development without practicing what I preach. I want to show by example that it’s never too late to go after your goals.” American Sentinel is now a preferred educational provider for Catholic Health Initiatives employees.
Making her family proud
When she graduates in 2018, Pam will be only the second doctorally prepared person in her entire extended family. Her now-grown daughter has followed in her footsteps and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and is currently working toward a second master’s. “I’m proud to be doing this, and I think I’ll be a better nursing leader because of it,” she says. “The DNP will help me make a meaningful difference in my profession. That alone makes it worth it.”
Inspired by Pam’s story? A DNP with a specialization in executive leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in the healthcare system. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.