Pam Wall never thought about a career in nursing or the military until her aunt, a registered nurse, suggested that she work in an emergency room in Oak Park, Illinois. Pam—now Field Support Manager and International Health Coordinator for the U.S. government and a retired Navy Nurse Corps Officer—says, “I owe my entire career trajectory to my aunt and the nurses in the Emergency Department who taught me what it is to be a nurse.”

And what is it to be a nurse? For Pam, it is about finding pathways to decrease risk and increase resiliency in those who might be vulnerable. Her service in the military and working with military veterans sparked an interest in mental health nursing:

“The culmination of my experiences, the education that I received at the University of Pennsylvania, and the clinicians that I have had the honor of working with in my residency at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration reinforced the interest that I had in mental health nursing. It is in service to the military service members and veterans that has generated my passion for the work.”

Pam has been on the front lines of efforts to remove practice barriers for nurses in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. She has held a variety of positions, from Program Director at Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, where she directed the graduate psychiatric NP program and developed military-focused, accredited MSN and DNP curriculum and simulation center experiences, to Officer In Charge, Division Psychiatry, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, to Mental Health Outpatient Department Head at Naval Health Clinic, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

She notes, “There were no core competencies in the Navy for the Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner prior to 2007, and by the time I retired we were almost there to full practice authority, to include the ability to sign our own medical boards.”

“It was a very interesting career transition to the civilian sector, where I then had to have a physician co-signer when I never required one before in my practice. That led me to spend some time advocating with the local Advanced Practice Registered Nurse group in North Carolina for full practice authority. We are still waiting but hopeful.”

While Pam has had many experiences, including deployments on the U.S. Navy ship Comfort during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, that have changed the way she thinks about nursing, the defining moments for her are more routine: “I have an aha moment every time I work with a client—the things that they say; the wisdom that they share through their experiences—add to how I think as a clinician and as a nurse.”

Upon Pam’s retirement from the Navy, she was an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Duke University; she continues on as a consultant while working for the U.S. government.

Random fact: Pam rides a 2015 Harley Davidson Street Glide “all by myself.”