How did Angela Wang know she wanted to become a nurse practitioner? It all started with a middle school career aptitude test. After answering the questionnaire and researching different professions, , it was clear that nurse practitioner was the perfect match. As a child, she always envisioned herself in the medical field because it melded her two passions: health science and the desire to care for people. Angela is currently a nurse practitioner in the medical intensive care unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), a professional role that certainly utilizes those twin passions.

In her current role every day is different with its own unique challenges, but Angela finds the work exhilarating. You might find her working in the ICU, responding to clinical emergencies at the hospital, and then the next minute you may find her performing bedside procedures with her procedure service team. Another part of her job is the difficult task of speaking with families when their loved one faces the end of life. Angela navigates families through difficult situations by providing emotional support while ensuring they understand the medical aspects.

Angela says, “There are many times when I stand at my patient’s bedside, surrounded by family members, crying and listening to beautiful stories that transform my patient from a stranger to a son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, or wife.”

Like so many other nurses, Angela said working through the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most challenging experiences of her career. “Clinical care is challenging as we continue to care for critically ill patients and navigate different therapies, using evidence-based research.” One of the most difficult parts during the peak of the pandemic was the emotional toll of having situations where so many patients were critically ill and forced to stay in the ICU for weeks to months and unable to be with their families. As a provider, she was responsible for calling patients’ families every day to relay updates—it was her job is to navigate them through difficult situations to understand the medical aspect, while also providing emotional support. “I talked to these family members regularly, connecting with them and getting to know them well. It was hard to share when things were not getting better, and we had to have very serious end-of-life conversations over the phone.”

In addition to managing the mental stressors of being a critical care nurse practitioner, there is also the added burnout that many nursing professionals have been feeling due to the increased workload created by the pandemic. So how has Angela managed her own personal care? “Focusing on your own wellbeing, mental health, and happiness is so vital,” Angela says. “On my days off, I prioritize things that make me happy, like exercising, watching Netflix, organizing my house, and spending quality time with family and friends.”

Angela’s husband is a physician at HUP. She says, “The two of us have always bonded over our passion for medicine. And during the pandemic, he’s been an incredible support to me. I am very lucky and fortunate to have a partner who really understands what I go through in my everyday life and job. There have been situations where I can come home and talk to him openly about the difficulties and frustrations of my day—it’s reassuring to know that he understands what I do and how I feel.”

Even with the challenges of the profession, Angela feels that she has found her calling and credits her Penn Nursing education with helping her carve a career path and finding her dream job. At Penn, Angela says that she made lifelong friendships and memories. She sub-matriculated into the Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP (AGACNP) Program during undergrad, and after she graduated with her bachelor’s, she began working at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. Shortly after, she went back to school to become a nurse practitioner. She says, “Learning pragmatic clinical practice from a renowned institution, I was afforded many great opportunities that led to my career. I’d really like to thank Patti Griffith [Course Director & Clinical Coordinator AGACNP Program] for shaping me into the nurse practitioner that I am today.” In addition to her clinical work at the hospital, Angela is back at Penn Nursing as a lecturer, teaching one of the lectures in the very same program that she graduated from. It’s been a full circle, and now she helps guide nursing students as they navigate their way to becoming nurse practitioners. Many of the students she helps also work with her at HUP, and she is thrilled that she can help advise them. She says, “Giving back through teaching has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career.”

Random Fact #1: Angela and her husband love to travel. While they’ve enjoyed traveling throughout Europe, their favorite place is Hawaii.

Random Fact#2: Angela was the recipient of Penn Nursing’s 2021 Early Career Alumni Award for Excellence!