As an advanced-practice nurse at Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Neuroscience Institute, Jill Marks, DNP ’19, MSN, BSN, gets tremendous satisfaction in caring for children with acute and chronic neurologic illness or injury.
“Many of the patients we care for are very sick and may not be able to walk, talk, or interact,” Marks says. “Then they work with us and our rehab team. Often, three months later, I get to see them leave the hospital walking, talking, and going to school, and I think that experience is one of my favorite things to watch.”
“When [patients] arrive here, sometimes they are not able to walk or talk or even interact with their families at all. Some families face life-changing diagnoses and others get reassurance that their child is healthy. Whatever the outcome, it is a privilege to walk through these experiences with patients and families.” – Jill Marks DNP ’19, MSN, BSN, AC PNP Specialty Director at CU Nursing
Marks has cared for children as a pediatric emergency department nurse practitioner, a pulmonary nurse practitioner, and now as an APRN on the inpatient neurology team.
“No matter the setting, the patients I have cared for are often seriously ill with worried families who rely on our expertise to help them navigate a complex and stressful time,” she says. “Regardless of the outcome, I love helping children and their families through these experiences and hope I can make it just a little easier or better for them.”
Along with her important role at Children’s Hospital, Marks has been a teacher for other APRNs since 2008. She currently serves as the specialty director of the Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (AC PNP) program at the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus.
A sweet spot for kids
During her early college years, Marks changed majors several times before committing to nursing. While completing her early clinical training, she wondered if she made yet another mistake.
Fortunately, a member of the faculty suggested that Marks try pediatrics, and that has made a world of difference in her professional and academic careers. After serving as a nurse-extern in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in a Wisconsin hospital, Marks was hired as an RN upon earning her BSN from Marquette University in 1999.
“I never looked back after that,” Marks says. “I loved pediatrics from the moment I started. Kids have a different kind of resiliency from adults, and their intentions are always good. Their ability to heal, grow, and change is inspiring.”
Where the pediatric path led her
A native of Wisconsin, Marks earned her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in pediatric acute care from Rush University in Chicago. She and her husband lived and worked in Chicago for about 10 years and started a family there.
After visiting Colorado for several years to enjoy skiing and hiking and days filled with sunshine, Marks and her family eventually opted to head west permanently.
“We love hiking, camping, skiing, and the mountains,” Marks says.
After landing a role at Children’s Hospital, Marks enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at the CU College of Nursing. She also was part of a team that developed and launched the AC PNP program at the college.
Having graduated from CU Nursing’s DNP program in 2019, she officially joined the faculty as an assistant professor and AC PNP specialty director in 2021. The AC PNP specialty prepares graduates to care for children with complex acute, critical, and chronic illnesses across the pediatric age spectrum in myriad healthcare settings.
“It’s really amazing to be able to work at the place that created nurse practitioners and to have that history at the University of Colorado,” Marks says. “To be able to lead a program for educating pediatric nurse practitioners just feels very special. I’m in awe of all the people who came before me.”
A passion for teaching, nursing
Marks notes that students of the AC PNP program benefit from the partnership between nearby hospitals (including Children’s Hospital) and CU Nursing.
“It’s a great place for interdisciplinary learning because we have medical students, interns, fellows, attending physicians and academic research that’s happening all the time,” she says.
As a specialty director, Marks says she enjoys connecting with colleagues at a national level, but she enjoys working with students most of all.
“I love watching students make the transition from being an RN to becoming an advanced-practice nurse,” she says. “I love watching them grow and change from being bedside nurses to becoming peers of mine.”