As someone who has played piano since the age of 5, Ann Hefel likens part of her nursing education to mastering a musical composition.
“You pick those really difficult pieces and play them over, and over again until you finally master it,” Hefel says. “I think I’ve applied that philosophy to my schooling and my career too. You get through the tough times and come out on the other side. The culmination of this doctoral program is kind of like the magnum opus for my educational career.”
Hefel, FNP-BC ’11, MS ’13, will graduate from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus in May. Previously, she earned a master’s degree from CU Nursing’s Family Nurse Practitioner program in 2011 and completed the Health Information Management and Exchange Specialist Certificate Program in 2013. She enrolled in the DNP program in 2020.
“The culmination of this doctoral program is kind of like the magnum opus for my educational career.” – Ann Hefel, FNP-BC, MS
Roots in Iowa
Growing up in Dubuque, Iowa, Hefel has been playing piano most of her life and has stuck with it over the years.
“I made a little side hustle out of it by teaching kids in high school,” she says. “Then, I would accompany some of the local choirs in town. I would play churches, and when word got around, I started doing weddings.”
Before venturing into nursing, Hefel grew up in rural Dubuque with a huge garden.
“We ate everything that grew around the house,” she recalls. “I remember weeding that garden all summer long and canning and freezing all our food. It was a great place to grow up, but I love being in a larger metropolitan area as well.”
Upon earning her BSN from the University of Dubuque in 2007, she moved to Colorado just a few days after graduating. Within months, she secured a job at National Jewish where she worked with elderly people with COPD and severe asthma.
“I enjoyed the complexity of those cases and providing education to make patients’ lives better, such as using their inhalers and teaching them how to exercise and maintain their pulmonary function,” she says.
Changing career focus
After five years at National Jewish, Hefel transitioned to Kaiser Permanente as a pulmonary and sleep medicine nurse practitioner. Then, in April 2019, she joined Children’s Hospital Colorado as a pediatric allergy nurse practitioner where she also serves as the lead advance practice provider with the University of Colorado Department of Pediatrics Allergy Division.
While working at the DNP program at CU Nursing, she led a quality-improvement project aimed at improving access to evaluations for penicillin allergy in the pediatric surgical population. At Children’s Hospital, she treats pediatric patients with atopic disease, including asthma, allergic rhinitis, food allergy, urticaria, drug allergy, and atopic dermatitis.
“What I loved about the DNP program (at CU Nursing) was that I didn’t have to go outside of my current position to find a project,” she says.
Longer-term, Hefel hopes to move on to larger-scale quality improvement work.
“I’m interested in health systems, how they work, and how to make them better,” she says. “Teaching is something that I’ve always loved, so I certainly hope to have a class every semester someday so that I can help our future generation of nurses.”
Just as she enjoys teaching and playing piano, Hefel appreciates cultivating her skills in the DNP program and looks forward to the next phase of her career.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment having finished this (DNP) project,” she says. “It’s been a big confidence boost for me to do something like this and to see my work help people.”
Despite her knack for educating and piano, Hefel says she won’t give piano lessons to her daughter, or her twin brother.
“It’s really hard to teach your own kids,” she says. “They won’t listen to you. We did a couple lessons together, but I think they are going to learn much better from someone else.”