A New Career Accelerated

Hala Filipowicz ’20 spent just 15 months in Valparaiso University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, but its mission made a lasting impression on how she viewed her role in the medical field.

“I don’t have to hold a doctorate to pursue great opportunities in health care like nursing,” Hala says. “I’m able to work with many populations of patients and serve real needs in communities.”

While she admitted the accelerated nursing program presented challenges, Hala found a silver lining through the discovery of a career.

“I had to put a lot of effort into those 15 months, but I was surrounded by supportive peers and faculty members along the way,” Hala says. “Even though it’s hard, it’s worth it. The challenging, yet safe, learning environment prepares students for a high-stress career in nursing. Working in a hospital is a completely new life, but I feel like I was prepared the best I could.”

Hala received a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Nurse Corps Scholarship, an award that pays tuition for those who are willing to work where access to primary health care or mental health care is limited. After graduating from Valpo’s accelerated nursing program, she was placed at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where she works on a cardiac stepdown unit.

“I applied to the Nurse Corps Scholarship because it provides health care for areas that are in need of it,” Hala says. “I like the intensity of care in this role, and I’m hoping to experience the E.R. or ICU through my contract here.”

Even before she earned her nursing degree, Hala was passionate about service to others. In high school, she completed a health care-based mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and in 2020 she had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica through one of Valpo’s Spring Break service trips.

“The trip to Costa Rica affirmed why I wanted to be a nurse and provide care for those who really need it,” Hala says. “Both trips were eye-opening to the lack of health care access around the world.”

Hala also spent time in service with Americorps between earning a bachelor’s in psychology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and enrolling at Valpo.

“After I finished my psychology degree, I spent a year serving with Americorps in Montana,” Hala says. “I worked in a homeless shelter for young, homeless mothers, providing resources and care to a population in need.”

Hala also observed a core tenant of the College’s mission through the dedication of her professors during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The professors I had were amazing, not just in education, but in the way they approached nursing and the sense of duty behind it,” Hala says. “When classes were delivered remotely, professors were still teaching their classes and holding office hours but also volunteering in ICUs to take care of patients. They made sacrifices for their patients while staying committed to their students.”

While Hala was quick to praise Nursing and Health Professions faculty members, her advisor also echoed these sentiments to Hala’s time as a student.

“Hala has been a leader in the classroom and throughout the nursing program,” says Jennifer Smolnicky, academic advisor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. “In particular, she has assisted with prospective students at our luncheons and visits, sharing her perspective with any student interested in nursing. She continues to meet the missions of the College as she thinks critically, performs exemplary, leads unswervingly, and serves unselfishly to change the world.”