Celebrating the Nurses Who Support Our Clients and Members
May 3, 2023
Hundreds of nurse employees at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) help members get the care they need to improve their health. In recognition of National Nurses Week, BCBSIL honors its nurses for their commitment to members and their communities.
Their experience is diverse, but the compassion, empathy and devotion to patient care they developed at the bedside helped them transition into roles such as case reviewers, care managers and advisors and clinical account consultants.
Here are a few of their stories.
Primary Care Nurse Administrator
As a child, Rhonda Collins developed the empathy, compassion and joy of helping others — critical nursing traits — during the time she spent with a chronically ill family friend.
“I always tried to bring some joy to the days and times we spent together,” recalls Collins. “She actually was the first one to mention she thought nursing would be a great career path for me. Later, I found I really enjoyed helping others during really difficult times.”
After becoming a nurse nearly 20 years ago, she provided direct patient care in numerous roles — cardiac care, pediatrics and labor and delivery. As a primary care nurse administrator, Collins relies on that experience to follow up with members to determine whether they need assistance finding care and resources.
“I feel like I have time to help them,” she says. “In a bedside situation, sometimes you just don’t have the time you would like to spend with a patient.”
As an example, Collins worked into a Friday evening to help a member connect with his surgeon’s office after hours and get a prescription to alleviate a swallowing problem he experienced after cervical spine surgery. The member, in pain and unable to eat or drink, left a message with the surgeon’s office first thing that day, but no one there responded to his call.
Collins contacted the physician on-call at the surgeon’s office, explained the member’s dilemma and called the member back later that night to ensure he got the care he needed. He told Collins the on-call doctor prescribed medicine, and his wife was on the way to the pharmacy to get it.
The following Monday, she followed up with the member, who told her the medicine began working five minutes after he took it.
“Helping others in their time of need can be very fulfilling and rewarding,” she says.
Clinical Account Consultant
Growing up, Angelica May watched strong nurse characters on TV shows like M*A*S*H, and she liked what she saw.
“Of course, I wanted to help people, but I also wanted to be respected and revered, which was how those nurses were portrayed,” she recalls.
After becoming a nurse more than 20 years ago, May worked at the bedside in pediatrics and neonatal intensive care. As a clinical account consultant, May uses her clinical experience in assisting employer clients understand their health care costs and workers’ needs.
“Analyzing and communicating data trends back to the clients makes it possible to influence overall benefit plan design,” she says. “I can use that data to recommend clinical programs to impact the health of the client’s population.”
May finds great satisfaction knowing she can help members by collaborating with their employers to design their health care plans.
“When we are able to guide a client into implementing changes to their benefits, I feel I have successfully made a difference that can positively impact our members and their personal health,” May says. “I think there are so many different areas where nurses can affect change.”
Utilization Management Coordinator
Peter Vandermolen’s experience as a veterinarian technician launched him into a nursing career. But one of his first nursing school instructors provided the encouragement he needed to get his degree, despite total hearing loss in one of his ears.
“I had some anxiety about this impairment, that it would prevent me from being successful as a nurse,” says Vandermolen, fearing that he wouldn’t hear doctors’ instructions in critical moments. “My professor also had a physical impairment, and she worked around it. The example she set was incredibly inspirational to me.”
He earned his degree in 2015 and received a cochlear implant to restore his hearing a few years later.
“There were so many people there to help me along the way, and I’m glad I likewise can be present for and make a positive impact on others as they navigate their health journey,” Vandermolen says.
He worked about four years on a hospital cardiac step-down unit before joining BCBSIL, where he is a utilization management coordinator. Vandermolen knows his passion for helping people and health care knowledge make a difference in members’ lives.
“After work, I logged back in one night and collaborated with a doctor on an acute inpatient request with a deadline for that night,” he recalls. “A timely decision was made to help the provider and member.”
Wellbeing Health Advisor
Early in adulthood, Mark Mikiewicz saw an opportunity to feel more productive by devoting himself to helping people. He lived with his grandmother, and he always enjoyed helping her. It felt right to him.
“I feel like I can be at my best when I’m helping others,” Mikiewicz says. “It gives you more meaning.”
That feeling of fulfillment in making a difference led him to a nursing career, working 13 years in a hospital before joining BCBSIL as a wellbeing health advisor about a decade ago. Mikiewicz helps members get the care and resources they need.
Earlier this year, Mikiewicz helped coordinate care for a member who became severely injured outside of the state where he lived. After the member returned home, he still faced significant medical needs, and Mikiewicz helped coordinate his care with several specialists and helped get the medical equipment he needed.
“There was a lot of care coordination and collaboration,” Mikiewicz says. “He was very overwhelmed. There is no feeling quite like that feeling you get when you’re truly able to make a difference in someone’s life. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Utilization Management Coordinator
Health Advocacy Solutions
Christine Ehrenhaft’s path took many twists and turns, including the deaths of her grandmother and mother, before she decided to become a nurse.
“About the only things I didn’t pursue were careers in law enforcement and the fine arts before I chose nursing,” she says. “It took me a little while to find my feet.”
After getting her degree about a dozen years ago, Ehrenhaft briefly worked in hospitals and a skilled nursing facility before coming to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. As a utilization management coordinator, she collaborates with providers and coworkers to ensure members get appropriate care and resources.
She believes experience as a benefits administrator earlier in her professional history, coupled with her health care knowledge, has made utilization management the perfect fit for her to help member get the best possible care.
“If I’ve got a member in the hospital, I work on reviewing their care to make sure they are getting the appropriate care for their condition,” Ehrenhaft says. “I also coordinate hospital discharge planning, so the member can focus on getting better. I keep things going in the background so the member doesn’t have to think about approvals.”
Although she doesn’t communicate directly with members, Ehrenhaft knows she and her colleagues are helping them get the care they need. For example, she and her teammates worked closely to help ensure a member discharged after a lengthy hospital stay continued to receive care and support at home.
“I wanted to make sure there was no lapse in care after the member went home,” says Ehrenhaft, who collaborated with team clinical and social workers. “When the member got home, we made sure they had everything they needed. For us, it’s a very teamwork-centered job.”