Working her way up

At first glance, she appears quiet and a bit shy, but Ashley Cooley wields a significant amount of responsibility within Portland State.

At first glance, she appears quiet and a bit shy, but Ashley Cooley wields a significant amount of responsibility within Portland State.

Cooley, 33, is the Director of Student Health Services in the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC).

In addition to her role as a family nurse practitioner, her duties include providing patient care to students who are attending school at least halftime and overseeing how the clinic is run and managed on a day-to-day basis.

After beginning school as a pre-med student on Linfield College’s main campus, Cooley made the decision to pursue a career as a nurse and transferred to Linfield’s Portland campus and into its nursing program.

With her degree in hand, she began working at Portland State University in 2000 as a staff nurse.

At the time, the Student Health Services department was located in Neuberger Hall with about half the staff that it has now. Cooley worked closely with her fellow nurses there, became lead nurse, and gradually worked her way up in management.

After receiving her master’s degree from OHSU in 2006, Cooley transitioned easily into her role as director of health services and certified nurse practitioner.

Several differences define the roles of a nurse and that of a nurse practitioner, the most significant one being that a nurse practitioner is trained to perform minor procedures.

Minor procedures could include delivering a child, or executing mole or skin biopsies.

The bulk of Cooley’s patients are coming in for annual exams, cold and flu symptoms or other related ailments.
Cooley had high praise for the physicians that she works with.

“The group of doctors here are amazingly talented and have a wide breadth of experience and knowledge,” she said. “They have been a very good resource for me as well.”

It was from an early age that Cooley had health care on her mind as a possible career path.

“I always knew that I wanted to go into health care, and basically help people,” she said. “It took a long time to realize just which direction of health care. I went into nursing and realized that was the avenue I wanted to pursue.”

After beginning her work as a nurse at PSU, a colleague encouraged Cooley to pursue a master’s degree and become a nurse practitioner.

SHAC now has several directors. Other than Cooley’s position, there are directors of counseling, dental and testing, as well as an operations supervisor and a medical director.

Mary Beth Collins is the director of SHAC.

On any given day, Cooley could be doing anything from employee reviews and evaluations, to handling patient flow and making sure they are keeping up with wait times.

As Director of Health Services, Cooley is continually trying to evaluate how the department can provide better services to make sure the needs of students are met.

In her free time, Cooley enjoys gardening, hiking, walking her dog and several sports including basketball.
“Basically anything outdoors,” she said.