Nursing is Dr. Victoria Carlson-Oehlers’ passion, but it wasn’t always Plan A. Her mother was a nurse in geriatrics while Carlson-Oehlers was growing up in West Allis, Wisconsin. “I told her I will never go into nursing,” she recalled. “That’s a disgusting job.”  

Two years into college, with dreams of a career in marine biology and swimming with the whales, something within her changed, she said. Nursing called to her. “Literally it was a movement within my heart and mind that said, ‘You will be doing this.’” She changed her major, and Carlson-Oehlers has never looked back.  

She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and 10 years later earned her master’s as a pediatric nurse practitioner at UW-Madison. Within another 10 years, she would return to Madison for her doctorate in nursing practice.   

Teaching was always a part of nursing for Carlson-Oehlers. “I’ve had students at my feet ever since I was a nurse on the floor,” she said. “One day it dawned on me: If I love teaching so much, why not go ahead into an academic setting?” 

Carlson-Oehlers held a number of teaching positions before coming to MSOE in 2007, and is now an associate professor in the School of Nursing.  

Most of her career was devoted to pediatric care, but in recent years, Carlson-Oehlers has shifted her research focus to short-term humanitarian experiences. She recently had the opportunity to speak in Jerusalem about teaching students in a humanitarian awareness culture. Carlson-Oehlers is faculty advisor to MSOE Global Medical Brigades, and teaches a class that prepares students to travel to Central America. Global Brigades is part of an international movement of university students working to improve health conditions in the developing world.  

Carlson-Oehlers also teaches “Global Health and International Health Care Systems” which offers an optional study abroad opportunity. On a trip to England, she said she was thrilled to see the CREATE mindset in action as she watched one of her students engage with a London nurse practitioner.  

“Here she is, with an entrepreneurial mindset, making connections, creating value, curious about another country and what England does to serve the health care needs of its people,” she said about the student.  

Carlson-Oehlers is excited to be part of the CREATE Institute as a Faculty Fellow, and feels that her personal commitments, faith, and work ethics all fall in line with MSOE’s new strategic plan. “So much of this is the Vikky package!” she said.  

As a faculty fellow, Carlson-Oehlers welcomes the opportunity to mentor nursing department staff and help them incorporate the CREATE mindset into their own academic preparations. She also looks forward to working with different departments across campus.   “I believe in connections, and helping students see themselves as creating value, and helping them develop as leaders of character,” she said.  

Carlson-Oehlers said she also looks for ways to grow herself personally and professionally, and as an empty nester, work has become her passion. “I’m literally finding it fun to work at MSOE,” she said. “It really isn’t much work if its personal philosophy.”  

Carlson-Oehlers and her husband have three adult children, two of whom graduated with business degrees from MSOE. And despite allergies, they share their home with Zoe, a Jack Russell/chihuahua mix.