Newsletter Staff Feature

Staff Feature Michelle Oliva

Michelle Oliva

Michelle Oliva, MSN, RN, knew she wanted to help kids and families since elementary school. Growing up in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a small border town, she discovered her love of the outdoors, mountain hiking and the cactus and mesquite-studded southwestern landscape. Summers in St. Louis fostered her love of the city and all things the season in the area had to offer — from Cardinals games to Forest Park and the VP fair.

Just shy of her 18th birthday, Oliva became an LPN and worked in long-term care and home health. After becoming an RN in 2001, she transitioned to pediatrics. Subsequent roles at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and then at Washington University include staff nurse, charge nurse, nurse coordinator and nursing office supervisor — all within the field of neurology. Little did she know this was ideal preparation for her next endeavor.

When Oliva learned of the rare disease nurse navigator role in the Department of Pediatrics Division of Genetics and Genomics, she felt this was a perfect fit. With its newly established NORD CoE designation, Washington University and BJC’s goal to help collaborate research, treatment and advocacy for adult and pediatric patients with rare disorders aligned beautifully with her past experience. Leveraging her expertise in rare guidance care and problem-solving for families helped make her transition in late November 2022 smoother than anticipated. As a rare disease nurse navigator, Oliva advocates for patients and participates in NORD meetings with an aim to incorporate CoE initiatives. Attending ultra-rare clinics has allowed Oliva to offer resources and information to families in need. She is also working to establish interdepartmental relationships within specialties while assisting in the planning of the now-annual Rare Disease Day symposium. In addition, she manages the @WashURareCare Twitter handle.

In her free time, Oliva enjoys doing activities, such as yoga, pickle ball or kayaking with her husband and three daughters. They are currently planning a family trip to Peru in 2024.

Oliva feels deep compassion and empathy for the families she works with, helping make her new role both challenging and satisfying. She strives to live a focused life while embracing acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm. She is especially thankful for the opportunity to contribute to the support and advocacy of the rare disorder patient population.