February 24, 2020

Professional Spotlight

Recognizing Outstanding Nurse Practitioners
and Physician Assistants in Hampton Roads

ColesMark Coles, Nurse Practitioner

Mark Coles’ nursing career spans three continents and more than 30 years. After receiving his registered nurse training in Sydney, Australia, he worked in London before coming to the United States in 1982. He worked in critical care, education and management before graduating with his MSN degree from the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program at Old Dominion University in 1999. He has, in his own words, “thrown himself into the world of nurse practitioners,” practicing and advocating for the profession with a schedule that belies a 24-hour day.

He’s worked in neurosurgery and as a hospitalist for 14 years. His primary work site is Sentara Careplex Hospital in Hampton, where he works as the sole nurse practitioner (NP) with 10 physicians and one physician’s assistant. Working a 2pm to 2am shift, Mark collaborates with physician colleagues to admit patients through the emergency department, as transfers from other facilities or from physician offices and other specialists. He also assists nursing staff by resolving routine and emergent inpatient issues.

Mark helped initiate and grow the hospitalist program at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, where he continues to work as needed. In addition to his patient care work, Mark serves on the Governance and Nominations Committee of the Sentara Medical Group and is a founding member of the Sentara Advanced Practice Clinicians Council. He has been a member of the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners (VCNP), the statewide professional association for NPs, since receiving his FNP degree in 1999. Mark served for 11 years as VCNP’s Tidewater regional government relations representative, organizing and coordinating regional activity for three legislative campaigns, all of which were designed to ease NP practice barriers and increase access to care in Virginia. During that time, he received the Nurse Practitioner of Excellence Award from VCNP’s Tidewater Region.

Mark also was the driving force in the development of a regional government relations subcommittee to assist in advancing legislative efforts and until its recent merger with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, represented VCNP nationally as liaison to the American College of Nurse Practitioners.

In 2010, Mark became VCNP’s state government relations chairman and continued building relationships and educating state legislators about challenges facing NPs. As part of the negotiating team representing VCNP in discussions with the Medical Society of Virginia last year, Mark showed exemplary leadership in meetings, educating physicians about statutory barriers impeding practice and national trends for autonomous practice. He collaborated to offer solutions, and engaged in negotiations leading to successful passage of legislation (HB 346) that eased practice barriers and encouraged new methods of collaboration to improve access to care for Virginians – particularly those in underserved areas. It’s anticipated that between 300,000 to 400,000 new patients will have insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and enactment of this legislation will help ease the burden on increasingly busy primary care physicians.

Mark led efforts with a state feasibility pilot project to define the role of and analyze use of NPs in providing care in rural areas. He’s advocated for use of telehealth technology as a collaborative and consultative tool, and worked to coordinate an organized response from key stakeholder groups during a recent Board of Health Professions study.

Noting that the current term-of-art for his profession is Advanced Practice Clinician, which includes physicians’ assistants and midwives, Mark adds that Sentara has established an Advanced Practice Clinician council. “It’s exciting to have that connection to the Sentara Medical Group,” he says, which includes physicians in family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric physicians, as well as many specialties. “The collegiality and recognition for Advanced Practice Clinicians has been gratifying, as hospital groups are recognizing the need to maximize the use of their clinicians so that NPs and others practice to the full extent of their education and training.”


If you work with or know a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner you’d like to nominate for a profile in Hampton Roads Physician, please fill out the form here – or call our editor, Bobbie Fisher, at 757-773-7550.