Back to Her Beginnings: Renown Nurse Began as a Volunteer

nurse Mary-Ann Brown

Renown nurse Mary-Ann Brown’s career has come full-circle: She started as a volunteer and she now spends her time in some of the same halls as a leader in her field. Read about this nursing powerhouse who is currently working toward her second master’s degree. 

The Director of Palliative Care, Mary-Ann Brown, has made an extensive career for herself in the nursing field. And her passion for healthcare started when she was a young girl.

“Mary-Ann didn’t play house with her dolls — she played hospital,” said her mother, Patricia.

Her love of caring for others only strengthened as she grew. The oldest of her three siblings, Mary-Ann always helped out her mom.

“Besides being an ‘A’ student, being on the honor roll, going to work when she was 15 and volunteering at the hospital, she helped me immensely,” Patricia said.

And that interest continued into her high school years. Equipped with a pink, striped pinafore dress, white shoes and a book cart, Mary-Ann volunteered her free time outside of school at the community hospital once known as Washoe Medical Center, now called Renown Health.

“I had a ‘1,000-hour pin’ for volunteering for that many hours,” Brown said. “I was quite proud of that.”


During her time as a candy striper, Mary-Ann thought she wanted to become a physician. Her mother managed local doctors’ offices, so Mary-Ann was able to observe the physician’s day-to-day work and realized that they don’t get to spend as much time with patients as she originally thought.

“I realized I really liked patient care more than I liked the business part of medicine, so I went to nursing school and knew it was the right spot for me.”

From Volunteer to Nurse

After graduating from the Orvis School of Nursing in 1985, Mary-Ann worked as a nurse in Sacramento and then came back to Reno to work on the Telemetry unit for Washoe Medical Center. She then went on to Queensland, Australia, to do travel nursing assignments.

Mary-Ann’s love of nursing shows in her resume, which is five pages long.

She’s held a number of positions on clinical boards and committees and has taken an active role in advocating for bioethics. She has also served as adjunct faculty and preceptor for the University of Nevada, Reno, Orvis School of Nursing. Plus, she’s currently earning a second master’s degree with a Certificate in Health Care Ethics from Creighton University Medical School.

“Nursing is a tremendous gift,” she said. “I’ve had a tremendous career … But this is my dream job.”


As the Director of Palliative Care, Mary-Ann has enjoyed growing the program to provide help to patients at critical moments and wants to continue to expand palliative care services.

“It is kind of ironic … I’ve been a nurse for 32 years and I’ve come back to the place I started.”

With her experience, Mary-Ann has observed how the nursing profession has changed over time, but reflects that it’s still the same at its core – taking care of people.

“I’m very proud to be a nurse,” she said. “I don’t think nursing is something that you do, but it’s who you are.”​

Nursing Careers at Renown Health

Nurses at Renown Health demonstrate a commitment to patients and their families through integration of care, clinical expertise, education, evidence-based practice and the pursuit of quality patient outcomes. Learn more about our mission, vision and values and the benefits of a career in nursing at Renown today.

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  1. Maryann has helped so many people over the years with just letting us know that we need to see a certain doctor or how to care for ourselves or our family. When I was in the hospital, she brought me a nice blanket and it was the best gift! Made my stay so much more comfortable. Maryann is a gem!
  2. Wow! I didn't know Mary-Ann started as a volunteer at Washoe Med! Her dedication and passion to healthcare is infectious. Not only has she inspired me, but she was also my mom's favorite leader in critical care. Everyone that gets to work with Mary-Ann is fortunate!