We knew there was something special about Karen H., RN, when we interviewed her for a position in our Home Nursing Residency program. Two years later, she is still getting our attention—and bringing her best self to work caring for our medically complex, ventilator-dependent patients at home.
Earlier this week, we sat down with Karen to find out where she gets her spark, and why our patients and nurses love working with her every day!
Q: What led you into nursing?
A: My family is from Belize and I’m the first generation born in the US. Nursing is what gave my family the opportunity to migrate to this country. Ever since I was young, I played the nurse role. If a friend fell and skinned her knee, I was always helping. All through my life that instinct was there, but it wasn’t until later in life, after I had my son, that I decided to go to nursing school. It was always my calling and it’s the best thing I ever did.
Q: What made you choose home nursing?
A: I went to Prairie State College in Chicago Heights. I got my Associate’s degree in Nursing there and graduated cum laude. But most of my clinical time was spent in hospitals. I was never really happy in that setting; there was something about the hospital that didn’t kindle my spirit.
Being at home is more conducive to the patient because they are comfortable and surrounded by their support system. It adds to a person’s overall wellbeing. In spite of what’s happening, they are happy to be home.
Q: You joined Independence Plus as a Nurse Resident. Do you have any advice for new Nurse Residents in the program?
A: Be confident in your abilities but take advantage of the support that’s here. You already know how to serve your patients, but there is so much more to learn in nursing, so take advantage of the opportunities! There is no such thing as a stupid question. And asking those questions will help you to better serve your patients.
Q: What has been your proudest moment so far as a nurse?
A: It was the first time I visited the office for a residency check-in meeting. At the end of the meeting, one of the clinical managers pulled me aside to tell me she heard so many wonderful things about me. You aren’t really expecting people to notice you, but this person heard about me and was paying attention to the things I was doing—and it was humbling.
Q: Is there something about your job that would surprise us?
A: Most people probably think there is monotony to the everyday function of a homecare nurse. But you learn so much more in the home setting, just as much and maybe even more than in a hospital setting. It’s probably more challenging because if you need something, it’s not always right there available for you to order. You have to be able to think on your feet.
Q: Why did you choose to be a night nurse and work with both adult and pediatric patients?
A: I’m a night nurse because it works best for my schedule. Night shifts make it easier to be there for my son when he comes home, plus I’m also a caregiver for my mother and my mother-in-law.
If you asked me a year ago, I would have said I’m an adult nurse. I always thought it was better to work with adults because of their ability to communicate, but that all changed when I met my first pediatric patient. He was six years old and I was extremely nervous. But it ended up being a great experience, more than I could have ever imagined. I sing a song to him every morning, so he knows I am there. Working with him has really broadened my horizons.
Q: Who inspires you outside of work?
A: My mother. Her expectation for her children is extremely high and she’s not a person who shows much emotion. She never finished nursing school, so for me at this stage of life to go through school and still coming out at the top of my class with having a son, was a big deal to her. She said, ‘I am so proud of you,’ and that really touched my heart because I’ve always been striving to make my mom proud of me.
Q: What words do you live by?
A: For me it’s to never stop learning. Nursing is one of those rare careers where the process is never done, things are always changing and there is always a wealth of information out there. It’s important to stay on top of what you know and learn the things you don’t.
Is there a nurse you want to recognize? If so, tell us by leaving a comment below!