When Karen Hamed was a teenager, her grandmother became ill and she and her grandfather moved in with her family. “I helped out my mom with the caregiving, and it really turned me onto the idea of nursing,” says Karen, whose father served in the Army, leading them to live around the country until her eighth-grade year. By the culmination of high school, she was living in West Virginia. She earned a BSN in 1984 from Alderson-Broaddus College.
A move to Idaho
Karen married and she and her husband—whom she met in West Virginia—moved to Idaho in the mid-1980s, where she started her career on the neurosurgical and surgical intensive care unit at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical. Her husband, meanwhile, started his career as an engineer after graduating from the University of Idaho.
That led Karen to move around the state—and gain a wealth of clinical experience. She did a stint as an intensive care nurse at a hospital in Moscow, Idaho, was a public health nurse for the North Central Health Department, served as an office nurse for a physician clinic when her children were young, and even worked as a nurse consultant organizing health promotion programs and doing life/health coaching.
“I love nursing,” she says. “When people have asked me through the years why I love it, I always say that it a calling. I’m still really passionate about it and I think I’m a good patient advocate.”
Back to West Virginia
After a decade out west, Karen and her family moved back to West Virginia to be close to family once again. She worked as an electrologist consultant doing permanent hair removal part time and turned her attention to raising her young children.
When her youngest child was in fourth grade, Karen returned to nursing full time in 2001. She became certified in wound ostomy continence and conducted esophageal manometry studies. She practiced at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Virginia, for 12 years. Eventually, Karen left the hospital to become an instructor teaching other nurses how to use Sandhill Scientific Esophageal Manometry equipment to perform esophageal manometries, travelling all around the country.
Joining the Veteran Administration
When a friend encouraged Karen to apply to the Veteran Administration where she worked too, she jumped at the opportunity. Since 2014, she has worked for the Salem Veteran Affairs Hospital in Virginia as the Hospital Acquired Pressure Injury (HAPI) Nurse Coordinator. “I love helping our veterans,” Karen says. “They’re a very special population and we strive to do right by them.”
Back to school
In 2017, Karen decided it was time to build her skills and open the door to new opportunities. “As I’ve gotten older, the physical part of nursing is harder, but there are many other ways I can help people,” she says. Her goal: to work in case management. “There is such a big need for case managers, and felt I could help even more patients this way.”
A friend graduated from American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences and encouraged Karen to look into pursuing the MSN. “I liked the look of the MSN Case Management program and the timing was right for me,” she says. Karen started the program in 2017. “I liked that I was able to work school around my work schedule.”
A goal achieved and a new job
The sudden death of her sister caused Karen to step away from school briefly. “Everyone at American Sentinel was so great through that situation,” she says. “They worked with me and were understanding. I don’t think you get that kind of care and support a lot of places.” Karen graduated with the MSN Case Management in 2019.
With her new degree in hand, Karen applied and was hired as an outpatient mental health care manager at the VA Hospital where she works. “I had some mental health experience, but I believe that having the MSN tipped the scales for me,” she says. “Recently, I had my boss tell me that he really appreciates the knowledge that I bring to the position. I felt great hearing that and I attribute a lot of it to the education I received in my MSN program.”
Planning her future
Karen loves her role at the VA, but has considered what the next chapter might bring as well. She would love to start her own business as a case manager for hospice or wound ostomy continence patients, where she has a great deal of experience. “I’d love to partner with families in need, because I think during hard times, they need an advocate to help them understand how the healthcare system works.”
Her education was a worthwhile investment, Karen adds. “I liked this program a lot,” she says. “And I think it will help me a lot, because the need for case managers is high. We need more advocates who can get patients to the right places—that’s what case managers do. I see a need for it, so I’m glad I did this MSN program.”
Inspired by Karen’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, case management, infection control, or nurse practitioner. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
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