Karren Kowalski

July 15, 2019

Credentials: PhD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN

Place of Employment: Breakthroughs Inc, Partner

Which Nursing Organizations are you currently a member of: ANA/CNA, SIGMA, CGEAN, AAN, AONL/CONL, NLN

Board(s) currently serving on: Nurses on Boards Coalition (Secretary 2017, 2018), CO Veterans Commission for Community Living Centers (Chair), Regis University College of Health Sciences Advisory Board

Tell us about your journey to the boardroom. What inspired you to seek a leadership position?

I had served on professional association boards beginning with the state nurses association although that was an accident. the executive director was a mentor and she encouraged me to seek leadership positions. In service, I started as a Head Nurse and moved up to AVP and administrator for Women’s and Children’s Hospital at Rush/Presbyterian/St. Luke’s in Chicago and Chair of the Department of Maternal Child Nursing in the School of Nursing. I commuted weekly between Denver and Chicago for five years. I came back to Denver and joined the Center with the first HRSA grant in 2003

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

I read, I write and I teach at Texas Tech part time (Professor in the School of Nursing).

What impact have you had serving on a board? Example?

When I was appointed by the Governor to the Commission for Veterans homes (there are 5 homes across the state here in Colorado) I wasn’t clear about my purpose until the homes shared they were having difficulty getting physician coverage. I asked why they wanted a physician.

What advice would you give someone going into a board leadership position for the first time?

I would begin as a board member and learn the “lay of the land”. I would particularly look for other women to see if I could build a relationship with them or a particularly effective man. I would take them to coffee or lunch and see if they could mentor me on that board.

What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader and eventually obtaining a board position?

First have a subscription to HBR. The business community is about 5 years ahead of healthcare. I learned a lot from what was the latest buzz in business. Find a mentor, a leader you admire.

Why do you feel it is important for nurses to serve on boards?

Healthcare is related to just about everything. Corporations are paying a fortune for it and don’t know much about it. They need nurses who understand the systems and how they work.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to nurses serving on boards?

Most are female and that has been a traditional problem. the public view of nurses is not as positive as it could be. Hospitals tend to ask educators to serve on boards as they do not perceive they have a conflict of interest as a CNO might have.

What has your experience been as a Veteran in leadership?

My military experience emphasized the importance of being able to make decisions and take action, It also trained me to find solutions to difficult situations, it supported me to be creative and figure out alternatives, to work until tasks and projects are complete.

Boards: Nurses on Boards Coalition (Secretary 2017, 2018), CO Veterans Commission for Community Living Centers (Chair), Regis University College of Health Sciences Advisory Board
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Nurses on Boards Coalition