Illinois 40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leaders Award Winner Highlight: Karena Brown

Meet Karena Brown, the Patient Care Manager at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She has been nominated for the class of 2023 Illinois Nurses Foundation 40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leaders Award. Designed to highlight young nurses that are making a lasting difference in the healthcare industry, this award celebrates those who shape the future of nursing.

Karena Brown: Pioneering Leadership and Equity in Nursing

In nursing, there are individuals who not only excel in their roles but also redefine the boundaries of what’s possible. Karena Brown, a trailblazing figure in healthcare stands as a testament to the power of leadership, innovation, and a commitment to equity. Her journey from a new graduate nurse to a distinguished Patient Care Manager at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) is nothing short of inspiring.

From New Grad to Nursing Dynamo

Karena’s journey commenced at NMH as a fresh graduate nurse on 15 West, General Medicine. It was apparent from the outset that she possessed qualities that set her apart. Recognized for her innate leadership abilities, she took on roles that demonstrated her commitment to quality initiatives and patient safety. Her dedication led her to become the Falls & Mobility Champion and Skin Resource Nurse, showcasing her proactive approach to improving patient outcomes.

Revolutionizing Patient Care

In a testament to her dynamic leadership style, Karena assumed the role of Patient Care Manager of 15 West in July 2018. This 30-bed Medicine unit became a canvas for Karena’s transformative initiatives. Known for her skill in uniting teams for collaborative problem-solving, Karena spearheaded various successful projects that showcased her leadership prowess.

Transitioning into the role of Clinical Coordinator on 15 West was a defining moment in Karena’s career, where her impact only intensified. As the Chair of the hospital-wide Nursing Quality Patient Safety Committee, she demonstrated her proficiency in fostering effective communication and education initiatives. Her focus on Magnet Nurse Sensitive Quality Indicators highlighted her dedication to elevating the standards of nursing care.

Impactful Initiatives that Transform Healthcare

A crowning achievement came in FY22 when Karena’s unit was tasked with leading a Length-of-Stay (LOS) improvement project. Under her guidance, her team identified innovative solutions that led to a remarkable 9% reduction in O/E for LOS. This accomplishment paved the way for a hospital-wide initiative, expanding Social Work FTE throughout the Medicine Service Line—a testament to Karena’s ability to inspire change at a systemic level.

Beyond her contributions within the hospital walls, Karena’s dedication to equity is noteworthy. An active member of the African American Descendants Chapter at NMH, she continues to advocate for equality within healthcare and the future of nursing. Her health equity project, titled “Setting the Tone: Improving Early Identification of Hospital Acquired Pressure Injuries (HAPI) Wounds in Darker Skin Tones,” underscores her commitment to addressing disparities in healthcare outcomes.

Beyond Boundaries: Leadership with Alumni

Karena’s influence reaches beyond the healthcare sector. Her leadership extends to her role as the President of the Resurrection University Alumni Association from 2017 to 2021 and her current position on the Board of Directors at Oak Point University. As a choreographer and mentor to middle school and high school students through the Bloomington Expressive Arts Training (B.E.A.T) show choir, she amplifies her impact on the community’s younger generations.

Karena Brown: Empowering Excellence

Karena Brown’s journey exemplifies the remarkable heights that can be achieved through unwavering dedication, innovative thinking, and a resolute commitment to equity. As she paves the way for change in healthcare and beyond, she stands as an embodiment of leadership, compassion, and empowerment for all.

Congratulations to Karena Brown and Northwestern Memorial Hospital for this prestigious honor! The Illinois Nurses Foundation 40 Under 40 Award for Emerging Nurse Leaders is proven to open career doors for its recipients. INF is proud to celebrate nurses like Karena who have made a lasting impact in the healthcare industry. 

For more information on the INF 40 Under 40 Award Ceremony, click this link.

Illinois Nurses Foundation: Support Education, Advocation, and Recognition for Nurses

The Illinois Nurses Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports nurses through various programs, empowering them, promoting excellence, and advancing the nursing profession while also recognizing and celebrating the remarkable achievements of young nurses through the INF 40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leaders Award, highlighting their talent and potential for the field’s growth and evolution. Donate to INF today, and you can help empower nurses and improve healthcare!