“Working here has been more rewarding, and has had more impact on me, than my entire hospital career.”
Karam, 29, has six years of hospital and home nursing experience. He started in a med/surge unit, then did a brief stint in the ICU. For three years, he was a full-time ER nurse until he chose full-time home health care instead.
When he made the switch almost a year ago, Karam accepted a leadership role as a BAYADA Clinical Manager, helping to direct and oversee the clinical operations of his service office, including his clients’ personalized care plans and the training and quality standards of his nursing team. He still works in the ER on the side.
We sat together to find out what nursing means to him.
Let’s start at the beginning. What made you decide to become a nurse?
I was born in Damascus, Syria and moved to the United States with my family when I was nine. None of us spoke English at the time. Years later, I met my aunt who was a physician in the US. She was awesome, a very strong and confident woman. That reinforced my interest in medicine because I wanted to be like her. And my parents are the biggest driver for me; they sacrificed a lot for us to have these opportunities. I wanted to find a good, secure career and take it as far as it can go, so my brother and I can make sure they’re taken care of.
Where did you start?
I got my BSN and RN license and started in a hospital, like many nurses do. I learned a lot there. But you get to the point where the hospital feels regimented for nurses. It doesn’t really foster growth, new ideas, and critical thinking… and I wanted career growth, but not the traditional nursing route like NP or MSN. I’m personally interested in finance, so I decided to go for my MBA with a focus in health care administration.
So, you earned your MBA while working in the ER?
Yes, I did an accelerated MBA—non-stop for 19 months—while I worked full-time in the ER. I wanted to use it right away, but it often takes years to work your way up in a hospital, and I didn’t feel like I had that kind of time. I started to look for other opportunities and, surprisingly, home health care was the perfect fit.
Why do you say that?
I had this stereotype in my head that home care would be boring, or that nurses don’t really do much. I could not have been more wrong! It’s funny, the reason why I like the ER is because it’s where nurses get the most autonomy. They rely more heavily on your skills, and you have to be vigilant in your observations and make quick decisions, and I love all of that. It turns out, it’s the same way in home health care! You’re the first line of defense for clients, and you can make a difference for them that can be life changing.
What was that transition like, exactly?
I had already been a preceptor in the hospital, so when BAYADA hired me and started seeing for themselves what I could do, it didn’t take long for them to feel confident in my leadership abilities. I assumed some cases when I started, and now I open many of the new ones. They can range anywhere from basic nursing care to discharging patients from the hospital with a trach/vent and comorbidities. Most of our clients are at risk in some way and need different kinds of complex care.
And now? How do you lead your team?
I love sharing my experience and advice with other nurses. That’s a big part of my role. We have the best continuing education and skills training in the business. My staff knows they can call me anytime for questions and clinical support, and I’ll never send them into a case they don’t feel fully prepared for.
We’re all about recognition here, so I can use the management style I believe in, which is positive reinforcement. My team is never overlooked, even for small things. If someone does a really great charting, I make sure to thank them. It’s important for nurses to be recognized and valued. And I think having high standards for everyone is what makes you a better nurse.
What challenges have you and your team faced working on the front lines of the COVID-19 emergency?
Well, it’s certainly been a challenge. Right now, I probably have ten calls to respond to, looking for answers. I’ve had to work late and set personal things aside, but this is also showing us how resilient we can be. The number one thing I can do right now is support our nursing staff and make sure they have the right PPEs (personal protective equipment), education, news, and guidelines.
I’m sending weekly emails to my field staff and clients, keeping everyone informed and reassured of what we’re doing to keep them safe.
This is an unsettling time, the virus is real, but there’s also a lot of misinformation out there. Our job is to stick to the facts and our policies, and to share that. We need to keep everybody calm and informed, and let them know they can trust us, and we’ll get through this.
What do you see in your future?
I see BAYADA! I would like to keep working my way up to regional director and beyond. I love our values—compassion, excellence, and reliability—and the belief that BAYADA puts in writing: our employees are our greatest asset. Other places don’t include employees in their mission statement like that.
This organization reflects what I want for myself: to keep opening my eyes, learn about people and who they really are, treat them with respect, go the extra mile, and challenge myself every day to learn something new.