“We are so close to bringing this pandemic to an end”
Finding a role that let Karen Bialas combine her administrative skills and her passion for nursing was a process. She began her college career as a business major but found herself taking on elective after elective in a totally different field—health care. She ultimately decided nursing was what she really wanted to do.
Now, Bialas serves as the Chief Nursing Officer at Aurora Medical Center Washington County. Leading the nurses at Washington County has been a meaningful way for her to use both administrative and health care skills. Leading during a pandemic has been beyond anything Bialas ever expected.
“Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be making the decisions for an organization that I’m making today,” said Bialas. “Nobody knew a lot about COVID and we still don’t know as much as we’d like. Everyone looked at me with all their questions and I didn’t always have answers.”
Bialas knew her team was under a lot of stress and took extra care to go around the departments and check in. She knew her team needed extra support, especially when they lost the first patient to COVID.
“I was concerned with how staff was doing with it,” said Bialas. “I went in the room and sat with the patient. Later, we were able to let his wife and daughter in the room and I was able to stay in the room with them.”
The first loss of a patient to COVID stuck with the team at Washington County. Several nurses spent time in the room as he neared the end of his life. Bialas said they deserve the credit.
“The nurses are the true heroes with this. I was able to help by spending time with the family because they weren’t able to at the time,” she said.
Bialas credits her team for their resilience and managing all the unknowns, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. But for Bialas and her team, the challenges don’t always stop when they leave the hospital.
“If anyone out there thinks COVID isn’t real, I don’t know what to tell them. It is serious,” said Bialas. “You learn who your friends are in this. I remember one person telling me to lighten up a bit because I didn’t want to go somewhere where no one was wearing masks. I’m not OK with that.”
While the pandemic has brought its challenges, Bialas sees the light at the end of the tunnel. She recently got her second dose of the COVID vaccine.
“I felt it was my responsibility and duty as a heath care professional to eliminate the spread of the virus. Dr. Citronberg did an excellent job of sharing the importance and benefits of receiving the vaccine,” said Bialas. “We are so close to bringing this pandemic to an end. If everyone can just hang in there for the final stretch and get the vaccine when eligible, wear masks and wash their hands, we can do it!”
About the Author
Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked in marketing and PR for various Milwaukee nonprofits and received his master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Marquette University. He enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and all things Milwaukee.