Karen Sanchez wins 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Karen Sanchez, Class of 1997, was selected as the recipient of this year’s Bellin College Distinguished Alumni Award. Fellow alumna Donna Radcliff nominated Sanchez, describing her as “a compassionate and experienced family nurse practitioner and nursing leader with a demonstrated history of making a difference in the lives of the patients and communities she serves.”

“For me, winning this award is more profound than recognizing my personal accomplishments,” said Sanchez. “I am thankful Bellin College supports the kind of work I have done to be worthy of this award. I am proud that my alma mater supports the work of for the marginalized and underserved groups I have advocated for so passionately.”

After graduating from Bellin College in 1997, Karen worked in multiple inpatient and outpatient settings — including positions at employee and student health clinics, an obstetrics clinic, a Hispanic clinic and Green Bay Correctional Institution — delivering high-quality, cost-effective nursing care in the way the experienced nursing faculty taught her at Bellin College.

“The program was rigorous with long clinical hours that prepared me to start as a nurse in many settings,” said Sanchez. “The most valuable skill I gained was therapeutic communication. I remember the course in great detail. We analyzed our conversations with a volunteer patient and learned to really listen. History taking as an FNP is the most important diagnostic tool, and motivating patients in self management of their conditions requires proficiency in listening and speaking.”

Karen excelled in her nursing career and went on to earn an MSN from Concordia University in 2007, becoming a family nurse practitioner. After graduation, she began offering the first office visits, along with Dr. Riquelme, at Bellin Health Clinica Hispana.

In December of 2009, she transitioned to a nurse practitioner role at Outreach Healthcare. There, she served the homeless population until August 2018, while also working at all N.E.W. Community Clinic sites. In August 2018, she left the healthcare for the homeless program and served at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and downtown N.E.W. Community Clinic sites. Karen is highly skilled in community health nursing, the Spanish language, and consistently demonstrates strong nursing leadership by partnering with educational organizations and community group efforts, and acts as a preceptor for emerging nurse leaders.

“Karen is an advocate for the poor and the vulnerable and has made significant improvements by implementing the patient-centered medical home model in the Outreach Healthcare Clinic for the patients and populations in her care,” said Radcliff.

Examples of Karen’s commitment to nursing care excellence are numerous. She provided primary healthcare that helps patients avoid costly hospital stays and ER visits. She handled case management of medical needs, housing, job search and community resources, which reflects holistic patient centered care.

And, as a seasoned FNP, she used the nursing process and makes referrals for substance abuse treatment and mental health services, ensuring behavioral health care needs are met.

“Karen works with patients and populations in some of the most challenging of circumstances,” said Radcliff. “Her compassionate respect of each patient and their families who are often homeless, suffering from mental illness, addiction and numerous co-morbidities requires the very highest integrity, and she demonstrates this value consistently as she serves her patients in this practice setting.”

In 2015, Karen applied for and was nominated to be on the Brown County Board of Health. She went on to enter a competitive selection process to participate in a 12-month leadership program with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. She was selected, along with 11 other NPs from across the country, and completed the program in fall 2017. 

Karen was recently selected as director of student health for University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and will be leaving N.E.W. Community Clinic this September.

“As a nurse practitioner, I have been impacted the health of our community as a primary care provider,” said Sanchez. “The most rewarding aspect is learning about the lives of patients. Some have amazing stories about life around the globe. It’s humbling that patients have trusted me to share their life stories. I value that trust.”

When asked what advice she would give to nursing students today, Karen has simple, but impactful advice.

“Be passionate about what you do as a nurse,” said Sanchez. “Know the value of nursing and do not be timid about speaking up for the nursing field. When you become a seasoned nurse, continue to encourage other nurses.”

Well said. Congratulations, Karen!

NOTE: Karen Sanchez will be honored at this year’s Alumni Homecoming on Sept. 12, held at the Green Bay Botanical Garden in Green Bay. For more information, or to register, see the Alumni Events page.

How does Karen Sanchez exemplify the Mission and Values of Bellin College?

» Commitment to lifelong learning — After earning her BSN at Bellin, Karen went on to earn a graduate degree in Nursing, is board certified, and she participates in annual nursing conferences to ensure excellence in nursing care. She is a sought-after nurse expert, serving as a preceptor to emerging nurse leaders and sharing her insights with fellow clinicians and community leaders to improve patient care delivery and reduce the costs of health care.
» Leadership — Karen has served as a community leader and advocate for the patients and populations she serves in Green Bay and Brown County. She is a strong nursing leader who has made significant improvements in the patient-centered medical home model of care; reducing hospital and ER admissions
and improving the health and well-being of her patients. She is a frequent guest lecturer, fostering a learning community for emerging nurses and health care professionals committed to improving healthcare practices.
» Integrity — Karen works with patients and populations in some of the most challenging of circumstances. Her compassionate respect of each patient and their families who are often homeless, suffering from mental illness, addiction and numerous co-morbidities requires the very highest integrity, and she demonstrates this value consistently as she serves her patients in this practice setting.
» Community — Karen’s nursing expertise as a Community Health FNP serving the poor and the vulnerable demonstrates her commitment to her community. Her partnership with educational organizations, health care delivery systems and grassroots organizations has resulted in improvements in healthcare delivery for the Green Bay and Brown County communities.
» Caring — Karen empowers her patients by caring for them in a holistic manner. She applies the nursing process in her professional life and works collaboratively in a patient-centered way. Her patients and the community benefit from Karen’s deeply compassionate care with patients and populations who are often
overlooked or marginalized. I marvel at her tireless advocacy for her patients.
» Excellence — Karen has demonstrated her excellence in nursing by ensuring evidence-based practice and she is a tireless researcher and problem solver. She exhibits this value daily as she cares for patients, measuring the clinical outcomes to ensure prevention of disease, and manages existing disease in partnership with her patients, keeping up to date with needed interventions and improving the health and well-being of her community.

— Donna L. Radcliff

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