Celebrating our Fabulous 50 Nurses

TMC proudly recognizes five of its own among Tucson’s Fab 50 nurses – and the Most Inspirational Mentor of the Year, all designated by the Tucson Nurses Week Foundation.

The week of May 1 – 5, in honor of Nurses Week, we will be featuring one of our five Fabulous 50 Nurses each day.

The Tucson Nurses Week Foundation celebrates each year with city-wide activities honoring the community’s dedicated nursing professionals. The event kicks off with the annual Showcase of Tucson Nurses education conference and Healthy Fair on Friday, May 5. Then on Saturday evening, May 6, the community gathers for the Fab 50 Nurses Gala. All events will be held this year at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N. Resort Dr.

Improving the patient’s pathway to care

For some nurses, it’s the fast pace of the Emergency Department or the complexity of the Intensive Care Unit that gets the adrenalin flowing.

For Karen Popp, it’s a bit wonkier: Start talking about systems change, and she lights up. That’s a perfect fit, since she’s steering the care coordination programs for the first accountable care organization in Southern Arizona and one that is dedicated to improving the efficiency and quality of healthcare. Tucson Medical Center is its hospital member.

“What was intriguing right away is that with this work, you’re not bound by four walls of an institution,” Popp said. “You get to go out there and build programs and be creative and participate in problem solving with groups of stakeholders, but at the same time, you can still get that connection at the bedside and find resources that support patients.”

“We’re in this really powerful place where we’re able to change the pathway for people, by giving them the tools and resources to be successful. And what’s great is that right now, doctors, clinics and healthcare systems are all saying they’re ready to start moving down this pathway too, to make changes to better serve patients.”

Popp’s career in nursing wasn’t a given. A natural businesswoman, she worked for her parents, who owned day care facilities. Her dad offered her the keys to the building if she would reconsider, but as much as she loved children, she was drawn to the challenge of nursing. After serving in a variety of roles, from medical/surgical nursing to ambulatory surgery services, to pediatric pulmonary , she decided her strengths best served her in working with patients and families in an educational and advocacy role.

Seeing it first hand, she knows there is more to do to improve healthcare as a whole – but is still working on deciphering the hows and whys.  She’s pursuing dual masters in both nursing and healthcare administration to help her answer those big questions. “If I don’t fully understand the system, I can’t help find solutions to it.”

Whether making lasting differences for patients on a personal level, or feeding her studious side during late nights with a pile of reading and huge cup of coffee, Popp said she’s finally on the right path. As for her dad? “He’s so glad I didn’t listen because he sees how happy I am with the work we’re doing!”

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