Kara Barquist

Kara Barquist

Kara Barquist, MSN, RN, CCRN

Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Iowa City, Iowa
United States
Many would describe Kara as a kind and caring nurse, which is evident through her patient and family interactions. Kara continues to show her staff that even though she may not be at the bedside daily, she is able to connect and support the patients and staff within her unit.

Kara leads by example. Her compassion for her team and the patients in CVICU is undeniable. It is a daily staple for Kara to be seen rounding throughout the unit offering assistance to anyone who may need an extra set of hands. She jumps right into patient care without hesitation ensuring that patients’ needs are being met. Kara goes above and beyond to address any questions and concerns not only her team may have but also families and visitors.

Recently, Kara was on her way out for the day and was stopped by a family member who was visibility upset. She could have continued to leave the unit but instead stopped to ensure she was able to address his concerns. She spent time with the patient's husband hearing his concerns and seeking to truly understand where they were coming from. Instead of waiting to follow up with the nursing team, she immediately connected with the nurses involved and provided the feedback to allow them the opportunity to improve the situation. It did not bother Kara that she was leaving over an hour past her scheduled shift. This situation is only one example of how Kara puts others' needs first regardless of the circumstance. Prioritizing others' needs above her own is part of who Kara is. This type of compassionate behavior is only one of the many she role models for her team.

Kara is a leader among her peers and looked to as a role model by many. She leads by example sharing her positive spirit. Her passion for CVICU and the staff she leads is undeniable. Kara is attentive to the needs of her staff and the unit, always prioritizing them above her own. Kara is seen as approachable, caring and compassionate. She not only gives CVICU 110% every single day but works hard to create a fair, consistent and transparent work environment for her staff. She promotes a very trusting relationship with her staff through her open-door policy. Staff know that they can confide in her when they are struggling both at work and in their personal life. Kara also responds timely to concerns brought forward by any member of the interdisciplinary team and works to improve any issues on the unit. Kara provides optimal leadership so front-line staff can provide the best care possible to CVICU patients and families.

As the nurse manager of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, Kara has a genuine concern for the well-being of her staff, the patients and her community.  Kara works tirelessly to ensure her staff has the education and equipment they need to provide optimal safe patient care. Working in an ICU environment can be very demanding and tiresome for front-line staff.  Kara has worked hard to create a great work culture in CVICU to help build teamwork and staff retention. She does so by leading by example. Kara rounds throughout her unit multiple times per day to see if staff needs assistance in any way. She is always more than willing to lend a helping hand with turning, ambulating or completing tasks for her nursing staff. Kara holds herself and the nursing profession to a high standard. She pushes her team to exemplify these same behaviors. If a staff member is struggling with this area, Kara is there to mentor them on the way to improve and truly connect with patients.

Kara takes the culture in CVICU very seriously. She has high expectations of all the CVICU staff including the providers. Every other Monday, Kara provides the new CVICU residents with a brief 15-minute orientation to the unit. During this time, Kara reviews high priority topics needed to care for patients in CVICU, what resources CVICU has to offer, the expectations of the staff, and highlights the recent quality metrics. Kara has a strong relationship with CVICU’s Medical and Surgical Directors, meeting with them frequently to discuss any staff or patient care issues or concerns. It is apparent that both directors’ respect and support Kara as a manager and will have her back if challenges arise on either the nursing or provider side of care. This strong relationship provides the foundation for the culture of trust and respect in CVICU. Professional development is something Kara focuses on daily. She encourages her staff to become involved in a shared governance committee, apply for PRP, and to become certified. CVICU has had 19 PRP awards during the past three years and currently has 22 certified nurses. Mentoring her Assistant Nurse Managers, Charge Nurses, and staff to grow both personally and professionally is always a priority to her. Kara also serves as the chair of the retention committee. In this role, Kara pushes staff to find what fuels their nursing passion, and whenever staff are looking for that next career step Kara is more than supportive to watch them grow.

Kara leads her unit with enthusiasm and pushes her team to achieve better outcomes for themselves and for their patients. She leads the unit that is at the top of the house for likelihood to recommend and also benchmarks considerably high in many nursing categories. Under Kara’s leadership, CVICU was chosen as a pioneer unit for C3 (Connected, Compassionate, Care) training which focuses on patient satisfaction. After staff completed this training, CVICU’s patient satisfaction scores have only continued to increase ranking amongst the top at UIHC. Kara not only focused on implementing C3 in CVICU but has focused on sustaining this great work and modeling amazing patient interactions to her staff. Many would describe Kara as a kind and caring nurse, which is evident through her patient and family interactions. If a family member is tearful in the hallway, Kara always stops and asks if they are alright and if they need somewhere to sit. Kara continues to show her staff that even though she may not be at the bedside daily, she is able to connect and support the patients and staff within her unit.

CVICU hires several new graduate nurses each year which can require extensive mentoring to help them grow and transform into strong nurses who are able to provide safe patient care. Kara begins this mentoring process during the interview when she explains the extensive training and education that is above and beyond that of a new grad on other units, due to the high acuity of CVICU patients, including the multitude of mechanical devices seen. She also states her expectations of all new staff during this time and explains they must be eager to learn and grow. After new graduate nurses start in CVICU, Kara is constantly informally checking in to see how they are feeling and progressing. On many occasions, staff comes to her office needing some guidance on how to push through the difficulty of CVICU. Kara guides them to reflect on every experience and to take something home every day and reminds staff that we are always learning. Kara has a strong sense of the staff who need more guidance and does a great job of mentoring and meeting with these staff more frequently. Kara provides these staff with clear expectations but also encourages them to reflect on where they are wanting to be in CVICU and work to increase their confidence with each meeting.  It is very rewarding to see the new graduate staff who struggled during their orientation and had frequent meetings with Kara around the one-year mark and see them flourishing and providing excellent patient care.

During the past few months, Kara has been challenged in her role as a leader. Kara could have been discouraged and passive in her approach for handling the staffing crisis, but instead chose to rise to the occasion and to think outside the box on how to combat this. She advocated for her team and their needs. Kara was open and honest with her team regarding the staffing situation and sought out ideas to help ensure the unit’s needs were going to be met. She always remained positive and rallied her team together to support one another.

Kara holds herself and the nursing profession to a high standard. She is truly proud to be a nurse. She shows her commitment to the nursing profession and critical care nursing through maintaining her certification as a Critical Care Registered Nurse and as member of the American Association of Critical-Care Nursing and American Organization for Nursing Leadership. Kara is also involved in activities hosted by the American Heart Association including walking in the annual Heart Walk to raise money and awareness about cardiac disease.  With her support, CVICU has been able to form a team for the heart walk for the past few years.