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Year of the Nurse: Empire’s Nurse Practitioner Rooted in Caring

Published on Jul. 20, 2020


Karen Volas, FNP-C, came out of high school in the Detroit area with a real interest in organic farms. She lived and worked on one in Maple City but understood quickly that she would need an alternative source of income if she hoped to ever buy a farm of her own.

“I was living with my friend’s aging mother who had a home nurse visit the house every week. I saw the care and attention she gave, and the close relationship they shared, and knew that was the right choice for me,” she recalls. “After obtaining my nursing degree and working as an RN at Munson Medical Center for eight years, I knew I wanted to move to a community setting where I could focus my care more on health promotion and disease prevention. While working nights and raising two small children, I went back to school for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. Being a nurse practitioner allows me the honor of establishing long-term relationships of trust within which I can partner with my patients to meet their health goals. It is indeed an honor that I feel every day.”

Impactful Time on Hospital Floor
Volas does not point to any one moment in her career that crystalizes and confirms her calling as a nurse but she characterizes her time on a Munson Medical Center surgical nursing floor as impactful. 

“I worked with the finest group of nurses who came together every day to make the best of patients’ difficult hospital stays. My coworkers faced many difficult situations with kindness, and grace, and humor. They will always find a way to bring comfort and safety to those around them, in all of their various practice settings.”

Year of Nurse and Midwife
The World Health Organization declared 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife to honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. In this special year and through the pandemic, Volas hopes people understand the commitment and determination nurses have to face challenges and problem-solve their way toward a positive outcome for their patients.

“Nurses have willingly entered the epicenters of the pandemic, and many have lost their lives doing so. I felt so much concern for my fellow nurses in southeast Michigan when it was a COVID-19 hot spot back in March and April, and continue to feel concern for nurses in new and emerging hot spots,” she says. “Nurses will bravely show up to work every day, no matter the crisis. This dedication to their role is at the heart of what it means to be a nurse. I urge everyone to think about the nurses who have cared for them, their loved ones, and their community members when or if someone questions the importance of social distancing and practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

Nurse Practitioner Role
As a nurse practitioner, Volas provides health care for the entire family, but she also has a special focus on behavioral health. She has a practical prescription for people to navigate the days and weeks ahead as the pandemic and associated concerns continue.

“I would advise people to find news outlets that stay factual and objective. Better yet, I encourage folks to find and listen to the experts in our local community to get information on the pandemic -   the infectious disease and pulmonology specialists, our local hospital administrators, our local health departments, and our local news outlets among others,” she says. “These folks live alongside us; they are our friends and neighbors and like you and I, desire a safe, healthy, thriving community.”

Caring for Leelanau Communities
At Empire Family Care, Volas believes the practice adds real value to Leelanau communities because it is local and promotes health and wellness in a way that understands the unique and rural character of the region. “Choosing Empire Family care, in this lovely setting, amidst our friends and neighbors, adds an element of interconnectedness to one another,” she said. “I think that’s really special.”

A resident of northern Benzie County, Volas characterizes her life outside the office as a “simple” one without a lot of surprises – except for one. “I value quiet time, my time outdoors, in my garden, and with my family,” she says. “And, I can play the accordion.”