Initially considering a career as a home economics teacher, Karen Renee Nance Durham, RN, BSN, earned a Bachelor of Science in education, with a focus in vocational home economics, from Harding University in 1979. Realizing that home economics wasn’t what she wanted to do, she returned to school at the California University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a teaching certification in secondary-level biology in 1985. She subsequently began her career as an instructor in the division of continuing education at the Community College of Allegheny County from 1985 to 1986. Also serving as a substitute teacher from 1985 to 1989, Ms. Durham taught with the Canon-McMillan School District, the Chartiers-Houston School District, the Mt. Lebanon School District and the South Fayette School District.
Encouraged by a family friend to consider a career in nursing, Ms. Durham changed course and achieved her nursing diploma from the Washington Health System School of Nursing in 1990, joining the health system as a staff registered nurse in 1991. She went on to complete a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the California University of Pennsylvania in 1993 and remained with the Washington Health System until 2014. Since 2014, Ms. Durham has excelled as a staff registered nurse with TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, where her duties include patient care, overseeing a team of nurses, and serving as chair of the Seven Tower Unit Nurses Practice Council, a role she has held since 2016.
Furthermore, Ms. Durham was among the originators of the medical center’s nurse practice councils, helping to write the councils’ bylaws, and she continues to work on their development and restructuring. She previously served as chair of the Executive Nurses Practice Council from 2017 to 2022 and the Medical-Surgical Nurses Practice Council from 2016 to 2022. Her current goals involve finishing the restructuring effort, ongoing mentorship efforts, and planning toward her eventual retirement. Ms. Durham has made a name for herself through her expertise in medical-surgical nursing, as well as in neurology and orthopedic nursing, and has been certified as a preceptor and charge nurse by HCA Healthcare, in the stroke scale by the National Institutes of Health, and in orthopedics through the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses.
Alongside her primary responsibilities, Ms. Durham has contributed her skills to a number of other professional endeavors. An active member of the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses and the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, she donated her skills as a CPR and first aid instructor with the American Heart Association from 1996 to 2014. She also contributes to The Daisy Foundation, an international society honoring nurses, where she spent time on the award committee. During her education, Ms. Durham worked as a batch controller for a Walmart distribution center from 1979 to 1982 and as a cashier and department manager with the Hills department store from 1982 to 1990.
Ms. Durham has always been closely involved in her community and gave considerable time and effort to her local Boys Scouts of America chapters between 1991 and 2016. From 2002 to 2014, she served as a health officer for a Cub Scout day camp and was chair of the Cub Scout Pack committee from 2006 to 2009 and a Cub Scout Pack trainer from 2009 to 2014. For her service, Boy Scouts of America recognized Ms. Durham with a Wood Badge in 2011 and the Silver Beaver Award in 2015.
For her excellence, Ms. Durham has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades over the course of her career. Early on, she was twice recognized as a presidential scholar by the California University of Pennsylvania, first in 1989 and again in 1992. A distinguished Marquis listee, she has been presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, the Marquis Who’s Who Humanitarian Award and named a Marquis Who’s Who Top Professional. Having accomplished much over the course of her career, Ms. Durham lives her life by the motto, “Through adversity, challenges, and things that are uncomfortable, I have learned to be a better individual, and to accomplish things I never dreamed I would accomplish.”