Karen Wall served for 23 years in the United States Army. She’s now working as a mental health nurse and dementia care coordinator at the Veterans’ Administration Palo Alto Health Care System in California. “I recently transitioned from the role of Mental Health Nurse Educator to Dementia Care Coordinator. My current position involves coordinating and implementing programs and training for the care of Veterans who have cognitive disorders and dementia disorders, providing staff training, and mentoring to all nursing staff, both in the mental health service, as well as throughout the health care system in matters concerning safe and compassionate care of our nation’s older Veterans,” she says.
Karen began her career as a pre-med student at New Mexico Military Institute, earning her commission as a Second Lieutenant at the age of 19. From there, she attended Texas Tech University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She continued her education at University of Hawaii, earning a Master of Arts in Secondary Science Education. “I eventually found my way to nursing school at York College of Pennsylvania, where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing.” She entered active duty in the Army Nurse Corps, where she served until her retirement in 2005.
Karen’s military and professional achievements include:
- Deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm
- Published during nursing school for article on Breast Self-Examination for Visually Impaired Women - 1st place winner of Secretary of Health and Human Services competition in 1992. Public Health Reports, Mar./Apr. 1993 edition.
- Guest speaker at the Milton H. Erickson Brief Therapy Conference 2012 - "Animal Metaphors in Therapy".
- Guest speaker at APA 2014 Conference - "A Review of Mobile Mental Health Apps".
- Soon-to-be published chapter on the use of mobile apps for mental health with Veterans.
Karen has faced many challenges in her career. One of the greatest was serving in a combat zone and returning unharmed. She has also overcome ongoing chronic health issues from her time in the military. Karen is proud to have completed her degrees while working full time in nursing.
Her determination led her to Argosy University, San Francisco Bay Area, where she says she felt like “part of the family.” She completed her graduate studies and continued at the school in pursuit of a Doctor of Education in Counseling Psychology, which she plans to earn in 2015. “[The school is] very veteran-friendly and offered me a veteran discount to attend for my doctorate. I am not a fan of large groups or classes, so the low teacher to student ratio is perfect for my needs.” Karen used benefits from the GI Bill® to help fund her education.
She adds that the discipline and organizing skills she learned in the military helped with time and workload management in school. “There is no fluff in the program—get in, get the information and training, and get done. [The school] helped me enhance my skills and better identify what I had already been doing.”
Karen recommends that veterans planning to go back to school get to know their fellow vets. At Argosy University, San Francisco Bay Area, Karen says she experienced an environment where classmates and instructors felt like family and friends. “Instructors were always available for anything I needed, [helped] their students, and treated us as colleagues with intelligence.”
Karen is a member of several nursing and counseling professional organizations:
- American Counseling Association
- California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
- American Psychological Association
- American Telemedicine Association
- American Nurses Association
- Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society
- American Holistic Nurses Association
- Alzheimer’s Association
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association
- Army Nurse Corps Association
- Co-chair of Palo Alto VA Dementia Committee
Karen is also active in the Catholic parish at the VA as cantor, reader, and Eucharistic minister to the sick. She enjoys participating in the annual Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
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