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Meet, Karen

Nurse at Canberra Intensive Care Unit

Karen O’Brien

Karen graduated from the University of South Australia in 1994 and spent the first few years working around Adelaide in public and private hospital settings. Since moving to Canberra in 1998 she has worked in clinical nursing roles in the ICU, transitioning to nursing leadership and management roles over the last 10 years.


Karen has been the Assistant Director of Nursing in Intensive Care since 2012 and is currently the Acting Director of Nursing for the Division of Critical Care. She holds a Masters in Intensive Care Nursing and has developed expertise in public service management, education and executive leadership during her 20 years with ACT Health.


Karen is an advocate of “growing your own” nurses and has developed the Canberra Hospital ICU nursing workforce to include novice Foundation Programs as part of a balanced, skilled workforce delivering the highest standards of care.


Improving the patient and family experience is a passion for Karen who has lead initiatives to introduce volunteers into the ICU waiting room and inter-professional ward rounds to include the patient and family in setting goals of care. Karen has presented a poster at the International Forum of Quality and Safety in France and has lead the nursing team to win an ACT Health Quality and Safety Award in 2014.


Karen is a mother of 2 girls who are active netballers and when not at work she is busy spending time with her close friends and family. She enjoys running along Canberra’s nature trails, long breakfasts at nice cafes and travelling.