Lompoc Valley Medical Center Case Management Registered Nurse Karen Probst spent much of her adult life raising her children, volunteering and working in youth ministry.

But she always felt drawn to nursing.

As her children grew older, she began taking nursing courses at Allan Hancock College. Around the same time, her husband Alan became ill with cancer, but he encouraged her to continue with her studies.

“It kept me busy, focused,” she said of the classes. “It was a really good thing for me to do.”

Alan passed away in 2009, and that year she earned her nursing degree. Karen worried at first that she was too old at age 50 to become a nurse, but says emphatically that she’ll work until she’s told she no longer can.

“I love being a nurse,” Karen says. “I’d never want to change and be in anything else. I always want to be in nursing.”

After working at a hospital in Santa Maria and also as a procedure nurse and in Urgent Care at Sansum Clinic in Lompoc, Karen worked in the home health industry for a year.

Then, in 2016, she was hired as a registered nurse in the LVMC Emergency Department.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my short career that I’ve had a lot of experience,” says Karen, who grew up in a military family and graduated from Cabrillo High School.

She loved the pace of working in the Emergency Department.

“Everything’s new, it’s always changing,” Karen said of the work in ED. “The doctor crew down there is great. It’s where you see a lot of people who are really in need in the community. You get things that are very critical.”

Now, Karen works as a Registered Nurse in Case Management, helping patients not only in the ED, but throughout the hospital.

Among many other duties, case management includes discharge planning, or the assessment, planning and coordination of options and services to meet a patient’s medical care needs. Case managers work with patients and families to create a discharge plan, which includes plans for continuing medical services and any details about need for a post-acute care facility (such as the Comprehensive Care Center).

Using her clinical skills, Karen said she’s learning more about discharge planning, and the hospital workflow.

 “I had no idea what Case Management did,” Karen recalls. “It’s so diversified.”

She says her history in pastoral care comes in handy when she’s speaking with anxious patients.

“I get to spend a lot of time at the bedside (of patients) and really talk to them,” she notes. “Patients are very scared when they’re going home and we have to make sure they’re going to get help when they get home. Sometimes it’s a little investigation about what’s going on at home, what their needs are. Sometimes they just need to talk. We’re able to do that more here. That personal interaction with patients – we need that connection.”

Both in the ED and in Case Management, Karen says she comes across coworkers who truly enjoy their work.

“I’m invested in the community; I love Lompoc,” Karen says. “For me, I want to work in my community. This is where I live. We need people who really care about our town to be here. I do care about it. We’re like a family. People are really invested in our community, which is really important for patient care.”