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Karen’s inspiring journey to become fearless


This International Women's Day, Mater celebrates the fearless women who work across our organisation, like Mater Education’s Karen Bartlett. 

Karen knew she wanted to be a nurse when she was a little girl, in awe of her great aunt who worked as a nurse in the 1940s. Karen's Great Aunt Norma

But it wasn't until a life-changing doctor's appointment more than 30 years later that Karen decided to pursue nursing, completing a Certificate III course, Diploma and then a university degree.

"I was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2007. I have experienced the impact of healthcare from a different side and knew I wanted to make a difference," she said.

"It wasn't until I was 40 years old that I started my journey to become a nurse and the person that I always wanted to be."

Karen went on to work as a nurse across Queensland hospitals for 8 years before becoming an educator. She's been teaching Certificate III students and most recently Diploma of Nursing students at Mater Education for the last three years, a role she gets a lot of satisfaction from. 

"I love my job. I like teaching students the importance of having the foundations of nursing," she said.  

 "If you have a strong foundation, you will thrive. I am also an advocate for both my female and male students to believe in themselves."

Karen's had to overcome self-doubt to learn to back herself, too. 

"I never believed I was smart enough to do nursing. I left school at 15 and worked in payroll for years until my MS diagnosis and I decided I had to give nursing a go," she said.

"My beautiful friend who passed away from a dire disease used to say to me 'when you doubt yourself, lean on the people who believe in you. That's where you get your inner strength from and that's when you become fearless'.  

"I live by those words and I say it to my students all the time. 

Karen and her Great Aunt Norma at her graduation "It was especially relevant to me when I was told I had MS. I can remember asking my husband 'Am I not going to be able to walk or look after my kids?'

"I just asked him to help me be the best person I could be and I leaned on him. I am very lucky that I don't have residual issues and my MS is mostly silent. 

"It is a challenge but I don't let it rule my life." 

Karen is proud to be the fourth generation of female nurses in her family, with her own children following suit. 

"One of my daughters is a paediatric nurse and the other is an ICU nurse," she said.

"I also have a two-year-old granddaughter who I think will become our family's sixth generation nurse.

"She walks around with a stethoscope and she knows where your heart is.

“I encourage them to be fearless, too.”

Karen and her two-year-old granddaughter