By Katie Jansen
Karla Ennis is a caregiver, a traveler and an educator. All these roles come together in her position as the new community health nurse for Novant Health Matthews Medical Center.
Since April 1, Ennis has been working to educate area residents about various health issues, including healthy living and disease prevention, through presentations and events.
Already more than three months in, she’s enjoying her involvement in the community.
“I think my favorite part has been making connections and getting to know individuals,” Ennis said.
Ennis has made these connections by traveling the community, working with everyone from a Boy Scout troop to visitors at the Monroe Aquatic Center. She also has been involved with schools and churches and is helping to launch a congregational health program focusing on “body, mind and spirit.”
Ennis also is involved with the Medical Explorers program, which invites area high school students into the hospital and gives them hands-on opportunities in different aspects of health care. The program is designed to foster interest in health professions while helping students make informed career choices.
Although Ennis is now helping to inspire future generations to pursue her field, nursing is her second career.
She began a career in fashion merchandising but knew she wanted to be a nurse after her son, now 22, was born. Ennis went to nursing school and began working in labor and delivery at Novant Health Matthews Medical Center. She eventually left Novant Health to work in public schools as a health science educator.
By returning to Novant Health Matthews Medical Center as community health nurse, Ennis is able to fuse her passions of care giving and teaching, she said.
Ennis also is a member of Community Health Alliance, which is a partnership between community leaders, physicians and hospital administrators. Through community involvement, the alliance works to improve the cost and quality of health care so that more people can obtain access to health services.
But her commitment to education doesn’t stop with her job.
Ennis is currently working on her master’s in nursing education degree with a certification in community health nursing from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She expects to graduate in December.
Ennis also enjoys the diversity of topics she discusses with residents, including targeting obesity in schools and educating adults about signs of stroke.
“It’s never boring,” Ennis said, laughing.
Eileen Ciotti, the nursing manager who hired Ennis, has been impressed with the way Ennis has tackled the new role.
When working to fill the position, the hospital wanted someone who could connect with anyone in the community, from children to seniors. It was important to have “a person on the other end that (residents) feel comfortable asking their questions to,” Ciotti said.
Ennis has been just that person, Ciotti said, adding she has jumped in “with both feet.”
During Ennis’ job interview, Ciotti said, “she was enthusiastic, she was excited … and that’s what you need.”
Ciotti is confident Ennis will keep finding ways she can reach out to members of the community.
“She’s been a perfect fit,” Ciotti said, “and we feel very fortunate to have her.”
Meet the community nurse
To schedule a presentation with Novant’s area community health nurse for your church or organization, call Karla Ennis at 704-384-3557.