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2024 Cornerstone Visionary Award - Dr. Karen Clayton-Babb Belleville Chamber of Commerce - 160th President's Dinner Celebration

The Cornerstone VISIONARY award is presented to a Chamber member who has seen an opportunity to revive or create something unique or unprecedented. Their dedication to this vision has resulted in raising the profile of Belleville and has contributed to the overall prosperity of the community.

Dr. Karen Clayton-Babb is the Chief Nurse Practitioner/ Clinic Director at the Belleville Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic. Her vision to grow the practice, her experience with collaboration as a means to overcome limitations, and her unwavering commitment to supporting people and their need for primary health care should inspire hope.

In the past few years we have seen the overwhelming impact health care plays in a community’s prosperity.  The pandemic was one thing, but it put the spotlight on the tremendous needs for health professionals at all levels of care and continues to highlight the need for primary health care providers and family doctors.  The advent of nurse practitioners as part of the health care system to help support families with medical care is growing.  Even though Nurse Practitioners have been recognized since the 1960s, the resurgence of acceptance and active support didn’t happen until about 20 years ago. 

In fact, Dr. Karen Clayton-Babb had not heard about nurse practitioners before commencing the registered nurse program when, someone said they wanted to be a nurse practitioner, and she thought it sounded like something she’d like to do.  The expanded scope of practice of nurse practitioners continues to evolve and continues to confirm her choice to continue her education.

As a child, growing up in Jamaica, her siblings and friends enjoyed playing school and planned on becoming teachers.  She preferred playing doctor, dissecting oranges and dispensing the pulp as medicine.  She always knew she wanted to be a nurse. She completed her basic nursing education at the Kingston School of Nursing in Jamaica. She later migrated to the Cayman Islands in 1998 where she practiced as a Nurse in the Primary Care and Public Health Department. It was during this time she started to realize she might be able to help people more if she advanced her studies.  A Canadian gastroenterologist practicing at the hospital at which she worked suggested McMaster in Hamilton, Ontario might be worth looking into and so she applied.  She was the only international student to be accepted that year based largely on her personal statement aligning with the values and teaching approach at McMaster.

In 2004, she graduated from the BScN/PHC-NP program and accepted a job offer in the Cayman Islands as the Nurse Manager for the island’s Primary Health Care Services from 2004-2014. During this role, she managed the five community health centers, to include human resources, prison health and the school health program. Her major focus was on health maintenance and promotion, disease prevention and hurricane and disaster  management plan. ,  Dr. Clayton-Babb also completed a Master of Science in International Primary Health Care at the University College of London, UK in 2013, as a Commonwealth Scholar. In order to fulfill her goal of obtaining a terminal degree in her chosen career, she completed the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, the Executive Leadership track, at the American Sentinal College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University in 2023.  She has a special interest in the management of women’s health, chronic non-communicable diseases and polypharmacy in the elderly.

When her son was nine years old, she started to consider his academic future and with limited post-secondary options available in the Cayman Islands, she looked back up to Canada.  Hamilton had been a friendly place – to the point that when she first arrived in town to prepare for school and a hockey tournament had every room booked, surprising someone seriously offered her a place to stay at their grandmother’s home. She had expected Canada would be more like the U.S. but she feels the differences between the countries is significant.  She had a cousin living in Mississauga who assured her that Belleville would be a good place to work since it was pretty close to them; the cousin was actually thinking of Bowmanville, but once she came to visit, she fell in love with our city.  She felt comfortable immediately and being surrounded by water felt a bit like being in the Caribbean (until winter hits, anyway).

In 2014, Karen joined the Belleville Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic after they had been established a few years – as part of the second wave of provincial funding to support the model of nurse practitioner-led clinics that had shown great success in Sudbury (the pilot site). 

The funding model was new and innovative and she could see how interprofessional collaboration was going to be a critical element of the clinic’s success.  The concept of collaboration in healthcare was what she had lived in the Caribbean, where adapting, small human resource, limited resources and willing partners was a key to providing care there. The clinic also needed a strategic plan and once that was in place, she began to dream.  She knew they needed to grow but provincial funding did not cover any capital investment at the time.  Fortunately, they met Pastor Arnold McLaughlin, who casually said he had a space they could use and he was willing to make the investments necessary to transform a floor of the old courthouse at Victoria and Pinnacle into a medical clinic.  Her vision came to life in a short three years.

They’ve expanded to create a satellite clinic – temporarily located in the same building because they lost the opportunity to have a developer erect the clinic space north of the 401 while waiting for the Ministry of Health to approve funding.  In the meantime, the need for primary care services is so great, they want to get as many people attached to a health care provider as possible.  The constant juggling between funding applications, recruiting and supporting new practitioners and developing new programs for attached patients and unattached residents keeps her busy.

“We do our best to keep all our patients connected to care – even when we have movement of practitioners out of the clinic.”  It is so clear that the hospital is not the appropriate place for a walk-in clinic or for non-emergent care. Reflecting on other jurisdictions in which she has worked with less resources thus requiring effective collaboration to provide quality care for a lot of people makes her wonder how the principles can be transplanted in her daily work given the unique challenges. 

 “My vision is that all residents across the Bay of Quinte region will have timely access to team based comprehensive primary care and I am committed to the the Ontario Health Team vision” whose goal is to ensure everyone has access to team-based care and will benefit from coordinated and integrated care NP clinics was initially implemented to support equity deserving unattached patients. in rural communities where there was limited access to primary care; however, with the current healthcare crisis there is a shortage of providers nationally and NPs have proven to be valuable to the healthcare system and are poised to be an integral part of the solution.  She enjoys the work and appreciates how the scope of practice for nurse practitioners continues to evolve.

She is grateful for the team at the clinic and the strong support and commitment of the Board. Vision often comes unexpectedly when a desire to solve a problem for which the normal solutions aren’t meeting the needs and experience and resources collide with opportunity.  The vision comes in seeing the opportunity and moving forward, unsure of where the path will take you but being willing to venture to the unknown.  Whether Karen’s moment was when she started dissecting oranges, when she thought a Nurse Practitioner sounded good, ended up in Belleville instead of Bowmanville – her life has been a series of steps forward without being sure of the answer, but confident she was moving in the right direction.

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NRG Alternatives - 10% Discount
Superior Propane - Save 5% on fixed price propane
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Allen Insurance - Exclusive Chamber Member Rates
Dinkle,s Restaurant - 10% OFF
Cloud Bookkeeping Services - 10% OFF
Body Systems Nutrition - 15% OFF purchases.
NRG Alternatives - 10% Discount
Be Prepared First Aid Traning - 15% off
Papa Johns Pizza Member Offer- 25% off
Allen Insurance - Exclusive Chamber Member Rates
Esso Chamber
Parsons Cleaners Member offer - 10% OFF
Superior Propane - Save 5% on fixed price propane
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