Feb. 20, 2024

Clinical nurse specialist Karen Wiens reflects on impact of Libin Institute over past 20 years

“I feel like I have a partner in the background moving things forward”
Clinical nurse specialist Karen Wiens has been with the Libin Institute since its formation in 2004
Photo Supplied

After 28 years working in the Department of Cardiac Sciences, Karen Wiens, RN, is a familiar—and much loved—face at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute. 

Now a clinical nurse specialist who works with a variety of teams in Cardiac Sciences, Wiens’ role is a collaborative one that brings people together with the goal of improving patient care. 

She has been involved with the utilization of new technology and procedures in Calgary through the minimally invasive cardiac surgery program, works with front-line teams to improve processes and provide training, and is involved in patient and family advocacy and education. 

When the Libin Cardiovascular Institute was created in 2004 from a partnership between the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services, Wiens was working as a nurse clinician in cardiac surgery. 

She watched the fledgling institute bring researchers and clinicians together with excitement and has been part of its maturation over the past 20 years. 

“I have seen the benefit of the collaboration and partnership that the Libin enabled,” says Wiens. “As front-line staff it’s tough to find the time to dedicate to bringing innovation and research to patient care,” she says. “But since the Libin has come online, I feel like I have a partner in the background moving things forward, and I know what they are doing impacts what I do at the bedside.” 

It's tough for Wiens to identify all the benefits the creation of the institute has facilitated, but she ranks the many innovations to patient care rank at the top. 

 “We have been able to bring so many innovative procedures to our patients, and that makes me proud,” she says. “If someone had told me 20 years ago that we could fix a valve through a small incision in the side or through a catheter, I wouldn’t have believed it. But that is possible today, and innovations like this are such a service to patients and their families.” 

Wiens is also excited by the culture shift she has witnessed in the past 20 years in cardiac care. When she started she says patients and their families were more passive, rarely questioning or providing input in the decisions of their health care team. 

Today that has changed. Patients and their families are more informed, ask questions and contribute more to decisions about their own health. 

“Patients and families are front and centre as part of the team, and I like that,” says Wiens. 

When asked about the future, Wiens is optimistic. 

“I can’t imagine the things we will be able to do in the next 20 years,” she says. “It’s really exciting.”