Dr. Karen Whitham: From Forklifts to Lifting Students to Success

NursingApril 27, 2023

Karen Whitham, Ed.D., Director of Nursing Compliance for Fortis Colleges and Institutes, has worn many hats in her life–wife, mother, doctoral cap, nurse, and hard hat. That’s right–despite her childhood dreams of being a nurse, she was quite at home behind the joysticks of a forklift in a factory for 11 years. Even after becoming an EMT, her dream of nursing persisted. So, when the factory where she worked shut down, she headed straight to the nearest community college to start pursuing her childhood dream. 

She started college the same year as her son, and she, like so many nontraditional students, had doubts and fears. But due to the quality of her faculty, whom she credits with her success, she conquered the material and thrived. Within two years of life on the nursing floor, she also wanted to teach. 

Fast forward twenty years, and Whitham has chased her dream farther than she ever imagined–through licensure, a BSN, MSN, and finally, a doctorate. As Director of Nursing Compliance, she ensures that the next generation of nurses can thrive. She oversees accreditation at all levels for nursing programs in many states for Fortis Colleges & Institutes, St. Paul’s School of Nursing and Denver College of Nursing. Without her diligence, students couldn’t graduate from the accredited institutions they need to practice and create a successful career. 

Whitham says she’s proud of her work's impact on each new nurse to graduate.  

“Whether I was the clinical instructor, a faculty member, or whatever role I play, that trickles down to the student and then the lives they impact, whether it's their families, their patients, their friends,” Whitham says. “I want my students to feel like I did when I left my first program saying, ‘I want to do this, I want to impact others, I want to take my education further, for the betterment of the profession.’ I want our students to feel that.”

Whether behind the forklift controls, working as an EMT, or caring for her patients and students, Whitham embodies the soul of nursing–compassionate and capable. 

There’s no wrong time to start–your nursing career awaits you. Click here for more information or call us today at (855) 436-7847 and speak to one of our career advisors.