Karla S. Ahrns-Klas, RN, BSN, CCRP
During college, Karla worked as a nursing assistant in a hospital pediatric unit. One day the burn unit requested staffing assistance, but the pediatric staff refused to float. Karla asked, "Why doesn't anyone want to go, how bad can it be?" The staff gave her a look, but Karla volunteered to go anyway. What Karla experienced that day forever changed her life. She was struck by how all-encompassing and painful a burn injury is, and the overpowering systemic response it has on the body. She witnessed first-hand what burn patients and their families have to endure. Karla was in awe of the strength and spirit that they showed, and was inspired to dedicate her entire career to serving the burn-injured population.
After this experience, Karla went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a minor in Psychology degree with honors from Purdue University. She then spent the next two decades caring for burn patients at three different regional burn centers doing critical care nursing, clinical research, professional education and training, policy and process improvement, program development, clinical practice advancement, and Level 1 Trauma and Burn Center Verification management.
A perpetual passion for education, data, problem-solving, and putting an end to preventable injuries led Karla to her current job and mission. Karla manages the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center's family-centered prevention programs which focus on mitigating high-risk behaviors to reduce the occurrence of tragic burn and trauma injuries. She coordinates the Straight Talk youth firesetting prevention and intervention program and its educational videos ‚€œIn An Instant‚€Ě and ‚€œSean‚€™s Story,‚€Ě all which have received national accolades. Karla is very excited about two new programs she and collaborative groups are currently developing: the web-based REACH school reintegration program and the Michigan SAFE statewide smoke alarm program. In May 2013, Karla and her colleagues will launch the first annual regional Burn Injury Awareness Weekend dedicated to supporting burn survivors, increasing community awareness, and preventing burn injuries. Karla has been awarded several competitive grants, including ‚€œSean‚€™s Story: National Youth Firesetting Prevention and Intervention Toolkit,‚€Ě a unique peer- reviewed educational prevention tool that is being widely distributed across the United States this spring.
Karla has published three textbook chapters on burn injuries, and more than 20 articles in peer-reviewed medical and advanced-practice nursing journals. She is a national reviewer of journal manuscripts and conference abstracts. Karla has held multiple specialty certifications in CCRN, ABLS Instructor, ACLS, PALS, ATCN, BCLS Instructor, and CCRP. She is a National Fire Academy graduate and expert reviewer of its pilot Youth Firesetting Prevention and Intervention course. Karla speaks throughout the state and nation on burn and trauma injuries, safety, youth firesetting, and prevention. Her educational programs are highly acclaimed by emergency responders, healthcare and legal professionals, fire service personnel, law enforcement, parents, youth, teachers, and community groups. Audiences commend her ability to dynamically present cutting-edge information with clarity, humor, and insight into everyday application.
In 2012, Karla was named ‚€œPublic Educator of the Year‚€Ě by the Michigan Fire Inspectors Society. She has been appointed to several professional organizations, honor societies, and specialty task forces devoted to research and the reduction of injury, including: Co-Chair of the Michigan Arson Prevention Committee Juvenile Affairs, Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing, Metro Detroit Fire Inspectors Society, ABA TRACS Database Committee, IAFF National Juvenile Firesetting Database Task Force, Vice-Chair of the ABA Burn Prevention Committee, and Chair of the ABA Burn Prevention SIG. Karla treasures the people she has met through these collaborations. These relationships have been essential in both her personal and professional growth. She says, ‚€œTo be willing to learn from others and partner together is what makes a difference in effectively saving lives and preventing injuries in our communities.‚€Ě
Karla is extremely honored to receive the ABA Burn Prevention Award. She is thankful for the community youth, burn patients, families, and dedicated professionals in her life who have been the inspiration for her work. As the incoming Chair of the Burn Prevention Committee, she is proud to continue the legacy passed on to her of promoting education, advancing research, improving burn care, and preventing injuries. Karla reflects that burn prevention ‚€œtakes a village‚€Ě of collaborative teamwork, and therefore invites everyone to join the call-to-action to find creative and innovative ways to prevent burn injuries from continuing to occur throughout the world.
Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around. - Henry David Thoreau