Karin Rallo Falkenberg, Director of instED’s Clinical Resource Center, is on her second career. In her early years, she supported labor relations as a paralegal. Karin’s life changed when she gave birth to premature twins, born at 27 weeks and weighing just over a pound each.
Karin spent part of her pregnancy in the hospital on bed rest and then spent six months in the NICU after giving birth. During this challenging time for her family, Karin gained a new appreciation for the impact that nurses have on patients. Her experience prompted her to begin her journey into healthcare.
“Those nurses were my lifeline,” she said. “I enrolled in nursing school not long after I got home from the hospital.”
Despite their premature beginning and extended hospitalization, Karin’s twins grew up without any medical complications. Karin credits this to the incredible care the boys received, along with the gift of divine intervention. The twins recently graduated from college themselves and have set off into the workforce.
In the meantime, Karin has held a wide variety of positions in the nursing field. She started as an emergency department (ED) nurse and got hooked on the fast-paced environment and opportunity to make a significant, immediate difference in people’s lives. Karin transitioned into a series of leadership roles in ED nursing at hospitals all over Massachusetts. Many of the cases she remembers most are smaller cases that did not receive public attention but were personally significant to the people involved. However, Karin was working in the ED at Massachusetts General Hospital on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
“Everyone thinks of nursing as a service you provide to patients, but it’s also about the service you provide to the family – sometimes, a grieving family. The impact of a good nurse is life-changing, and I’ve been fortunate to be both on the giving side and receiving side,” she said.
Throughout her career, Karin has seen firsthand the impact of overcrowded emergency departments on both patients and hospital staff. Inequities in access to quality healthcare can lead people to visit the ED unnecessarily.
“The emergency department certainly has its place if you need to be there, but so many cases could be treated at home,” she said.
When Karin heard about the in-home urgent care service provided by instED, she saw an opportunity to help confront issues that lead to ED visits in non-emergency situations. Her desire to solve these problems led her to join instED’s leadership in 2020. Since then, she has overseen the development of instED’s unique nursing model and day-to-day clinical operations.
The instED staff has grown as its service has expanded from Massachusetts into Rhode Island. The program has evolved quickly, which has been an exciting professional challenge and learning experience for Karin. One of the things she has enjoyed most is blazing a new trail and establishing best practices for the organization. In addition to focusing on the health needs of instED patients, Karin gets to consider other aspects of the patient experience. For instance, the instED platform, and the app now available to users, has changed over time based on feedback from patients.
Because many CCA members have complex needs, an unnecessary ED visit can pose unique risks and challenges to their physical and mental health. Karin feels a responsibility to meet members where they are and address their health needs at home, when possible.
“Since I’ve worked the majority of my career in the ED, I definitely have a personal and professional commitment to try to do whatever I can do to minimize that impact for people,” she said.