Three Community nurses honored as ‘RN of the Year’

Karen Buckley, Community Regional Medical Center’s chief nursing officer, was named RN of the Year for Administration/Leadership by the Nursing Leadership Coalition of the Central San Joaquin Valley at an awards ceremony May 3. Two other Community nurses shared the top honor for clinical practice: Julia Bay, RN, in surgical services at Community Regional, and Renee Tarasen, ASN RN, of Community’s Home Health Services.

Karen Buckley, Julia Bay and Renee Tarasen at the Nursing Leadership Coalition banquet. 

“It is so exciting to have three of our nurses from Community win,” said Mary Contreras, chief nursing officer for the Community Medical Centers network. “I think one of the things that was special, was that in the clinical practice category, which Julia and Renee won, they couldn’t select just one person. The committee thought they had to recognize both of them. I think that’s a testament to the quality of care and the caring they do.”

The three winners were among eight nurses nominated for the award among 13 total nominations accepted. Community’s nominees included: Ashley Pinheiro, MSN RN CNS, at Community Regional; Krystal Pombo, MSN RN CNS, Cindy Vasquez, BSN RN, Amanda Villamizar, RN, and Jeff Zwiefel, BSN RN, all nurses at Clovis Community Medical Center.




Buckley was chosen by the Leadership Coalition for her exemplary leadership in working with nurses and contributing to the success of the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) expansion, implementation of care coordination rounds and the push to discharge all patients by 11 a.m.

Contreras said the award was well deserved, “I know how committed Karen is to patients and safety and nurses and making sure we have the kind of environment where nurses can thrive.”

Bay, a longtime member of Community Regional’s daVinci® robotics surgery team, came to the U.S. from Honduras at age 21 with little knowledge of English. She worked her way up from LVN to become a nurse leader. She also volunteers in developing countries to provide surgery services.

Tarasen is seen as a role model to staff in Home Health Care for her expert intravenous (IV) management and assembling a team to find ways to manage the care of a fragile hemophiliac patient. She’s the kind of nurse that’s known to rush to a patient’s home even in the middle of dinner with her family. When she found out about her nomination, she responded, “Why nominate me for doing my job?! My job is my reward.”

Such a response is typical, said Contreras. “I think all of our nurses who were nominated, if you ask them, none think they do anything special. This is just what they do. Nursing is really a calling for them.  Every single one of our nurses is wonderful and doing great things so it’s especially wonderful when some are recognized in this way.”

Erin Kennedy reported this story. She can be reached at