Karen Colbourne BN, RN, CCHN(C)

Karen ColbournePublic Health Officer

Public Health Agency of Canada

The role of a Public Health Officer constantly evolves as new trends emerge in the public health environment. Karen Colbourne has first-hand experience with this in her role as a Public Health Officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). “The continuous learning and growth that occurs with each new project is what keeps this job very interesting,” she told us. “There is always an opportunity to learn new things and expand my nursing practice into areas that I never expected.”

Karen is currently completing a two year placement with Eastern Health in Newfoundland and Labrador. While there, she has been working very closely with public health and information technology teams to build an in-house vaccine management database that enables public health staff to store, tally and distribute vaccines. This provincial application is called SEINET (Surveillance, Evaluation, Information Network).The data collected in this system, once analyzed, helps inform public health decision making, programs and policy. The data are analyzed regularly to inform the annual influenza marketing campaign, to plan community immunization clinics, and ensure these efforts reach target populations. These data also give the region greater control of the distribution of vaccine supply and helps to reduce vaccine wastage in rural and remote community health clinics.

Throughout Karen’s career as a PHAC nurse, she has had the opportunity to connect with many people across the country with diverse backgrounds and expertise. During regional communicable disease outbreaks such as Syphilis, Tuberculosis and H1N1 Karen has worked on local multi-disciplinary teams to develop and initiate interventions and contribute to outbreak response efforts. She also collaborated closely with Indigenous youth, elders, and educators throughout the Northwest Territories to develop sexual health programs and initiatives. “Seeing first-hand the positive impact of my work has been a real highlight of my career,” she told us.

You can visit Canada.ca for more information on immunization and vaccines.


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