Karen Le’s life has taken many directions. Her father, who immigrated to America when Karen was young, bestowed his musical talents onto her, so she started off her career as a DJ. But life took her in another direction to be a nurse. Based out of Los Angeles, she has been a nurse recruiter — a professional who sends travel nurses to hospitals in need of their expertise — for hospitals around the world for the past 14 years.
Her job became stressful during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the high demand on nurses all over the world.
“There were a lot of fights, just making sure my nurses were taken care of during the pandemic because if they’re sick in another city working, I gotta make sure they’re taken care of,” Karen says.
During her years as a nurse recruiter, Karen has heard and witnessed many stories to share. One of her favorite stories took place on the Fourth of July. One nurse, who felt left out from the festivities going on around him, decided to go into the hospital parking lot and light up a bunch of fireworks. Of course, he got fired, but it is one of the stories about travel nurses that Karen will never forget.
Karen spends her spare time in the gym in front of a punching bag. She mainly uses boxing as a way to let out her frustrations from her full-time job, and she invested her money into a fight camp to help her through the pandemic and the high stress of her job. Instead of taking her frustrations out on other people, she channels it into boxing.
Karen’s mental health dramatically improved as she began to use boxing as a form of mental health therapy. Her ability to forget all her frustrations while punching at her bag plays a major role in her happiness today. She expresses how important it is to take care of oneself during the pandemic and beyond, and how the need to take care of one’s mental health has grown over the last few years in general.
“You need to get your anger out there, you know? And boxing is just how I do it,” Karen says. “It’s good for my mental health, my physical health — you know, it’s just good overall.”
When it comes to her role as a nurse recruiter, Karen hopes to create an even bigger network someday and continue to pursue her passion for helping people internationally. Someday, she would like to create a program for nurses to travel internationally and do humanitarian work, with an emphasis on the medical side of that work.
“Just recently I came back from the borders of Ukraine, and me, another nurse practitioner and a couple of friends who spoke the language were able to raise over $20,000 and pick up 2,000 pounds of medical supplies and go to the borders of Ukraine,” Karen says.
Because of the country’s rules, she was not able to go directly into the country, so she and her friends stayed on the border. From that trip, something inside of Karen ignited and a vision was set in stone. Karen continues to look for more ways to help other people in need.
Karen offered some advice to young adults who are struggling to pave their way in the world: “Life — especially if you’re in your twenties — you have so much to offer. And you have so much to discover about yourself and the world.”
Karen also spoke about the importance of living without regrets. She has been a DJ and worked at a radio station, yet she has also pursued a career as a recruiter. She tried many paths to discover herself, and she emphasizes that you are not limited to one thing in life.
“Even when my family, who is very old-school, sees me box, or sees me doing all these things that are ‘for men,’ I just have this rebellious fire in me to go against the grain,” Karen says. “I like to prove to other people that you can be both.”
Follow Karen on Instagram and TikTok @nurserecruiterkle.