Nathan Adelson Hospice President and CEO Karen Rubel recently received the 2023 Nevada Top Workplaces Woman-Led Company Award, celebrating outstanding organizations whose most senior leader is a woman. It is the first time the award has been given in Southern Nevada.
“Women are under-represented in the highest levels of business,” said Bob Helbig, Energage media partnerships director. “And this is an effort to draw attention to the great work women leaders are doing. From all the years of research Energage has done, we feel all good things in an organization start with great leadership.”
Rubel earned special recognition for her continuing commitment to creating an excellent workplace for her staff, patients and families and for the organization continuing to improve in Top Workplaces’s rankings. Nathan Adelson Hospice earned Top Workplace under her leadership for three years. In 2023, it finished in the top five for midsize companies nationally and locally, and was recognized nationally as a Woman-Led Top Workplace in 2022.
All Top Workplaces awards are based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party research-backed workplace survey administered by Energage, LLC.
“For several years, employees have rated the organization well based on many aspects of their workplace experience,” Helbig said. “Nathan Adelson is consistently a high-performing organization.”
Rubel has received many local and national accolades during her career. In 2012, she was recognized as one of 10 Women Who Mean Business by the Las Vegas Business Press.
“Karen is a leader who is consistent, bold and driven to ensure that her organization has the best opportunity to succeed and serve the community,” said LGBTQ+ Center CEO John Waldron, who’s worked with Rubel for several years. “She brings a calming voice to challenges while offering a strategic focus in her problem-solving, with a decisive approach to managing business.
“Her remarkable ability to balance a practical and common-sense approach to leadership challenges with a compassionate and visionary style helps her teams know exactly where she stands,” Waldron said. “She cares very sincerely for the people she leads, and she is humble with regard to wanting to offer others a platform to shine in their accomplishments.”
Before joining Nathan Adelson, Rubel was the director of advancement for the Nevada Community Foundation in Las Vegas and the director of development at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Colleges of Fine Arts, Education and Health Services.
Joining Nathan Adelson in 2007 as the vice president for development, Rubel was unfamiliar with the industry. But she still made an impact. Her value-driven leadership has made a difference in the lives of those Nathan Adelson serves. She continues developing solutions to keep current with an industry that faces challenges and changes.
“We’re always looking for ways to be innovative,” Rubel said. “We always intend to stay relevant and necessary to the health care community.”
Nathan Adelson is Southern Nevada’s oldest, largest and one of few nonprofits providing hospice and palliative care. The organization offers patients and families compassionate programs such as Camp Erin, Elaine Wynn Palliative Care and Fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Care. According to Rubel, another unique aspect is all the profits go back into patient care.
“Back 45 years ago, the board committed that anyone in our community that needed hospice care would receive that care regardless of their ability to pay,” she said. “If they didn’t have money or insurance, Nathan Adelson would support families free of charge. That equates to over $600,000 a year in uncompensated care.”
Rubel accepted her current role as president and CEO in July 2019, a few months before the pandemic lockdown. Facing each challenge head-on, she successfully navigated the organization through uncharted territory over the last stressful three years.
“I’m proud of how we came through the pandemic,” Rubel said. “We had to keep our doors open and our organization upright, but we also had to keep our employees, patients and families safe.”
Guided by her values and passion for helping others, she found creative ways to keep everyone safe while allowing them the dignity to say goodbye to loved ones.
“How Karen handled the pandemic, I’m in awe,” said Laura Coleman, longtime Nathan Adelson volunteer. “While the rest of the country turned inside out, Karen ensured families could say goodbye to their loved ones. She was careful about everything, and I believe she did the right thing for the patients and families.”
Part of Rubel’s success is her compassion to ensure patients and families feel comfortable and loved during a challenging time — often doing whatever it takes to achieve that goal. One patient, a professional guitar player, wanted to play in a concert setting one last time. To satisfy this final wish, Rubel enlisted legendary entertainer, writer, recording artist and vocalist Clint Holmes to perform with him.
“It was memorable,: Rubel said about the inpatient concert. “They played together, and Clint sang. We’ve got tons of stories like that.”
Another accomplishment is her ability to identify rising leaders and foster their growth. Waldron facilitated a six-month LEAP (Leadership Excellence Achievement Program) program for the Nathan Adelson Staff. The LEAP program focuses on helping leaders become more effective.
“Karen is fully committed to developing her staff, especially leaders, to ensure everyone is best prepared to succeed,” Waldron said. “She has a deep-rooted belief in the people she leads and always looks for the potential in others.
“I believe Karen’s legacy as a leader will be one who intentionally worked with individuals at all levels of the organization,” he said. “To ensure everyone had opportunities to learn and develop the best capacity for success.”
Ruben recognizes former Nathan Adelson President and CEO Carol Fisher as a role model and mentor. Fisher prepared Rubel for the leadership role, guiding and teaching her before accepting the lead position.
“Every time there was a big project, she (Carol) would call me and say I have a fresh assignment for you,” Rubel said, laughing. “I would take everything that came my way and figure it out. Anything from running a department I didn’t know or building an inpatient unit at the MountainView Medical Office Building. “I didn’t know anything about building an inpatient unit, but it was a good way to identify what’s important to me from a leadership perspective.”
Rubel successfully managed the construction of the $2.6 million 18-bed inpatient unit. Two years later, she managed a major renovation in the inpatient facility on Swenson Street. With each experience and opportunity, Fisher trusted her with more responsibility, growing Rubel’s leadership ability.
Throughout these experiences, Fisher modeled outstanding leadership and taught Rubel many valuable lessons, including a vital process behind making significant decisions.
“Ask yourself: Is this the right thing to do for the family, patient or employee?,” Rubel said. “The answer will guide you to make the right decisions.”
With an ever-changing industry, Rubel plans to expand and provide hospice and palliative care to as many people needing care in the area. She intends to expand services, including the Palliative Care Program.
Originally from Chicago, Rubel earned a B.A. in English from Eastern Illinois University, an Master of Arts in administration from Dominican University in Illinois, and her master’s degree in leadership arts and sciences from the Thayer Institute.
“I was trained to be a teacher,” Rubel said. “I wanted to do it my entire life, but when I started teaching, I realized it wasn’t for me.”
She spent nine years teaching English literature to high school juniors and seniors. Her career path took an unexpected turn when the principal approached her to help raise money for the school. She ended up raising $10,000.
“I enjoyed that,” Rubel said. “It set me on the path as a fundraiser.”
She relocated to Las Vegas after an ad in a trade publication caught her attention, and she accepted the director of development position at UNLV.
“I had a couple of friends who lived in Vegas,” Rubel said. “And I thought, Vegas, I’d like to live there, so I was fortunate to get hired. It’s been great. I love Las Vegas.”