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What Can We Learn from Each Other?

In her quest to improve American healthcare, Professor of Nursing Kristin E. Sandau emphasizes collaboration--in her research and in mentoring the next generation of nurses.

By Katie Johnson '19

March 22, 2019 | 3 p.m.

Kristin Sandau

Professor of Nursing Kristin E. Sandau

Even a casual visitor to Bethel’s Department of Nursing gets a sense of the collaborative spirit that characterizes this team. Faculty gather in the hallway, discussing their classes, while Professor of Nursing Kristin E. Sandau settles into her office, surrounded by papers, files, research materials—and the low hum of classical music. There, she speaks with animation about two passions: healthcare and collaboration. “There’s so much work to be done in the healthcare field,” she says. “And fortunately, I’ve been surrounded by people who have been great teammates and colleagues.”

A Bethel faculty member since 2006, Sandau also maintains her position as a registered nurse at United Hospital in the Twin Cities area, which creates a direct connection between academia and practice.

And she finds ways to collaborate in both roles. For example, she led a volunteer team of experts from across the country as they worked for the American Heart Association to create the 2017 “Update to Practice Standards for Electrocardiogram (ECG) Monitoring in Hospital Settings.” ECG is a method to track the electrical activity of a patient’s heartbeat, and this update will influence how doctors and nurses determine when it’s necessary to use continuous ECG monitoring for improved patient care. Now Sandau’s collaborating with a team of nurses, physicians, and information technology partners to implement the updated standards.

"I've been surrounded by people who have been great teammates and colleagues."

— Kristin Sandau

For her leadership in the ECG project, she’s been selected for a prestigious appointment as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, an organization dedicated to improving American healthcare by changing policies and researching patient care. Her expertise has prepared her to make a difference regarding the use of technology in the medical field for the benefit of patients and providers on a nationwide level.  

While recognized for her own leadership in the field, Sandau harbors great respect for other nurse leaders in the Twin Cities area, seeking research collaborations that will directly impact patient care. To that end, she and a colleague, nurse practitioner Barbara Hoglund ’84, developed the Quality of Life with a Ventricular Assist Device (QOLVAD), a questionnaire to determine quality of life for patients living with a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD). They found that previous methods of measurement were inadequate, so they created a questionnaire that applied directly to LVAD patients. The questionnaire helps the healthcare provider and patient come to a mutual understanding about aspects of life are important to the patient and how they can improve quality of life together.   

“I’ve learned from Kristin that the most important characteristic of a researcher is diligence. I was so impressed by Kristin's ability to keep pressing on through some disappointments and delays during our work last summer. She is uniquely brilliant, but also down to earth and encouraging.” 

— Karin Canakes '19, nursing major

Sandau’s collaborative spirit is also evident in her work with students like nursing major Karin Canakes ’19, who has worked with Sandau as part of an Edgren Scholarship, given to faculty and student-led research that holds the potential of academic breakthrough. They’re partnering with clinicians at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, California, on qualitative analysis of patient transcripts—to understand the quality of life and self-management among patients with an LVAD. “I’ve learned from Kristin that the most important characteristic of a researcher is diligence,” says Canakes. “I was so impressed by Kristin's ability to keep pressing on through some disappointments and delays during our work last summer. She is uniquely brilliant, but also down to earth and encouraging.” 

What’s next for Sandau? At the moment, she’s excited about co-leading an upcoming study abroad trip to Taiwan. “I grew up in Taiwan,” she says. “It’s like going home again.” She looks forward to working with students from diverse fields as they examine wellbeing from a variety of perspectives, including non-healthcare majors as well as Chinese, Taiwanese, and indigenous persons. And she’s pondering the trip’s potential with her characteristic collaborative mindset. “What can we learn from each other?” she wonders. “That’s the liberal arts. That’s a benefit of teaching at Bethel.” 

 

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