Anne Marie Hansen had the opportunity to sit down with Katie and ask her some key questions to help us get to know her.  See her insightful answers below.


What is your background in nursing and what brought you to Gianna Homes?


Nursing is a career that has endless opportunities in various practice settings and I have been blessed to have been able to take advantage of that.  In college, I worked on an oncology/renal floor in the hospital as a student intern which gave me a great foundation in medical/surgical nursing as well as an introduction to end of life care.  After graduation, I worked in a 27 bed ICU which helped me develop critical thinking skills and understanding the physiology of multisystems.  While working in the ICU, I was drawn to the patients and families facing end of life decisions, and realized that I wanted to pursue this interest and worked as a hospice nurse for 3 years.  Due to the difficult nature of hospice work, and a lack of work/life balance (see Question 6 for my progress in this area ;), I experienced burnout and became a medical supervisor in the world’s highest producing plasma center.  In this role, I really began to learn more about leadership and company culture.  We were able to process over 4,000 units in 1 week and over 1,000 units in just one day.  This required excellent team work, constant process improvement and refinement as well as diligent coaching and mentoring of our team to be the best.  During my job at the plasma center, I started to figure out the work/life balance stuff and took the time to find and join a Faith Community.  While attending my church orientation, I met a lovely woman who later asked me to take her job as the Parish Nurse Coordinator of a 5,000-member church in downtown Fargo.  This is where I was able to really develop my skills in the intentional care of the spirit and holistic nursing.  I served there for only 18 months before my husband and I decided to relocate due to his job as a helicopter mechanic.  This led me to Brighton Hospice where I served 12 residents and families of Gianna Homes over the course 18 months.  I knew the moment I entered the doors, this was a special place with a special staff.  When I was approached for the opportunity to join the team, I knew that each individual role as a nurse has perfectly prepared me for the work of the DON at Gianna Homes and I joyfully said “yes” to the call.


What is your philosophy of care and relationship with your patients look like?


My philosophy of care developed in a very small hospital in Hettinger North Dakota.  My grandmother, Granny, was chronically ill through my high school and college years.   Some of the staff would refer to her as “honey and sweetie” and it drove both of us up the wall.  Because if you knew my Granny, neither of those pet names were a fit.  Ha! The woman the staff saw and the woman I saw were very different.  They saw a frail old lady, who didn’t talk much, who was hard of hearing and confused because they treated her as such.  And they were wrong.  She was a stoic and loving Granny of few words and my very best friend with more than adequate hearing.

It was in those long days sitting at her bedside, I developed the philosophy that you care for the individual person outside of their disease and honor them accordingly.  As the parish nurse, this theme was affirmed when I took the BeFriender’s Ministry Training.  The principles taught in this ministry changed how I saw the world and how I interact with the people in it.  Two of the key principles include listening and understanding from the other person’s perspective and being full present focused on caring when attending to a client’s needs.


One of the things that attracted me to you was your ongoing education in holistic approaches to nursing care. Tell us how this will affect how you care for our residents here at Gianna Homes?

Somewhere along the way, a division was created in how we care for people creating a segmented approach to health care.  We trust hospitals and doctors to take care of our bodies, expect faith communities and the church to help care for our spirit and trust counselors and mental health professionals to help us with emotional and mental health.  The problem with this is that the mind, body and spirit all impact our overall health.  And when we fail to see the correlation between them, optimal health cannot be achieved.  I have been trained in two modalities, aromatherapy and healing touch that impact all three areas of health simultaneously.  I think this approach will help our residents reach a higher quality of life.


Part of your holistic approach is your passion for aromatherapy. How will you be incorporating this modality into resident care plans and share some of the research that supports positive outcomes for our dear residents?

One of the biggest misconceptions with the use of aromatherapy in care of those with dementia is that they have lost their ability to smell, so how can aromatherapy possibly be beneficial.  The ability to perceive a smell or recall a memory associated with the smell may be impacted, however it comes down to the chemistry of the essential oil and the associated healing properties.  All of those molecules that give the plant their healing properties are still absorbed through the skin or inhaled into respiratory system creating a biochemical change which leads relaxation, pain relief, alleviation of nausea, and more. Jane Buckle is a leader in the use of aromatherapy for an intended outcome or purpose in a clinical setting (clinical aromatherapy).  Her chapter on Alzheimer’s and Dementia lists several studies in which the use of aromatherapy helped decrease anxiety and agitation as well as prevent falls.  As I continue to transition into the role, I will work with staff on practical uses of aromatherapy with our residents.


A large part of a Director of Nursing role is managing and supporting our Resident Assistants. What is your approach to team and staff development and where do you see us in the next couple years? I think my skills in holistic care and my philosophy of care discussed above transfers into my leadership style.  I worked as a CNA in a memory care during college, so I know firsthand what it takes to do the job and what it takes to do the job well.  I also know that it’s not an easy job some days.  So I am a very hands on leader and mentor.  I like to educate staff every opportunity I can get as well as jump in and help where it’s needed.  I think that being fully present to staff and building trust and relationships is vital in the success as a team.  My goal is to help our team feel supported and cared for, just as our residents and families are cared for.  This will allow them to give the best they have every day, only increasing the quality of care to our residents.  In time, the word will spread that Gianna Homes offers not only exceptional care for residents, but it’s a premier place to work.

Tell us how you find work- life- balance?


Work-life balance is something I had to learn the hard way after I experienced burnout while working as a hospice nurse early in my career.  I failed to understand that my chosen profession does not define me as a person.  When you let go of your work being your total identity, you are able to find balance. I am a high energy person, and have learned that if I don’t find ways to expend that energy, it will manifest itself in not so productive ways like anxiety and irritability.  Let me tell you, my husband was very grateful when I figured this out and learned to channel this energy into a punching bag four times a week (literally and not metaphorically).  So, exercise is an important aspect in helping me stay balanced. The other way I stay balanced in with quality time with my husband.  After living apart for 7 years of our marriage, we discovered we genuinely liked each other and have a lot of fun together.  We particularly like to ride our motorcycle on long day trips or cross country.  We are planning a road trip to Nashville to see our favorite singer, Gary Allen in June.  This will be the 5th time and third state we have seen him in.  So, yes I am a nurse and a caregiver.  But I am also a fun loving, adventure seeking, motorcycle riding, Gary Allen groupie, a super cool auntie who loves my dogs, Sioux Hockey, wine, and the occasional Teen Mom reality TV show.

Gianna logoIf you would like information on how Gianna Homes can help you and your loved one, please reach out to Cari via her direct dial at 952-443-6113 or email or visit our website to learn more about us!

If you are searching for more general information about Alzheimer’s please feel free to begin here.

Are you new to the world of memory loss? Please refer to the Alzheimer’s Association (a non-profit helping people around the country and their loved one’s find assistance when learning about memory loss) for additional articles and helpful information.

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