Meet Patient Advocate & Transitions Coach Karen Sanders

Blue Ridge Parkway by Marc Czarnecki

Blue Ridge Parkway by Marc Czarnecki

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there are only walls.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Educational Background


I hold a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. I am also a Registered Nurse in North Carolina (expiration date December 31, 2021).

Current and Previous Certifications

  • Advanced Holistic Nurse, Board Certified, 2019 to 2024
  • Health and Wellness Nurse Coach, Board Certified, 2018 to 2023
  • Certified Holistic Stress Management Instructor with Paramount Wellness Institute, May 2012 to the present
  • Healing Touch Level 1 and 2 in Asheville, North Carolina, 2008 and 2009

RN Patient Advocate Karen Sanders

Awards and Recognitions

In the past I have been honored with the following distinguished awards:

  • YWCA Tribute to Women in Industry Award (TWIN) Honoree – 1998
  • American Heart Association, BCLS Instructor Trainer, Memorial Mission Hospital, Asheville, North Carolina – 1988 to 1998
  • Leadership Asheville Graduate, Asheville, North Carolina – 1995
  • Great 100 Award for Nursing Excellence in  North Carolina – August 1995
  • Certified in Nursing Administration, Advanced, American Nurses Association – 1991 to 1996
  • Inducted Sigma Theta Tau, Alpha Alpha Chapter, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina – 1982

I also have professional memberships in the following organizations:

  • Aging LifeCare Association (ALCA) – 2019 to present
  • American Holistic Nursing Association (AHNA) – 2006 to present
  • Fellow with the Kaiser Institute Intuition in Healthcare – 2006-2007
  • Western North Carolina Medical Managers Association – 2005 to 2007
  • North Carolina Nurses Association – 1989 to present  (previous past President NCNA District #1: 1990 to 1992; Board Member NCNA District #1 – 1992 to 1994; Program Co-Chair NCNA District #1 – 1994 to 1995)
  • North Carolina Organization of Nurse Executives District #1 – 1989 to 1991

Nursing Experience

In 1975, I began my nursing career as a Staff Nurse on a 40-bed Medical floor, with a 4-bed Stepdown Unit, at the Medical College of Virginia Hospital in Richmond, VA.  In 1977, I was promoted to an Assistant Head Nurse in an 8-bed Medical Intensive care Unit also at the Medical College of Virginia. In 1980, I worked as a part-time Staff Nurse in the Critical Care Flex Pool at the University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC, while attending grad school. In 1982, I started my management career as Head Nurse of an 8-bed Medical Intensive Care Unit at the VA Medical Center, in Durham, NC., and then transferred to the Medical Intensive Care Unit as a Staff Nurse at Duke University Hospital in 1983. In 1984, I moved to Charlottesville to become the Head Nurse of a 16-bed Medical Intensive Care Unit at the University of Virginia Hospital.   From 1985 to 1986, I served as the Administrative Coordinator of the Neurology Special Care Unit and General Neurology Unit also at the University of Virginia Hospital.

In 1986 I moved to the Asheville region and I began my almost 30-year track record of serving the Western North Carolina community in a wide variety of capacities. I held all of the following positions between 1986 and the present:

    • Director, Nursing Education, and Outreach at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina – 1986 to 1990 (started Nurse Internship program at Mission Hospital in 1986; started Nurse Preceptor Program in 1987)
    • Director of Critical Care Nursing at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina – 1988 to 1990
    • Director of Medical/Surgical Nursing at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina – 1990 to 1992
    • Medical/Surgical Clinical Nurse Specialist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina – 1992
    • HBOC Clinipac Instructor in the Department of Nursing Education at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina –  1993 to 1994
    • Case Management Program Director at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina – 1994 to 1998.
    • Director of Clinical Informatics and the Integrated Clinical Information System at Mission St. Joseph’s in Asheville, North Carolina – 1998 to 2002
    • Clinical Team Director at Thoms Medical Rehab Unit at Mission Hospital, Thoms Rehabilitation Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina – December 2002 to 2003
    • Practice Administrator at Asheville Radiology Associates’ Carolina Vascular, Asheville, NC – 2004-2007
    • Director of Acute Care Services and Healing Arts at Transylvania Regional Hospital, Brevard, North Carolina – 2008 to 2014
    • Adjunct Nursing Faculty and Clinical Coordinator, South College, Asheville, North Carolina – 2015 to 2018
    • RN Patient Advocacy NC PLLC, Asheville, North Carolina – Founder / Owner 2016 to present
    • Karen Sanders Transitions Coaching, Asheville, North Carolina – Founder / Owner, 2016 to present
    • Holistic RN Patient Advocacy Training Institute, Founder / Owner, 2019 to present

Coaching Experience

Karen holding a painting of the “Phoenix Nurses”

Karen holding a painting of the “Phoenix Nurses”

In 2006 I began to work more frequently in the world of education and coaching. This was a way to take all of my nursing experience and help work to make the healthcare system more compassionate, effective, and successful for healthcare professions and patients. I served as:

  • Instructor for the North Carolina Board of Nursing as an Instructor for the Ethical /Legal Decision-Making Course – 2006 to present
  • Faculty Assistant at the Wisdom of the Whole Coaching Academy – September 2013 to 2019
  • Adjunct Nursing Faculty at South College, Asheville, NC – January 2015 to 2018

Speaking and Publications

  • Holistic RN Patient Advocacy Training Institute, October 7, 2020 through April 30, 2021.
  • “Becoming an Informed Consumer/Advocate for Your Healthcare.” UNCA OLLI – University of North Carolina Asheville Osher Lifelong Learning Institute:  September 21, 2020 -November 9, 2020.
  • “Nurse Coaching for the Orthopaedic Patient.” Carolina Mountain NAON (National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses) Conference at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Asheville, NC:  October 26, 2020.
  • “Stress Management, Coping and Relaxation Strategies.”  Nurse Wellness Retreat, North Carolina Nurses Association webinar.  June 26, 2020.
  • “The Physiology of Stress and Coping and Relaxation Skills.”  Wisdom of the Whole Coaching Academy, “Healthy Lifestyle Basics Course.”  January, 2020.
  • “Strategies and Tips on How to be Your Best Advocate in Healthcare Situations.”  Fab Friday Healthcare Lectures, UNCA OLLI – University of North Carolina Asheville Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  November 1, 2019.
  • “Panelist – AARP Panel Discussion:  The Power to Heal;  AARP Event.” UNCA OLLI – University of North Carolina Asheville, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  May 22, 2019.
  • “Letting Go of Stress.” North Carolina Nurses Association Mountain Region.  Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Asheville, NC.  March 19, 2019.
  • Becoming an Informed Consumer/Advocate when using the Healthcare System.” UNCA OLLI – University of North Carolina Asheville Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: September-October, 2018; June 11 – July 9, 2018; January 8 -February 8, 2018.
  • “Advocating for Self as a Patient.” UNCA OLLI – January 25 – February 15, 2017.
  • “Journeying through the Challenges of Living and Dying.” UNCA OLLI – June 15 – July 6, 2017.
  • “Self-care Strategies for Seniors/Elders.” UNCA OLLI – January 13 – February 3, 2017.
  • “Self-care Strategies for Seniors.” UNCA OLLI – June 13 –  July 11, 2017
  • “Letting Go of Stress: Strategies for Self Care.” Mountain Area Health Education Center Winter Virtual Nursing Grand Rounds, Asheville, NC:   Module 3 – March 1- 29, 2016.
  • “Professional Issues in Nursing” and “Adult Health” Courses  – Lectured in the Department of Nursing, South College, Asheville, NC, April 5, 2015 to present, Multiple presentations included, but not limited to, Nursing Leadership and Management, Effective Delegation, Supervision, Staffing and Nursing Care Delivery Models , Paying for Health Care in America, Legal and Ethical Issues in Nursing, the Nursing Shortage, and several other lectures.
  • “Phoenix Nurses: A Path to Renewal.” Beginnings, 33 (5) – October, 2013, 10-12
  •  “Using the Enneagram Personality System to assess conflict styles in the Intensive Care Unit,” Functioned as Nurse Planner to submit Contact Hour Approval documents to the North Carolina Nurses Association to bring in nationally recognized speaker on the Enneagram Personality System, Sandra Smith, M.Div. – September 22, 2014, and October 6, 2014
  • “Essential Oils Competency Blitz for RNs and Certified Nursing Assistants” Transylvania Regional Hospital Annual Skills Lab – September 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011
  • “Mastering the Art of Getting Hired” Nursing Department, South College, August 10, 2013
  • “TRH Healing Arts Program” Presented at Food Matters Market, Brevard, NC – February 2013.
  • “Letting Go of Stress: Strategies for Self Care in the Hospital Setting” Transylvania Regional Hospital, Brevard, NC – March 16, 2013
  • “An Overview of Holistic Nursing and Evidence-Based Complementary Therapies in the Healthcare Setting” Nursing Department, South College, June 2013
  • “Self-Care Strategies for Nursing Staff While at Work” Emergency Department Skills Lab Transylvania Regional Department – October 10, 2012
  • “Teaching Essential Skills and Knowledge: Prioritizing, Organizing and Making Clinical Judgments” Transylvania Regional Hospital Brevard, NC – July 31, 2012
  • “Lessons Learned in Teaching the Legal-Ethical Decision-Making Course.” North Carolina Board of Nursing, Raleigh, NC, March 5, 2012.
  • “Protocol for the Application of Essential Oils” Transylvania Regional Hospital Brevard, NC – February 2012
  • “Implementing Code Lavender at Transylvania Regional Hospital” Leadership Meeting, Transylvania Regional Hospital Brevard, NC – September 11, 2012
  • “Self-Care Strategies for Care Givers” KOALA Adult Day Care Brevard, NC – July 2012
  • “Stress Management for Self Care at Work” Nursing Staff, Transylvania Regional Hospital, Brevard, NC – April 2011
  • “Dessert with the Docs: Transylvania Regional Hospital’s Healing Arts Program” Transylvania Regional Hospital – April 2011
  • “A Nurse Driven Protocol for the Application of Essential Oils” Chief Nursing Officers Regional Meeting, Transylvania Regional Hospital – May 2011
  • “The Art of Precepting” Presented to Clinical Nurse Preceptors Transylvania Regional Hospital – May 2011
  • “TRH Holistic Nursing Practice and Healing Arts Program: Competency-Based” Transylvania Regional Hospital Brevard, NC – February 1-3, 2011
  • “Outpatient Nursing Department Presentation on the utilization of Essential Oils” Transylvania Regional Hospital Brevard, NC – July 13, 2010
  • “Transylvania Regional Hospital Falls Prevention Program for Med/Surg ICU, and SDU” Quality Committee of the Transylvania Regional Hospital Board – May 2010
  • “Transylvania Regional Hospital’s Healing Arts Program” Poppies Market, Brevard, NC – March 2010
  • “Implementation of Essential Oils, Healing Touch and Reiki in Med/Surg and ICU”3-hour workshops for all nursing staff in Med/Surg, ICU, SDU Transylvania Regional Hospital Brevard, NC – August 5 and 6, 2009
  • “Using Wisdom Circles to Create, Connect, and Facilitate Healing in Two Healthcare Communities” Presented at the American Holistic Nursing Association’s Annual Conference in Lake Tahoe – June 8, 2008
  • “Inspirational Places Where Holistic Nurses Practice.” Beginnings, 28 (2 ) – Spring, 2008, 22-24
  • “Implementing the Integrated Clinical Information System at MSJ using the Cerner Electronic Health Record” Multiple presentations to Department Leadership, Senior Leadership, and Medical Staff Meetings, Mission Health System  – 2000 to 2002.