Karen C. Sanders

RN Patient Advocate 
Holistic Transitions Coach

Karen has been working in nursing and healthcare since 1975; beginning as a Staff Nurse, growing through multiple positions as Director/Administrator, and culminating at the level of Director of Acute Care Services and the Healing Arts Program at Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard, NC. She is currently serving as Adjunct Nursing Faculty at South College in Asheville, NC, an Instructor for the NC Board of Nursing, Faculty Assistant for Wisdom of the Whole Coaching Academy, as well as speaker and lecturer at many other venues.

Having been born with a gift for understanding and navigating through darkness, Karen is able to, and has a deep passion for supporting others as they deal with crises and life challenges. A nurse is in this position when the demands of work and life become overwhelming. A patient or their family faces this when in pain and can’t, or doesn’t know how to, get the care they need.

As a Holistic Transitions Coach to Nurses, she understands and has deep compassion for the challenges of offering support to patients in crisis while dealing with the undervaluation of nursing and walking through your own life challenges. Her approach to coaching involves helping you understand the connection between mind, body, spirit and emotions to awaken the best of Who You Are and to help you step into the signature of your own soul.

“I am stepping into the signature of my soul by working as an RN Patient Advocate and a Holistic Transitions Coach.”

My Story

As the oldest of five children, I grew up in an abusive and chaotic household.  My alcoholic father physically abused my mother.  When he beat her while she was lying on the floor,  my sisters and I would encircle my mother on the floor screaming and crying as loud as we could to make him stop.  My father left the household when I was 13 and never paid child support leaving my mother, who was also a nurse, to care for 5 children at home by herself.  We were evicted from apartments, and rental houses, sometimes with no electricity or water.  When I was 17 and a senior in high school, my mother started having auditory hallucinations and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.  She was arrested, placed in handcuffs, and admitted to a state mental hospital and all five children were sent to live in separate homes with other family members.  On some deep intuitive level,  I knew that the only way out of this chaos was to go to college.

Friends and family helpers started appearing in my life to help me, an overwhelmed, frightened and anxious teenager, gain admission to our local university.  I flunked out of college in my sophomore year and got a job working full-time and then part-time, at the university library doing a variety of jobs including typing thousands of book library cards for the card catalog, assisting reference librarians, and circulation staff to help hundreds of students check out and return books.  While in college, my sister, Anne, was also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and I had to work with she and my mother during their chronic readmissions to psychiatric facilities because they did not take their anti-psychotic medications.   I graduated from Nursing school after 6 years of college.  I was without a car during the entire time I was a student.  I had to continually ask friends and fellow students, helpers,  for rides to and from my clinical nursing rotations.  I rode my bike to and from school every day except for clinical rotations.

Were it not for the extreme kindness of friends, family, strangers, my helpers,  I would have never graduated from Old Dominion University with a BS degree in Nursing.   These early chaotic life experiences shaped and underpinned my dream and decision to own my own business as a full-time Holistic RN Patient Advocate helping patients and families navigate our dysfunctional, silo-driven, technologically impossible, fearful healthcare environment.  It is my great spiritual work to be a helper to those who are frightened, overwhelmed and anxious when using the healthcare system.

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 Float 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 35 year track record of serving the Western North Carolina community in a wide variety of healthcare 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 (now CarePartners) 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 2015 to present
    • Karen Sanders Transitions Coaching, Asheville, North Carolina – Founder / Owner, 2015 to present
    • Holistic RN Patient Advocacy Training Institute, Founder / Owner, 2019 to present
Coaching Experience
Helping You Get Started

Karen holding a painting of the “Phoenix Nurse”

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 serve and served as:

  • Nurse Coach and RN Patient Advocate in private practice working with patients and families navigate the dysfunctional, silo-driven, technologically impaired Healthcare System, 2015 to present.
  • Nurse Coach in private practice working with Nurses seeking help to make positive steps in changing their careers and working conditions to places where they can do their great soul work.
  • Instructor for the North Carolina Board of Nursing teaching the Ethical /Legal Decision-Making Course for disciplined nurses in North Carolina – 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
Awards & Recognition

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 – 1995/1996
  • 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
    Professional Memberships
    • Aging LifeCare Association (ALCA) – 2019 to present
    • American Holistic Nursing Association (AHNA) – 2006 to present; Blue Ridge Chapter of the American Holistic Nursing Association, 2021 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
    • League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County, Asheville, NC, Vice President, 2006-2007; Member 2001 -2007.
    Current & 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
    Speaking & Publications
    • Holistic RN Patient Advocacy Training Institute, 5 Month Courses implemented to train Registered Nurses, from all over the country,  to “Start Your Own RN Patient Advocacy Business,” October 7, 2019 to present.  We are currently teaching the 8th cohort of the Holistic RN Patient Advocacy Training Institute (February, 2024 through June, 2024)
    • “Becoming an Informed Consumer/Advocate for Your Healthcare” 6 to 8 week courses, offered twice per year,  UNCA OLLI – University of North Carolina, Asheville, NC,  Osher Lifelong Learning Institute:  January, 2017 to present.  Weekly 2 hour lectures with 6-8 guest presenters speaking to different settings in healthcare where advocacy is vital.
    • “Less Stress, More Peace of Mind: Holistic Self-Care Strategies for Nurses.” Zoom North Carolina Nurses Association Webinar, March 26, 2021.
    • “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.”  Zoom 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.
    • “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 December 2018. 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.

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