Service experience pushes Amber Karsian to raise the bar for patient care

Amber Karsian had years on the job as a nurse, but when a service learning trip to Ethiopia placed her in a hospital without blood pressure cuffs, medicine and other tools essential to her work, she didn’t know what to do – at first.

But being there when they’ve stripped all that away was a good reminder that there’s tons of stuff that we can do, even if we don’t have the equipment to do it,” she said.

The 2009 trip, taken while Karsian was studying for her master’s degree in Regis’ Family Nurse Practitioner program, helped her refocus on the many ways she can care for patients. It also lit a fire under Karsian in her effort to institute a vascular access team at Denver Health Medical Center where she works. The specialty team, available 24 hours a day, is made up of nurses with expertise in placing IVs. The goals were simple: Decrease injuries from too many needle sticks and increase patient satisfaction.

“For a long time we were told we didn’t have it because we didn’t have the resources,” Karsian said as the strength of her passion for patient care brought tears to her eyes. “We couldn’t afford to have an IV team and my point was we couldn’t afford not to have an IV team because people are getting hurt.“

It took three years of research, planning, budgeting and educating decision makers, but Karsian secured funding to start the program in 2012. As a result, she recently was awarded the Denver Health Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year award and was nominated for a Florence Nightingale award.

She’s grateful for the life-changing service learning opportunity and more generally for her Regis experience that bolstered her abilities as a change agent.

“I learned a lot about living an intentional life … and the importance of kindness, listening and collaborating, and how far you can get with your goals when that is your method of working with people,” she said.

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