This Gal Has Had A Moving Career
Kristine Sedra was and is a travelin’ gal, to put it mildly. In her 24 years as a professional caregiver, she has, by her count, “worked in 37 emergency departments in 12 states.” That averages out to just over one-and-a-half new locations every year. “I have to write them down, because I don’t remember them all myself,” she admits, with a touch of awe in her voice.
That’s not to say that Kristine can’t hold a job. Her job was, for many years, to move around—under contract—going where her nursing services were needed. And nurses are needed pretty much everywhere.
She was born in Two Harbors, Minnesota, on Lake Superior in the mining region north of Duluth: “one stoplight, a big lighthouse, and the Ore Docks, where I’d go down and watch the ships come in when I was a kid. It’s a fun little town.” she says. Her dad, Charles Amesbury, was a carpenter and lumberman, her mom, Marie, a nursing assistant who later became a pharmaceutical technician.
“I grew up across the street from a funeral home, and I wanted to become a mortician,” Kristine says. “I became friends with the owner’s children, and I thought it was really neat that they were there for grieving families. But after I got into high school, I realized I wanted to take care of the living more than the dead.” At Two Harbors High School she liked the science courses, especially anything health-related. “I took advanced placement courses in chemistry and physiology, and at one point I took a competency test, which indicates what you’d be most successful in, and nursing was off the charts.”
That helped her settle her sights on nursing.
Kristine was an honors student at Two Harbors. “I put my studies first,” she says. “My family was not very affluent, so I knew I’d have to get some scholarships to go to college.” She got enough to get started at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. “Then I worked part-time while I was in college. I became a nursing assistant like my mother was. St. Scholastica is rated as one of the top schools, and it’s tough to get into. It was a lot of work for sure. It was an expensive education, and I’m still paying for it 25 years later.”
She graduated with honors in 1996 with a bachelor of science degree in nursing. “I just love nursing,” she says. “I love being in the field. When I started my clinicals I thought I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse, but I like variety. I liked learning something new and trying new things. One of my very first jobs was in the ER in Two Harbors, which is basically two stretchers attached to a nursing home. It was a really tiny rural ER, and I loved it. You didn’t know what was going to come through the door. It was intriguing to me, and it was a lot of fun to work with the professionals in that little ER.”
For the first five years of her career, Kristine was a “float nurse” at St. Luke’s Hospital, a level two trauma center in Duluth. That meant she was part of a pool of nurses who could be called upon by the hospital to go wherever she was needed at the moment. “Some of the time I worked internal float pool, which was all the general floors. But most of my shifts I spent in the ER, and I really enjoyed the variety of it. I became part of that family. Especially in the ER it’s very family-oriented, because you witness some really bad things, and you’re together as a team, and you build a camaraderie that you don’t have on the other floors. You’re dealing with life and death, and it’s a way of coping, especially when you have a pediatric case or when you have a situation that went bad and you didn’t anticipate it. It’s hard. Every death is hard. It’s just a way for us to cling together and tap into our humanity and be able to cope. You know when somebody is having a bad day, and you just grab onto them, get them to take a walk and try to lift their spirits. That’s part of being a family, and you don’t see that so much in other departments.”
After being a float nurse and also a clinical nursing instructor at one of the local technical colleges, Kristine made what could be called a life-changing decision in 2001. She decided to get to know the country she was living in. “I was young, I was single. There were a great many opportunities for travel nursing at the time, so I just sold my house, packed my bags and was a vagabond for about 11 years.” Well, not quite a vagabond. She signed on with a healthcare agency that arranged to supply nurses on temporary assignments in places that had a desperate need for emergency nurses. “My agency would have a pool of jobs in, say, Rutland, Vermont or Anchorage, Alaska. All of the contracts were for about 13 weeks. So I would get a temporary license for that state, pack my bags and just show up. They would have everything ready for me.
“I could go wherever I wanted to. If I wanted to go to Boston for the summer, I’d say, ‘Find me a spot in Boston,’ and they’d find me a spot in Boston. I’d spend my winters in Florida. That’s how I got to know Florida quite a bit, and I knew that I wanted to live in Florida eventually. So I did a lot of contracts in Florida over the winter months. When I’d start my contract I’d have a rental car waiting for me and a fully furnished and paid-for apartment waiting for me. The only thing I had to do was bring my stuff, and I made really good money and had no living expenses. I’d work three days and have four days off every week. So I’d be a tourist in those days off. In the long run, I got paid to travel the country and see some really neat things. It was a sweet ride for 11 years.” Sweet, indeed.
It was at the very beginning of her travel nursing, while she was in Alaska, that she met a man who became very special to her: Karim Sedra. Well, sort of met him. “I met him online, believe it or not, when online dating sites were not yet a thing.” Karim was a paramedic in Canada, looking at starting up a medical company, and the two began chatting about healthcare in the U.S. Over a period of several months they got to know each other a bit more. And right after 9/11, like a scene from “Sleepless in Seattle,” Kristine decided to go to Montreal to meet Karim. “My family thought I was crazy, driving to Canada to meet a total stranger I’d met on the internet,” she recalls. “But I knew after several months of chatting with him that he was just a great human being. He’s been my best friend since 2001.” And her husband since 2007.
The “sweet ride” ended in 2012, when Kristine and Karim moved back to Minnesota to care for her ailing mother. Six months after their arrival, Kristine was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was able to work as an ER nursing supervisor during her treatment and recuperation from cancer, but the two K’s decided to move south in 2017. Five months after they arrived, Kristine hooked on with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), and she has progressed to positions of increasing responsibility in the HCA organization since then: from Emergency Services Nurse Manager at Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee to Associate Director for Emergency Services at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, and now Emergency Services Director at Englewood Community Hospital since April of last year.
Kristine had only been in the HCA system for four months when she was invited to register for their Director Development Program. “It was unexpected,” she says, “but it was nice to be considered, that they thought I had the caliber to be a director after such a short time with them.” After completing the program in April of 2019, she was promoted to the directorship in Englewood—a fortuitous appointment because, as she says, “my plan always was to live on the West Coast of Florida.”
As Emergency Services Director, she considers her main responsibility to be “operational excellence: being safe and making sure that our staff is doing the right thing for our patients and their families.” But it’s not solely the nursing staff, she notes. “A lot of the metrics include our ancillary partners. Maybe you came here in our ambulance. When you come into the emergency room you don’t just see the ER nurse. You see radiology, you get lab work done, you see the provider group. I have to look at the whole scope of activity to make sure that we provide safe, high-quality care for our patients. I look at our ER metrics for laboratory and radiology turnaround times, dealing with the concerns of our EMS providers, handling any complaints that might come up, all the things that touch on the patient’s experience.”
Kristine must be doing her part well, because Englewood Community Hospital consistently earns high grades from the agencies that rate hospital performance. And she’s not done with her professional growth: She’s enrolled in a postgraduate program with Western Governors University to earn a master’s degree in health leadership. “It’s a new program, looking at thinking outside the box, being very creative with healthcare and inspiring us to try new and different things. Are we doing the best we can, or are there better ways?”
Kristine is done with her role as a travel nurse, as sweet as it was. Now she’s looking at a bigger picture. “I want to be at a level where I can really impact the decisions that are being made about best practices,” she avers. Though she may not be moving around, it’s likely that she’ll still be moving … up and up in her profession.
Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person’s background.