Member Spotlight: Randi Steensgaard
Randi Steensgaard received her Bachelor degree in nursing at the Nursing School of Aarhus, Denmark and her Master of Health Science-Nursing degree at Deakin University in Australia. She is presently a doctoral (PhD) candidate at the Faculty of Health at Aarhus University. She has been working at the Spinal Cord Injury Centre of Western Denmark in Viborg, Denmark since 2006. She has been a member of ISCoS since 2014. She currently serves on the ISCoS Education Committee and the SCI Nurse Committee. She is also a member of the International Network of SCI Nurses and the Nordic Spinal Cord Society (NoSCoS). She is co-founder of NutriNord_SCI, which is a special interest group of NoSCoS. Through her career, she has presented extensively at meetings in Denmark and internationally.
How did you become interested in the field of spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation?
It was actually by coincidence. I was previously working in geriatric rehabilitation, but when I mowed to Viborg, I applied for a temporary job at the Spinal Cord Injury Centre of Western Denmark and got it. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was fascinated by the opportunities for better care, rehabilitation and treatment when working together as a team, focusing on the entire health situation of the patient. I only planned to be employed by the Spinal Cord Injury Centre of Western Denmark for a short period of time, because I planned to obtain a Master’s degree. However, as soon as I met the patients and experienced how meaningful the work was, I decided to stay a bit longer. That was in 2006.
What have been your main areas of interest within the field of SCI care and nursing?
SCI nursing is complex and covers many important biopsychosocial areas. As a clinical nurse specialist, I have worked in the education and competence development of nurses and other health professionals on many different topics. Amongst others, I have done projects on wound prevention and healing, bladder and bowel care and nutrition. In recent years, my interest has been on knowledge development and sharing across centres within Denmark and in the Nordic Countries. As an example, a group of inter-professional colleagues from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, created a Nordic initiative called NutriNord_SCI, which has the aim of exchanging and discussing research, challenges, experiences and knowledge on SCI and nutrition. We aim to improve the knowledge of consumers and health professionals on nutrition topics in SCI, particularly focusing on the prevention of obesity after SCI.
An example of what we have been working on is the development and dissemination of a brochure with information on how to be in control of weight or to change lifestyle in small steps to achieve sustainable weight loss or to at least prevent weight gain. The small, well-illustrated brochure, mainly written by Anna-Carin Lagerström, PT, MSc, Spinalis, was embedded in NutriNord_SCI. It has now been published in five languages.
Nevertheless, what has captured my interest the most is the overall aim of rehabilitation: the support of the patient to achieve maximum autonomy, independence and function, and to attain a meaningful life after SCI. Patient participation and rehabilitation adjusted to the patient’s wishes, needs and beliefs is of great importance to the success of rehabilitation. My wish is to contribute to the scientific knowledge about how we, as health professionals, can contribute to this effort.
What are you studying in your pursuit of a PhD?
My main interest within the field of SCI nursing care is ensuring that the patient’s perspective is taken into account when rehabilitation is planned and provided. This means that every clinical pathway should be adjusted to and encompass the valued elements of a person’s life in light of their disability.
For my PhD, I’ve been working with a group of nurses to develop and test four nursing initiatives aimed at supporting patient participation in rehabilitation so the person can attain a meaningful life after SCI. The wish for participation varies from person to person, but it also varies during the process of rehabilitation. Therefore, it is important to constantly reconsider how to support the patient’s ability and strength to participate. The four nursing initiatives have different characteristics but overall they originate form dialogues and aim at bringing the patient’s routines, wishes, concerns and needs to the center of rehabilitation. In this sense patients are not to fit into our rehabilitation program. With the four initiatives we wish to provide rehabilitation adjusted to the person’s life. I plan to hand in and defend my PhD in the spring of 2020.
How did you become involved with ISCoS?
The first time I attended an ISCoS Annual Scientific Meeting was in Maastricht in 2014. I had a poster presentation and was very happy for the opportunity to present this to the international community. In addition to the attainment of new knowledge, I especially enjoyed meeting committed colleagues from all over the world. Over the years, I have been so fortunate to meet so many more inspirational nurses and other health professionals. Thanks to Fiona Stephens and Debbie Green, I was given an opportunity to become a part of the SCI Nurse Committee. My latest involvement in ISCoS is in the ISCoS Education Committee. I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to take part of this committee’s important work. It is my wish to contribute to the development of SCI rehabilitation, not only in Denmark, but around the world, and especially in places that have fewer resources.
Please tell us about the Nordic Spinal Cord Society (NoSCoS).
NoSCoS is an association of SCI rehabilitation professionals in the Nordic countries, i.e., Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. NoSCoS is affiliated with ISCoS, and participates in its activities as a regional representative for these countries. Wolfram Antepohl, MD, PhD is the current president (2017-2019). He initiated the possibility of establishing special interest groups, which was approved at the general meeting of NoSCoS in 2017. Consequently, we have now established two special interest groups. They are inter-professional working groups with specific areas of interest. One of the groups is NutriNord_SCI, which I mentioned earlier, and the other group, initiated by Wolfram Antepohl, has developed and implemented a Nordic advanced SCI rehabilitation course in collaboration with the Gothenburg Competence Center for SCI and Gothenburg University, Sweden. I have had the privilege of working with skilled colleagues in both groups. I cannot conceal my enthusiasm about NoSCoS and the great possibilities of working closely together on practice-oriented areas of SCI rehabilitation.
I see a huge potential in NoSCoS as well as in ISCoS to collaborate, not only in research, but also in education and development of the field. For instance, Line Dalsgaard, nurse specialist, my close colleague at the department of Spinal Cord Injuries, Rigshospitalet Copenhagen, and I have established a Nordic network of SCI nurses. We hope this will provide a network for nurses where they can share knowledge and seek advice from their fellow nurses.
The ISCoS committees do a great job. In my opinion, their work could be supplemented with networks, more or less formalized, who aim at disseminating important knowledge via interprofessional colleagues around the world. The interprofessional colleagues may not all be scientists or leaders, but as skilled and committed health professionals, they can play an influential and significant role. We should aim at mobilizing them – then we can really move SCI rehabilitation to a higher level.