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Bringing Serenity to the Front Lines

Nurse anesthetist CoryAnn Kleinhaus ’12 serves on the front lines of COVID-19 care, where she strives to focus on the humanity of each patient and bring the serenity of faith to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

June 10, 2020 | 2 p.m.

CoryAnn Kleinhaus

CoryAnn Kleinhaus ’12 serves as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to at least one positive development: a new respect and appreciation for healthcare’s frontline workers. And as a nurse anesthetist at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, CoryAnn Kleinhaus ’12 is one of those dedicated professionals. A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CNRA), she’s an advanced practice nurse who graduated from Bethel’s nursing program, then went on to earn a graduate degree in anesthesia. At Methodist, she provides anesthesia for specialty surgeries and also serves on the intubation team. In that role, she responds to codes in the emergency room, intensive care unit, and other areas, inserting breathing tubes for seriously ill patients, including patients with COVID-19. The procedure is high risk for the medical team, but Kleinhaus chooses to focus on the needs and humanity of the patient instead. “We see very ill COVID-19 patients, many elderly,” she says. “And each one is a person. Each one has a family, friends, and a personal story. I try to remember that as I care for them.”

The emotional toll of frontline patient care can be significant. “It can bring up a lot of difficult emotions as I wonder if I’ll be the last person a patient will see if they don’t recover,” she says. “It’s a heavy thought, but it’s important so that I don’t dehumanize them. I feel honored that I get to be with people at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. Our hospital has had really amazing success rates for recovery, but that doesn’t negate the toll of being a frontline worker.” 

Kleinhaus says Bethel gave her a strong foundation for the nursing career she loves. “I’m honestly so grateful for my education at Bethel,” she says. “I not only had an amazing education that equipped me for my career, but I made lasting friendships with my classmates and professors. Bethel’s professors were not only enthusiastic and knowledgeable, but they really made me believe in myself. I remember on graduation day, one of the nursing professors came up to me and said, ‘Let me know where you go to grad school,’ even though I had never thought about a post-baccalaureate degree. I realized she believed this wasn’t the end of my journey, and I’m so glad she encouraged me to continue on my educational path.”

And that path has led to unexpected places. In March, just before the coronavirus shutdown, Kleinhaus and her husband Michael launched an IT app company called Green Circle Initiatives, with a goal of using technology to help people connect more to themselves and others. Their original plan was to release a travel app, but during the app’s development, a close friend of theirs died. Their grief—and their desire to deal with it—led them to create an emotional wellbeing app instead. The app, called “As Well,” helps users connect with their emotions and know they’re not alone in experiencing them. The couple released the app at the same time as COVID-19 began emerging in the U.S., and Kleinhaus credits God for the timing. “Our travel app would have been a total bust,” she says, “but instead we ended up releasing an app that’s incredibly timely for all the emotions and isolation people are experiencing. I just have to pause and say to God, ‘You knew this the whole time—thank You.’” 

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Kleinhaus says that being a nurse has taught her a great deal about the mystery of faith. “It involves a lot more surrendering to God than we’d like to think,” she says. “And yet we’ve been given power and influence in this world. It’s accepting that we have this influence, AND we have to relinquish our control of outcomes.” To remind herself to do this, Kleinhaus frequently recalls the words of the “serenity prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr, which she first read in its entirety in a patient’s room in the intensive care unit. Now, she says, the uncertainty of the pandemic regularly brings the prayer to mind:

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time;

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

taking, as Jesus did,

this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it;

trusting that You will make all things right

if I surrender to Your will;

so that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

Study nursing at Bethel.

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