Sanford nurse a bridge-builder for cancer patients, veterans

Kayla Teneyck helps patients navigate cancer diagnoses while also serving in the National Guard

Sanford nurse a bridge-builder for cancer patients, veterans

It could be said that nurses are the bridge between a patient and their doctor. They interact with both parties on a regular basis, and can help each one understand the other.

“I joked for a long time, but it’s true: Nurses have been translating for doctors for hundreds of years,” Sanford RN Kayla Teneyck said with a laugh.

In that respect, Teneyck is an ideal nurse. Not only does she build metaphorical bridges as a nurse navigator in Sanford Bismarck’s oncology department, but she has also built bridges — quite literally — as a 20+ year veteran of the National Guard.

“I’m currently a major and I am currently in the state medical detachment. So I’m currently working as a nurse in the Guard,” Teneyck said.

Duty calls

When she first enlisted in May of 2000, Teneyck chose the bridge building unit in part because it was based in Bismarck. That meant she could spend her two weeks each summer with the Guard, building bridges on the Missouri River and training close to home.

“I have grown up on the river and have been on the river my whole life,” said Teneyck. “So I was like, ‘if I have to do something where I’m away from that for two weeks, I wanna be close to water. ‘Cause if it’s gonna be hot, I wanna be cool.’”

Soon after though, she found herself in the Middle East, building bridges on the Iraq-Syria border.

“We built it on Veterans Day of 2003. We built a bridge out there. So that was pretty awesome that we got to actually like build a bridge in a theater of operation,” Teneyck said.

Continuing to serve

After her first tour of duty, Teneyck would graduate from nursing school, but her military service didn’t come to an end. She recommitted to the Guard and became a nurse in the 814th Area Support Medical Company.

She would go back overseas time and again, including goodwill missions to Ghana and Congo, as well as another deployment to Afghanistan in 2014.

“My experiences at the hospital have helped me soldier. My experience as a soldier then helped me at the hospital. So they kind of like build on each other,” said Teneyck.

Bridging the gap

Now this veteran nurse continues to serve, both in the National Guard, as well as at Sanford Health.

“You can truly tell that Sanford loves their veterans. I mean, every time I walk out in the front of our facility, it makes my heart smile, because they have every one of the service flags up in the front. And I hope that other veterans when they come here also feel that.”

Kayla Teneyck may no longer be in the 957 Multi-Role Bridge Company. But those practical skills still serve her well whether she’s taking care of military patients or civilian ones.

“Nursing is huge because it literally is the bridge between patients and providers,” said Teneyck. “A majority of times people have never stepped foot into a health care facility and then they get cancer and then they get a complete entire world that they’ve never navigated through, and so we just help with that and just make it less scary.

“We help them navigate those waters until they get to a place where they can take the reins back over,” she said.

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Posted In Bismarck, Nursing and Nursing Support, Sanford Stories, Veterans