Fargo nurse, Air Force vet, finds calling in palliative care

Connection with veteran patients strengthened by her own service

Fargo nurse, Air Force vet, finds calling in palliative care

Kat Carlson has been taking care of people her entire life.

“We lived with my grandparents growing up, and they were pretty old at the time, like their late 80s. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s,” Carlson said. “And it just sort of set my love for caretaking, I think.”

Passion for palliative care

Carlson is a nurse and a clinical care leader at Sanford Fargo, specializing in palliative care, which provides treatment—and just as importantly, comfort—to patients living with serious illness.

“The thing that I love about palliative care is it’s this beautiful gray zone between being aggressive and doing everything all the way through end-of-life. So you can help to support people no matter where they are in their journey.”

Military and medical service

Carlson’s journey has not been a typical one. After high school she enlisted in the Air Force, where she earned the rank of staff sergeant and served as a medic. She travelled all over the world, from Japan to Portugal to Guam and Germany, as well as serving a tour of duty in Iraq.

“In the military, I think working with so many different cultures and so many different people just really helped me to realize that everybody needs good care,” Carlson said. “I think that’s where my love for palliative care, that’s where it crosses over. Quality of care, meeting people where they are, helping with other cultures, that really helped me realize that we’re all just people.”

Now she serves as a caregiver for patients in Fargo, including other veterans, who Carlson says connect with her on a deeper level.

“I love that we have ‘veterans’ on our (Sanford Health) badge. I think it helps me to connect with my patients differently than I would otherwise. And it helps to establish a connection with other people,” Carlson said. “There’s a sisterhood and a brotherhood, a family within the military.”

Her career as a medic and a nurse has brought her across the globe, but all the while Kat Carlson has known exactly where she belongs: bedside with her patients.

“I think it’s super important to understand people’s wishes, and where their boundaries are, and make sure, and no matter where they are in their medical treatment, that they get good quality care and they get support and kindness.”

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Posted In Fargo, General, Nursing and Nursing Support, People & Culture, Veterans