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Meet Sarah Kooienga

Get to Know Your Faculty Series

Sarah Kooienga, PhD, FNP, ARNP
Assistant Professor

GET TO KNOW YOUR FACULTY Series: Sarah Kooienga

What courses do you normally teach?

  • Clinical Didactic Courses in the FNP DNP program and Informatics for DNP students.

What students (e.g., in which program/s) will most likely have you as a professor during their program tenure?

I teach primarily in the Family Nurse Practitioner/DNP program.

What brought you to Wyoming, UWYO?

I took a position here based on a FNP DNP program that had embraced a small cohort model. In addition, the focus on pursuing excellence in rural primary care was in line with my research and teaching focus and philosophy. My husband and I like winter sports--Nordic skiing and snow shoeing, which was another draw.

How long have you been with UW SoN?

I arrived in August 2014.

Where were you before you came here and what were you doing previous to this position at UW?

I was faculty at Washington State University (WSU) in Vancouver, Washington, teaching in the FNP program which developed into a DNP program during my tenure. Previous to that, I taught for 6 years at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon in the FNP program. In 2008, I spent time in New Zealand as a visiting faculty. My time in New Zealand was transformative in my career. I struggled as a generalist in a very specialized health care setting. Spending time in a country with very strong primary care system and a nationwide primary care strategy really allowed me to embrace my passion as a primary care provider, educator of future primary care NPs and researcher in the primary care setting.

What is your passion area?  

Professionally, my passion area is primary care. I have been a Family Nurse Practitioner for over 25 years. I count it one of the greatest blessings of my life that I had relationships with so many patients and families. I have practiced in a number of different practice settings, so my patients have ranged from homeless African American and Latino men and women on the South Side of Chicago, Latino farmworker families in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, University students, and Middle and High School Students in a coastal foothills rural community in Oregon. Most recently I practiced in a small private practice in a suburban community of Portland. I am looking forward to clinical practice at the UWyo Family Practice Residency Clinic in Cheyenne, which has a very diverse patient population in terms of age and ethnicity.

If you are doing research, please talk about your focus. 

Many years ago, I was a solo practitioner in a satellite clinic with approximately 600 Latino diabetics. We tracked those diabetics on paper, transferring information to Excel spread sheets, and doing chart reviews in paper charts. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) then came into being, and I believe chronic disease management was transformed. Yet whenever you implement technology there are pitfalls and promises. The challenge with implementation of the EHR in the primary care setting is how to maintain the relationship focus on patients and families. My research focus broadly defined is how to implement EHRs in primary care and maintain excellence in terms of relationship based primary care.

Many faculty have “side interests” that help define who they are. Can you share?  

I think my side interests are about having fun. I love taking exercise classes, socializing and goofing off in that setting. The picture attached is of my husband, son and I canoeing. We are all great friends and we like having fun and being together.

What do you like best about teaching?

Teaching can be challenging, but I see students who “develop the spark“ for primary care. They get it! These students understand what primary care is really about, being a sacred trust with patients and families and relationship centered care being the central focus. Becoming a primary care nurse practitioner is about role acquisition and identity formation. For many students that can be a really difficult and painful process. Once students grasp it and you see that spark, it is very rewarding. I have mentoring relationships with a lots of former students who now practice successfully in diverse primary care settings. Those relationships have been both personally and professionally fulfilling.


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