Sanne Angel

Associate Professor

Sanne Angel
See relations at Aarhus University

Research areas


Recovery during  Rehabilitering


Based on my nursing education background, my focus is to understand how people can live a meaningful life and what they need to maintain or restore this. I have mainly explored this from the person perspective. In addition to working as an associate professor at Aarhus University, I have worked as a professor at Molde University College. I teach at the PhD programme at Health, Aarhus University and at University of Bergen/ Molde University College, Norway. Furthermore, I teach at the Master of Clinical Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing/ APN.  I have previously taught at the bachelor nursing education programme and the Master of Health Sciences programme at Health, Aarhus University. I have worked both as a nurse and a leader in clinical practice.


Support for a meaningful life

I am particularly interested in knowledge development about how people can be supported to live a meaningful life despite serious accident or illness. Here, I have worked with the importance of nursing (and other health care and social professionals) contributing to enabling people to understand their situation and themselves. This focus on the meaningful life involves mental and physical health as well as the balance between what is desired and what is possible. To do this, the citizen and patient perspective must be the focal point. Thus, the overall core of my research is human existence and promotion hereof. Therefore, knowledge development about people's understanding of their world and how their world is affected are investigated from many angles. The broad nature of the projects reflects the complexity of the meeting between the citizen with health problems and the optimal health professional effort. At the same time, the importance of the dialogue, where this perspective can related, is emphasized. Thus, the pervasive core is human existence and the promotion hereof when illness and misfortune strike. Here, the meaning of narratives is pervasive in relation to approach, method, and findings.


The focal point of my research is

Understanding of human existence and the healing process as a starting point for

  • Nursing care and support for people in their healing process after illness or accident
  • How to support preservation of health

Methodologically, I draw primarily on the hermeneutic phenomenological tradition. I have worked with these studies myself and in collaboration with researchers, also using other qualitative and quantitative approaches, benefitting from a mixture of methods. For easier diffusion of the results from exploration of the patient perspective to practice than through publications, I have included intervention and action research.


Recovery during rehabilitation

The importance of professionals taking their starting point in the perspective of patients and relatives to contribute to self-understanding and understanding of their situation emerged from my PhD study, where I followed 12 citizens two years after they had suffered a spinal cord injury. The study clarified the need to focus on the person-experienced healing process, which is best captured by the Danish phrase at komme sig (in English to recover). To recover encompasses the person's experience of getting on with life - a meaningful everyday life – in the future. Here, the person's own assessment of a meaningful life? is decisive. This raises the research question What is needed for a life to be experienced as meaningful? also when living with disability and illness. The intention is to uncover knowledge that can contribute to alleviate and promote the process and its result. Thus, the area enters nursing and rehabilitation as well as recovery.


The healing process after a spinal cord injury

In my PhD, I followed 12 people with spinal cord injuries two years after their accident. The dissertation The fight for a life that is worth living: The process towards a meaningful life after a traumatic spinal cord injury pointed to the complexity of the process and to a number of important areas in the patient's recovery process and the experience hereof, including phenomena such as meaning, self-understanding, and understanding of the disease, patient participation, vulnerability, the significance of professionals and relatives, loss of sex life, and the importance of a working life. All are phenomena of great importance to the perceived quality of everyday life. This study continued with follow-up after 5 and 10 years. In addition, I have worked with method development and exploring phenomena in relation to the study of people with low back pain, heart disease and stroke.

The contribution is on the characteristics of the life situation of patients and people with spinal cord injuries to understand their need for support. Besides my own studies, I have collaborated with senior researcher Bodil Bjørnshave Noe, and associate professor Merete Bjerrum.

I have worked with supervision together with PhD Randi Steensgaard, associate professor Raymond Kolbæk and clinical professor Helge Kasch on the PhD project Towards a meaningful life after Spinal Cord Injury – rehabilitation based on patient participation. The idea behind this PhD project is inspired by and based on my own PhD study.

In collaboration with PhD Randi Steensgaard, associate professor Raymond Kolbæk and associate professor Søren Friman I have studied issues in relation to implementing facilitators of patient participation.


Mental health in a lifespan

Both mental and physical illness challenge the mental balance, which may lead to mental and physical illness. My focus in this area arises from knowledge of how existence is put at risk by accident or illness under the influence of other people and society. This knowledge of how people can be supported in living out their potential and living a meaningful life can be used to promote mental health in disease prevention and when illness and accident strike.

Related to mental health posing the greatest threat to public health, I have a particular focus on how people can be supported so that they can find strength to balance life and its challenges. Therefore, hopes, dreams and well-being become focus points for studies contributing with knowledge to support the individual as well as to promote support from networks and communities.

I have collaborated with external associate professor Janne B. Damsgaard on Research for hope, dreams, and well-beingand, among others, with SIND Herning-Ikast-Brande.

To promote the dialogue between clinical practice and research, I have initiated and lead the research group Rehabilitation of people with mental illness and disorder.

I have also initiated and led the research group School Health Care - a research area

Children's mental health and the care provided by school health nurses is the focus for collaboration with professor Carsten Obel and the Norwegian research group in the project GuideMe.

The potential for expanding the role of school health nurse in mental health promotion was developed in collaboration with professor Carsten Obel and the research group School Health Care - a research area to focus on children's mental health, where the school health nurse role has a great potential.


The healing process after low back pain

Patients with low back pain experience the role of health professional interventions to achieve understanding of the effective parts. Besides own studies I have worked

- in collaboration with professor Niels Buus, associate professor, associated professor and physiotherapist Thomas Maribo, psychologist Birgitte Gonge, MD Birgit Schiøtz-Christensen, MD, PhD Poul Frost & MD, PhD Lone Donbæk Jensen.

- in collaboration with the project group Rehabilitation of people with low back pain in the framework of Human First.


Rehabilitation and telerehabilitation when suffering from heart disease

In relation to heart patients with circulatory impairment, I have contributed to an intervention study with an interview section aiming at gaining insight into the patient experience to improve professional interventions.

The work was conducted in collaboration with associate professor Sussie Laustsen & senior researcher, associate professor Annemette Krintel Petersen, clinical professor Vibeke Hjortdal and PhD-student Marie Veje Knudsen in the work on Effect of Multidisciplinary Cardiac Tele-rehabilitation.

Together with RN Karina Nielsen, I collaborate on a project focusing on women's healing process during the first year after being diagnosed with heart disease.


Psychosocial support to increase the healing process after stroke

Recovery is often a very long process. People are often on their own, perhaps without the help that could optimize the process and improve the result. The idea is that support over time may improve psychosocial well-being. The work was conducted

- in collaboration with Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, associate professor, senior researcher Lena Aadal, and professor Marit Kirkevold in charge of the Norwegian research group conducting the multi-centre study Promoting psychosocial well-being following stroke.

- through participation in the Norwegian research group conducting the multi-centre complex Intervention study study Promoting psychosocial well-being following stroke in Norway.


Understanding of relatives’ perspective

Exploring the relatives' situation and role has become part of my research. This is because the interplay and experiences of relatives are very important, both in terms of helping the patient, and because the relatives themselves are often in a particularly vulnerable situation. The situations and roles of relatives are therefore a ongoing theme to be explored. I have also investigated the purpose of keeping a diary in collaboration with

- PhD Anne Højager Nielsen when I supervised her master thesis and qualification year.

- professor Torben Bæk Hansen and professor Ingrid Egerod, when I supervised Anne Højager Nielsen in her PhD study:Dairies for critically ill patients written by relatives: the meaning for the patient and the relatives and the effect in relation to the development of symptoms of posttraumatic stress.


Vulnerability in patients and nurses

The aspect of vulnerability becomes very clear when the spinal cord is injured; a duality between being vulnerable and strong appears. The attitude of others is very important in this situation. This has led to a multi-annual? study of also nurses’ vulnerability in collaboration with

- professor Sofrid Vatne, who is my main collaborator.

- master student at advanced qualitative methods, professor Solfrid Vatne and associate professor Bente Martinsen.

I have also collaborated with PhD Anne Højager Nielsen and associate professor Monica Kvande on a study of humanised care at the ICU.

In collaboration with master student at advanced qualitative methods and associate professor Signe Gunn Julnes I have conducted a study on nurses' experience of being on duty at night.

In collaboration with PhD student Jens Bæk Hansen, I study patients’ experiences of dissatisfaction.


Health and nursing care in primary health care

As nursing continues to increasingly be practised in primary health care, I aim to make a contribution by participating in an international research project to design and test the effect of a nursing intervention on patients’ psychosocial health after stroke. Development of programmes is central in health care services, which makes it decisive to know how nurses work and the implied mechanisms.

- I have been part of the supervisor team for PhD Millicent Addai Boateng together with associate professor Ulrika Enemark (main supervisor) og MD Peter Agyei-Baffour. The PhD study developed and tested interventions in relation to integrated community case management with an increased focus on health literacy of caregivers of children under 5 years concerning malaria morbidity and its associated costs in Ghana. The title of the PhD is Impact of Integrated Community Case Management of Malaria on health literacy of caregivers, child morbidity and its associated costs.

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