Sanne Angel

Associate Professor, Associate professor

Sanne Angel
See relations at Aarhus University


After many years in clinical practice as a nurse and a manager, and a teacher on the bachelor degree in Nursing, I currently teach on Diploma in Clinical Nursing, Master in Nursing, Master in Health Sciences at Public Health, Aarhus University, and Master in Nursing and Social Science, and APN-program at Molde University College. In addition Ph.D. programme in Public Health, Aarhus University and the programme at Bergen University/ Molde University College.

Recovery during rehabilitation

My area of research is recovery during rehabilitation from the patients’ and relatives’ perspective and focuses on how people get on with their lives when health problems challenge their normal existence. In my PhD, I followed people with spinal cord injuries two years after their accident. Since then, I have developed the knowledge gained by further studies about people with spinal cord injury and in studies about people with low back pain, stroke and heart disease. 

The aim of the focus on recovery is to develop clinically relevant knowledge about patients’ rehabilitation. Recovery is captured best in the Danish phrase "at komme sig", which could be translated as the person-experienced healing process, that is, the person's own experience of getting on with living a satisfactory daily life. It is the person's own assessment that is essential. The overarching key research question is: "What does it take for a life to be experienced as satisfactory?" This is basis for the question: "How can a person best be supported in the process following an accident and illness in order to be able to resume everyday life?" The intention is to uncover knowledge that can help to promote and ease the process towards a meaningful life.

The starting point was a doctoral study of 12 people with spinal cord injuries, entitled "The fight for a life that is worth living: The process towards a meaningful life after a traumatic spinal cord injury". This prolonged study pointed to the complexity of the process and to a number of important areas in the patient's recovery process and the experience thereof: 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 continues with follow-up after 5 and 10 years.

In addition, I work with method development and disclosure of phenomena in relation to the study of people with low back pain, heart disease and stroke. In these studies, I work together with reseachers that complement my qualitative approach with quantitative research in order to benefit from the mix of methods. Further, intervention research can broaden and disseminate the influence of research results from the exploration of the patient perspective faster than by publication alone. Therefore, I have expanded the research field to include intervention research. I am currently working with the following research groups aimed at different kinds of rehabilitation: 

People with spinal cord injuries

The focus here is on the characteristics of the life situation of patients and people with spinal cord injuries in order to understand their need for support. Besides own studies I work

- in collaboration with senior researcher Bodil Bjørnshave Noe, Associate Professor Merete Bjerrum. Furthermore, I supervise PhD-student Randi Steensgaard. The idea of the PhD project is inspired by and based on my own PhD study. This is an intervention study with the working title: ”Towards a meaningful life after Spinal Cord Injury – rehabilitation based on patient participation”.

People with low back pain 

The low back pain patients’ experiences of the health professional intervention are explored in order 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.

People with heart disease 

In relation to heart patients with circulatory impairment, I have contributed to an intervention study with an interview section with the aim of gaining insight into the patient experience in order to improve professional intervention. The work is 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. The working title of the PhD study is “Effect of Multidisciplinary Cardiac Tele-rehabilitation”. 

People with 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 is conducted

- in collaboration with Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, Senior Researcher Lena Aadal, and Professor Marit Kirkevold in charge of the Norwegian research group conducting the multi-center study ”Promoting psychosocial well-being following stroke”.

Relatives’ perspective 

Exploring the relatives' situation and role has become part of the research. This is because the relatives’ interplay and experiences are very important, both in terms of helping the patient, and because the relatives themselves are often in a particularly vulnerable situation. The relatives' situations and roles are therefore under on-going exploration. The work is conducted

- in collaboration with Professor Torben Bæk Hansen, Professor Ingrid Egerod, and PhD-student Anne Højager Nielsen. The working title of the study: “Dairies for critical ill patients written by relative: 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 in nurses

The 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 the nurse’s vulnerability

- Professor Sofrid Vatne is my main collaborator. 

Health and nursing care in primary health care 

As nursing continues increasingly to be practised in primary health care, I aim to make a contribution in the form of participation in an international research project designed to test the effect of a nursing intervention on patient psychosocial health after stroke. This study builds on the other research to which I also have contributed. The work is conducted

- in collaboration with Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, Senior Researcher Lena Aadal, and Professor Marit Kirkevold in charge of the Norwegian research group conducting the multi-center study ”Promoting psychosocial well-being following stroke”.

Development of programs is central in health care service making it decisive to know how they work and the implied mechanism.

- I am part of the supervisor team for ph.d.-student Millicent Addai Boateng with associate professor Ulrika Enemark (main supervisor) and Dr. Peter Agyei-Baffour.

The study aims at develop and analyze the impact of an intervention (in relation to iCCMm) with an increased focus on health literacy of caregivers with children under 5 on malaria morbidity and its associated costs in Ghana.The title is ”Impact of Integrated Community Case Management of Malaria on health literacy of caregivers, child morbidity and its associated costs”.

The interrelation between the projects

The projects illustrate the complexity of the meeting between the person with the health issue and the optimal health professional intervention. Central is the human existence and promotion thereof when illness and accident changes life. The relation between the projects provides synergy and optimise the contribution to promote research and research-based nursing. 


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