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Opus College of Business

Juggling Work, Family and MBA

Krista Bernander ’18, was looking for a health care MBA program where she could live two hours north of the Twin Cities and continue working as a registered nurse. St. Thomas fit the bill at the perfect time in her career.

Bernander's professional life shifted dramatically when she and her husband bought a care center two months into the Health Care MBA program. “I was applying classroom learnings on a daily basis right away. The early pay-off of my degree was tremendous," said this mom of four.

Even though Bernander is somewhat new to the world of care centers, she's no stranger to the medical profession. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing and worked in the cardiology department at Allina Health. But Otto’s Care Center was a new and different environment from what she was used to.

In order to learn more about long-term health care and how to best serve fellow co-workers and residents, Bernander spent time shadowing different departments of the nursing home. “My MBA courses gave me a whole new perspective on how to run a health care business,” she said.

St. Otto’s Care Center has 155 employees, 90 residents and 300 family members visiting weekly. To operate a facility of that size requires business knowledge in many different areas. She quickly found her MBA to be useful in the day-to-day operations. Finance classes helped with operations and payroll efficiencies, and a marketing management class supported external advertising and internal employee marketing.

As business owners, the Bernanders also work through ethical issues, including best approaches with employees, family members or elderly residents. The business ethics courses at St. Thomas have been helpful as an applied framework.

A personal highlight for Bernander was the three-day policy weekend in Washington D.C. As a capstone of the 21-month MBA program, the trip gives students an intimate look into the workings of federal policy in action.

“We have a large Medicaid population at St. Otto’s," she said. "So understanding accountable care organizations at a national level have been helpful in how we get reimbursed in a nursing home."

Looking back, Bernander acknowledges the major sacrifices made along the way. But to her, the career payoff was worth it. “I can’t imagine running a nursing home without going through the Health Care MBA program.”