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Pride Month: Athletic trainer glad she took chance with Beacon

Kara Werner-Sanders, a Beacon Health certified athletic trainer and lead athletic trainer at IU South Bend, describes in her own voice what it means to work at Beacon. Hers is one of the stories we are sharing during Pride Month, as we spotlight LGBTQIA+ associates.

When I finished graduate school, many people, including family, advised me to wear my hair longer and dress more femininely for job interviews.

“People have biases they do not realize and you wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity because of that,” a relative told me.

In 2009, I was comfortable in my job in Wisconsin but also wanted to be closer to family in Indiana. I obtained an interview for an athletic trainer position with Beacon Health System. I had grown out my hair but I wore clothes to the interview that I felt most comfortable in — a button-up dress shirt and slacks. I walked out of the interview and thought to myself, ‘Oh no, did I just blow it by looking the way I did?’

Then I thought that I didn’t want to work any place that won’t accept me for me. But two hours later, I had a job offer. I had a feeling that there could be amazing opportunities at Beacon. I was so right.

As the years have gone on, I have been nothing but supported from my Beacon practice manager, Kerri Hessey. She has stood by me in support of who I am, from the time she met me. I have been supported through the highs and lows of my career and personal life. I am not going to say I was fully out and proud when I first started at Beacon, but I have never felt that Kerri has judged me on anything other than my job performance.

Being able to have a safe space with your manager means more than many know. I am able to share personal stories about my wife and children. I am able to dress in the clothes that I am comfortable in, and have my hair cut the way it fits me, even if it is not the norm for my sex. This all relieves stress that I used to feel. Not worrying about being judged leaves so much more space for focusing on patients and my job.

I am happy that I can be me at my job and don’t have to hide or be something other than who I am. Without the support I feel, I know I wouldn’t be able to truly be me. The freedom in that feeling is indescribable.

— Kara Werner-Sanders

About Jeff Parrott

Parrott is media relations specialist for Beacon Health System. Before taking that role, Parrott worked as a reporter for 25 years at several Indiana and Michigan newspapers. When he isn’t telling the world about Beacon’s incredible associates, he enjoys watching sports, attempting DIY home improvement projects and spending time with his wife and children.