Sanford LPN steps up for training to help during surge

Courtney Caspers is ready to shift from clinic to hospital duties if needed

LPN Courtney Caspers sits in an examination room with a face mask on. Caspers has gone through a training program to help with surge efforts.

When Sanford Health licensed practical nurse Courtney Caspers’ supervisor asked for volunteers to train for an area of the health care system that might require additional help during a surge of coronavirus patients, Caspers didn’t have to think about it.

“I was quick and eager to help out,” she said. “… I immediately signed myself up.”

Caspers is among 1,500 employees who have gone through one of 47 different tracks of the training program rapidly designed by the human resources department’s educational team to prepare Sanford Health employees to fill potential needs.

Learn more: Read FAQs about the training program

Caspers has worked with oncology patients at the Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, North Dakota, for two years. She started as a certified nursing assistant, working while she studied to be an LPN. When she graduated, she happily stayed on at the cancer center.

“I love the area, I love my patients, I love my co-workers,” she said.

Caspers’ typical day includes setting up rooms for patients. She also gets vitals and goes through questions and assessments with the 20 to 30 patients who will see the providers she works with before continuing on to their chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

She says her work can take her on an emotional journey, but she appreciates it. “You really get to know your patients,” Caspers said. “You get to know their family, their trips, their lake weekends. You really get to know who they are, and you form such special bonds with them.”

Developing relationships is the reason she prefers to work in a clinic setting. In a hospital, patients typically stay for short lengths of time.

Nevertheless, Caspers is eager to help if she gets called to fill in for the cardiac unit at Sanford Fargo Medical Center.

Training experience

Caspers’ training covered a variety of topics, including the hospital version of electronic medical records vs. the clinic version she uses. She also went through a refresher course of skills used more typically in the hospital setting.

“I’ve never worked at bedside before besides the little experience I got in nursing school,” in clinicals, Caspers said. “But quickly those skills came back.”

For her on-the-job training, she spent a shift on the cardiac floor where she would work as part of a team of three: a registered nurse, an LPN and a CNA.

On that shift, she worked with a preceptor, or nursing teacher, who has decades of experience. She was encouraged to do whatever she felt comfortable doing, ranging from simply watching to helping dispense medications. “I was asking questions as I was going along,” she said.

Intent of training program

The training program is designed to redirect nurses like Caspers to help with more complex care. It also gives nonclinical employees basic skills they can use to help support clinical staffs.

“It is important to ensure Sanford has enough trained team members to support patient and residents needs as the COVID-19 surge of positive cases hits our market areas,” said Darren Walker, chief human resources officer for Sanford Health.

Training continues to be open for additional employees who want to help in this way.

“Sanford operational leaders have appreciated the agility of the HR team to support staffing needs during these unprecedented times,” Walker said.

“COVID-19 provided a catalyst to leverage upskilling to meet the anticipated surge for clinical care and fully utilize our workforce across the organization. We have learned that upskilling can serve as a viable ongoing strategy to maximize resources and flexibility of our Sanford talent pool.”

Caspers encourages other nurses to consider the training program. For her, in addition to helping people in crisis, it’s a refresher of skills that will help as she continues her education. She’s working on her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree now and hopes to one day become a nurse practitioner.

Caspers loves working in health care. “There’s so much for you to learn and do and see,” she said.

“Working with such a complex team … it’s like a big group project.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Health Care Heroes, Nursing and Nursing Support

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