Fred Fridley: ‘Having the conversation 100% of the time’

Bismarck region VP, a former health educator and coach, still coaches employees

A mugshot of Fred Fridley

Fred Fridley is vice president of operations for the Bismarck region of Sanford Health. Learn about his background in health and physical education; his transition to Sanford Health, where he took on many roles; and his belief in the importance of always making time to talk with employees.

Teaching future health care providers

Fred Fridley grew up in Watford City, North Dakota, a small town in the western part of the state, situated about 40 miles from the Montana border.

Fridley attended North Dakota State University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in education and immediately enrolled in the master’s program. While at NDSU, Fridley also competed in basketball.

His master’s degree in hand, Fridley then spent 14 years teaching physical education and health at various colleges and universities — NDSU, Concordia College and the University of Mary. The courses he taught all fulfilled prerequisites for students entering the health sciences. Fridley also continued to focus on basketball, serving as the women’s head coach.

Joining Sanford Health

When Medcenter One joined Sanford Health, Fridley shifted career paths and entered public affairs at the newly integrated organization, a position he held for years.

After a time, Fridley added to his responsibilities clinical outreach to critical access hospitals — ensuring the provision of clinical services at small hospitals created as part of a federal program to serve remote rural areas. The job entailed talking to specialists about taking their talents to places specialists were not present.

“It was a lot of driving and a lot of hours,” he said. “But now, we’re in a really good place.”

Thereafter, he took on another responsibility: managing all the orthopedics and sports medicine contracts for the region.

On top of all of his prior roles, he soon became executive director of the Sanford Health Foundation for the region as well, though that only lasted for about six months before he was asked to take on a higher-level position.

New roles, same relationships

Sanford Health leadership asked Fridley to be vice president of operations for the Bismarck region. While he abdicated his role as executive director of the foundation, he maintained all other prior responsibilities in addition to his new executive leadership role.

“I’m trying to hire people to get rid of some of those responsibilities,” Fridley said, laughing. However, the time-consuming work of running operations has put a lot of pressure on his schedule, and he’s hired an individual who will start in August and manage public affairs as well as the orthopedics and sports medicine contracts.

“I don’t have a lot of time in the day for family or friends or hobbies,” he said.

Still, Fridley finds much to enjoy in the work he does. “Probably the number-one thing that I really enjoy is the relationships with the providers and nursing staff — really all of the staff — in our hospitals, in our clinics and in our region. I don’t care what I do in life or where I go. The big part for me is the relationship portion,” he said.

“Gaining that trust with staff so that they know they can raise things up and we’re going to take care of them and give our word is important,” Fridley said. “Then, it’s the community part — knowing that you’re the hospital that the community counts on and wants to come to for their care.”

Keeping patients close to home

When asked about what accomplishments he’s most proud of in his last seven years with Sanford Health, Fridley expresses humility and is reluctant to tout his achievements.

“Hopefully I’ve developed with our operations team and finance and everyone who has to work with me an ‘all-in’ team mentality. If we’re going to accomplish stuff, I can’t do it on my own, the docs can’t do it on their own, the nurses can’t do it on their own — it’s going to take a team to be successful,” he said.

“I’m going to get everybody’s input and get the data so we can make the most accurate, best decision possible,” Fridley added. “That, and I want everyone to wake up every day and enjoy coming to work and be excited to get to work. I just want that environment in our facility.”

Looking ahead, Fridley shares the same goal as region president Michael LeBeau: to become the tertiary medical center that patients count on in the region — that is, becoming a major hospital that provides a full range of services and specialties.

“We want to lead with quality and safety, and we want to keep patients close to home,” he said.

Family first

Fridley is married with two daughters, one who will be a senior in high school and another who is entering eighth grade.

In spite of the demands on his time, Fridley makes it a priority to attend his kids’ events, from sports to music concerts. Spending time with his wife is also an obvious priority for Fridley. “I have a great teammate in her,” he said.

Fridley also loves to golf and get out on the family’s boat with them when he can. In the office, he will always stop to talk.

“For myself, everywhere I walk and everywhere I go, someone will stop and ask me if I have a minute. I will stop and have the conversation 100 percent of the time,” Fridley said.

“They’re stopping me because they have something important that they want to talk about, ask me about, get my opinion about, and I’ll always give them the time of day. When I’m at work, my priority is the employees, and I will give them every ounce of attention I have.”

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