Travel nurses now call Fargo home

Some travel nurses from warmer climates now call North Dakota home as Sanford Health employees.

By: Nadine Aljets .

Novlette Henrysmall is a former travel nurse who decided to make Fargo home after a great experience working at Sanford Health.
Novlette Henrysmall is a former travel nurse who decided to make Fargo home after a great experience working at Sanford Health.
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When registered nurse Novlette Henrysmall took a position as a travel nurse at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota, her first thought was, “I’m coming to the cornstalks.” Travel nurses are hired to work in a clinic or hospital for a contracted timeframe. She’d accepted the short-term position in October 2017, but by January 2018 had decided to move to North Dakota full time.

“I started as a traveler, and I liked it (at Sanford Health) so much,” she said. “The atmosphere was just different from what I was used to, and I’ve been to several hospitals. This was different. It’s well-run.”

Travel nurses change lifestyle

Henrysmall has been a registered nurse for 20 years, spending time in New Jersey, New York, Florida and Georgia. When she’d accepted the travel position at Sanford Health in the admissions recovery unit (ARU), she’d been living in Atlanta, and the change in atmosphere was a stark contrast.

“When I first came up here on contract, it wasn’t my intention to stay, but I was really impressed with Sanford. I was just really surprised with even the whole Fargo area,” she said. “I felt safe up here compared to Atlanta, and I know crime is everywhere, but I never felt like I had to look over my shoulder constantly. It was a totally different change in feeling for me.”

Phoenix to Fargo

Janet Gerads, a registered nurse with nearly 30 years’ experience, came to Fargo for her first job as one of the travel nurses. With her kids out of the house and her husband traveling regularly for work, she felt it was a good time to try something new.

She didn’t think she’d make Fargo home, but after a couple of 14-week stints in the ARU, she wasn’t ready to leave.

Gerads came to Fargo in September 2017. When her first contract ended at the end of December, she asked for an extension.

“I loved it here, and I’d survived the winter,” she said with a laugh. “I wanted to extend my stay, and I wasn’t quite ready to drive my car home back to Phoenix in January.”

When her second contract was coming to an end, she had to make the decision to go back to Phoenix or apply to stay full-time. While travel nurses fill a need with temporary staffing, Sanford Health has made a concerted effort over the years to reduce the number of travelers. This effort reduces costs and offers more consistency in staff.

“I still loved the people up here. I thought, ‘maybe I could stay and make it work like we were doing,'” Gerads said.

She decided to apply for a full-time position, and has now been with Sanford Health full time since February 2018.

‘A well-oiled place’

Through her years of nursing, Henrysmall had worked in a variety of hospital settings as both a travel nurse and a full-time employee.

“When I first arrived, I was impressed with Sanford. I thought this was a well-oiled place,” she said. “I’ve worked in big-name hospitals, and I tell you from where I’m sitting, Sanford does a better job of running its facility.”

More than the facility, Henrysmall has enjoyed the people.

“It’s the best group of people I’ve worked with in all my years of nursing. People are very pleasant to each other here and very helpful. It’s unheard of elsewhere. You just don’t see that,” Henrysmall said. “They are the nicest group of people I’ve ever worked with –- from management on down.”

Gerads agreed: “The unit is perfect. Everyone is just so cohesive. Everyone wants to help, and you never feel on your own.”

North Dakota nice

Aside from their experience at Sanford Health, Henrysmall and Gerads have enjoyed getting to know others in the community.

“In North Dakota, in general, people are nice. People talk to you here, and that’s one of the things that I like about it up here,” Henrysmall said.

She now recalls with a laugh, “When I first came here and people would say ‘hello,’ I was startled until I got used to it again. It’s just a different kind of nice up here.”

For Gerads, that makes all the difference. “The people I’ve met are the friendliest I’ve come across.”

‘A good different’

Despite the cold of the winter and being farther away from family, both former travel nurses have enjoyed calling North Dakota home.

“It sounds so far away, and I tell people, really it’s a pleasant surprise when you come up here,” Henrysmall said.

“I love it here. I love Fargo,” Gerads said. “The people are so friendly. You notice it right off the bat. It’s a beautiful little city.”

“I just honestly think that it’s a lovely place to live, and Sanford is a good hospital to work for,” Henrysmall said. “It’s just different –- a good different.”

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