20 years later, nursing supervisor loves coming to work

"It is truly an amazing organization to work for"

Black and white image of smiling Sanford Health nurse reaching for an item on a shelf.

If Michelle “Shelly” Berning, RN, wasn’t passionate about her career, she wouldn’t have spent the last 20 years doing it.

The nursing supervisor at the Sanford Wheaton Medical Center in Wheaton, Minnesota, is grateful to do what she loves.

“I was hired as a nurse on floor and I’m currently the nursing supervisor,” Berning said. “I have that supervisory role, but I also still work on the floor and work in the outreach department.”

She assists physicians in surgeries and manages the emergency department’s trauma and stroke coordination.

“I’ve been able to walk across the street to work my whole career,” Berning told Sanford Health News. “I feel like I’ve been able to experience so much that I don’t know I would have experienced anywhere else.”

She credits her small, rural community for giving her the opportunity to provide well-rounded care.

Game-changing transition

The medical center, formerly known as Wheaton Community Hospital in west central Minnesota, officially joined the Sanford Health network in 2011.

Though unsure what the acquisition would bring, Berning remembers it all very well.

Ultimately, she’s extremely very grateful for the opportunity it brought.

“The networking, competitive wages, great health insurance, years of service gifts and recognition, nursing awards recognition … the list goes on,” she said. “Also, in the past year, while many people worried about losing their jobs, Sanford came up with programs to upskill our staff to be utilized in other areas.

“It is truly an amazing organization to work for,” Berning added. “Sometimes, those things can be easily overlooked.”

Treating patients like family, friends

Health care in a small town has its advantages, for example, an opportunity to take care of people you know.

“We really take ownership of our patients here,” she said.

“Wheaton, being a small critical access hospital, we oftentimes know many of the people who come through our doors. Because of that, I think we are able to provide care that is maybe more personable, so to speak, and that seems to be important and meaningful to the patient’s that we serve. It can be make our jobs very rewarding and also at times, quite hard on our hearts. I can recall one of the first trauma patient deaths I experienced, very clearly. The patient was young and had so many connections within the hospital and the community, so many people I knew, even only being in the area for a short time. It truly had a great impact early in my career.”

Her colleagues have impacted her just like her patients.

“I have developed many close friendships with current staff and keep in touch with many who have retired or moved on,” Berning said. “My nursing career has been touched in so many ways by many of those I still work with, those who have retired, and those who now watch us from above.”

Just as they inspired her, she hopes to inspire her team to do their best and to always be learning.

“When I look back at when I first started here, I never would have thought this would be my lifelong career, and now I have been here for 20 years,” Berning explained. “We’ve built our family here. I love the community. I love working here. My heart is really in this building and I would love to be able to continue to work here for 20 more years and end my career here. I just love coming to work here every day.”

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Posted In Health Care Heroes, Nursing and Nursing Support, People & Culture

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