Health care hero: Casey Naastad, manager of the year

Casey Naastad is a nurse and a leader — skills in high demand in the pandemic

A Sanford Health nurse manager wears a mask and goggles while seated and talking to a patient in an exam room.

Casey Naastad is a fine nurse, her colleagues at East Grand Forks Clinic – Family Medicine will tell you. In addition, she’s become a fine leader of a staff that is waging an ongoing battle with the pandemic.

As both a nurse and as a leader, COVID-19 has served as a test of commitment and abilities. On both counts, this adversity has revealed Naastad to be a strong presence at her clinic.

Those efforts have been recognized. Naastad is the 2020 Sanford Health Network management employee of the year for her work guiding her clinic’s nursing team.

“There are some individuals who are natural leaders, Casey is one of them,” said Katie Gavere, a clinical care leader at East Grand Forks Clinic who was also recognized as a Sanford Health employee of the year. “She leads with courage, even during times of uncertainty. Casey may be our manager, but she represents more than just her title. She is influential, empowering, and motivates those around her to be the best versions of themselves.”

‘Make sure you don’t overreact’

Every day, the pandemic has reminded Naastad that leadership is a skill set in high demand these days in the health care field. Experience helps. Challenges become lessons.

“The most important thing I’ve learned is to make sure I don’t overreact,” said Naastad, who grew up in Hatton, North Dakota, where she was a captain of her high school basketball team. “I try to keep a level head when changes occur or there’s something critical that arises.”

As a veteran of emergency rooms, Naastad knows what real stress looks like. The calmness is something she has taken with her in her work at the clinic, where she’s been a manager for six years.

“I’ve learned to keep things transparent,” she said. “If you make some changes in how the staff is going to do something, make sure you explain why you’re doing it. You gain respect and trust from the group when you do it that way.”

Naastad began as a certified nursing assistant and worked at a nursing home where her aunt was the director. This initial taste of the profession provided all the encouragement she needed to continue to pursue nursing as a career.

It’s about how the staff has come together

As her list of skills grew, so did her responsibilities. The married mother of three has always been up for continuing to test herself. Unfortunately, these tests have come at her and the staff in abundance since March.

“The toughest thing for us is the stress of constant changes,” she said. “We go through days when we can present new information to the staff in the morning and it’s changed by noon. And even so, it’s still important to explain these changes. It’s important that they know they have your support.”

That message has been sent and received, judging from testimony from her co-workers.

“Whenever there is a concern in the clinic, Casey is the first person to step in and strategically resolve issues,” Gavere said. “She’s the glue that holds the clinic together.”

As a natural leader, Naastad was quick to spread the praise when asked to talk about winning the award.

“It’s not about what I do, it’s about how the staff has come together,” she said. “They’re the ones who get it done from day to day.”

Sanford Health honors employees of the year

Sanford Health recently announced its employee of the year award winners for 2020. Winners are nominated by their peers for demonstrating the organization’s values.

From East Grand Forks, this year’s winners are: Katie Gavere, clinical care leader, Sanford Health Network clinical care employee of the year; and Casey Naastad, manager of nurses, Sanford Health Network manager of the year.

Learn more

Posted In Awards & Recognition, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Grand Forks, Health Care Heroes

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