Sanford Health has more than 9,500 nurses who deliver care in more than 80 specialty areas of medicine. On a daily basis, going the extra mile is part of the routine for many of these caregivers.
National Nurses Week (May 6-12) is an opportunity to celebrate and uplift the work of Sanford nurses and showcase how they have advanced patient care over the last year.
Clearly, the continued presence of COVID-19 has made this a unique time in the history of medicine. Just as clearly, the role of Sanford nurses has never been more important than now. As the nation continues to dig out of a pandemic, nurses have provided a caregiving core at Sanford Health.
North Dakota nurses
People like Jill Rodgers, an RN at Bismarck Oncology, were called on to fill vital roles during a time when health systems were being tested both by the sheer number of patients and by the distinctive nature of care needed by those with COVID-19 symptoms.
As a manager of oncology services, Rodgers was asked to look at the feasibility of starting an outpatient COVID-19 infusion center.
That task involved challenges on a number of fronts. What kind of space would be needed? How quickly could they get this effort coordinated and put into action?
“She knew this project would not get done with the minimum requirements,” said Barb Nies, director of oncology for Sanford Bismarck. “She needed to do more to do it properly while continuing to fulfill her expected and usual job duties.”
So that’s what Rodgers did. With a project that was going to have to be put in place quickly, she coordinated a multifaceted effort that included contributions from pharmacists, providers, IT, schedulers, clinics and the hospital.
“As patients came to be treated, she educated nursing staff and assigned shifts,” Nies said. “But when there were no extra staff to be found, she manned the COVID-19 infusion center herself.”
Patients needing an infusion were scheduled and treated. When clinics in Dickinson, North Dakota, needed help in setting up a similar operation, she was there.
“She did it with grace and gave it her all,” Nies said. “She went above and beyond to meet the needs of all of our patients here at Sanford.”
Rodgers is just one of many called to deliver extra effort during a difficult time across the health care spectrum.
Melanie Allen, an inpatient RN in Fargo, was involved in the preparation of a surge of infectious disease patients well before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic hit, she was there both as a leader and a mentor to the whole staff.
“When she is on the unit, I have no worries or additional stress because I know everything will be in order and operating as flawlessly as possible,” said Jane Taber, director of nursing, in Fargo. “This has earned the respect of providers, her own colleagues and members of various therapy teams at Sanford.”
Minnesota and South Dakota nurses
Aaron McCullough, an RN at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, captures the same kind of spirit. As a longtime surgical nurse, he works as a charge nurse and also fills in as part of the staff for the night shift.
“He is patient, kind and always puts the care of his patients first,” said Tiffany Schouten, inpatient manager at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. “He is a problem-solver and keeps a positive attitude, even when things get tough. His peers look up to him and respect him for his leadership and ability to listen, guide and his willingness to help.”
Matt Peterson is an RN certified in medical surgical nursing at Sanford USD Medical Center, Sioux Falls, in pulmonology.
“He obtained his certification during his leadership position on Pulmonary in 2020 and partnered with supporting eight other Pulmonary CCLs on the unit to receive board certification in one summer!” said Hilary Veskrna, inpatient director, pulmonary.
“Matt is our unit senator and is an excellent example of our Sanford Magnet nursing culture! He is a phenomenal leader who drives practice change through fundamental innovation that listens to the voice of the nursing body before implementing a practice change by inspiring collaboration, and role modeling to inspire his peers to improve their quality of practice. Matt is a Sanford ambassador in all his words and all his actions. He is the ‘culture’ we share when we describe the people of Sanford Health.”
Sometimes it’s a small gesture that embraces the spirit of a whole organization. Jenny Schindler is an RN for the Chamberlain emergency department. On a recent visit from a patient, she took the time to go the extra distance and get to know the person she was treating.
Family members noticed.
“When the patient returned a few weeks later in a private vehicle,” this family member observed, “Jenny took the extra step to go out and help him, knowing that small action could make a big difference.”
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