Chelsie Hammargren did not become a Sanford Health nurse by accident, but it didn’t start out as part of a long-range plan, either.
Hammargren, a registered nurse who serves as clinical care lead educator for the Sanford Medical Center emergency department in Bismarck, North Dakota, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life after high school.
That led to some initial uncertainty in establishing a career path but the important thing was that once she knew, she knew. She has been blessed with a rewarding career at Sanford Health ever since.
“Sanford has a lot of opportunities, especially with how they’ve grown,” Hammargren said. “There are so many ways to be part of this profession.”
Environmental services to CNA
After leaving high school, Hammargren was initially uncertain about what should come next. Nursing was always a possibility, however. She eventually entered Bismarck State College thinking it could be a career. At the same time, she figured if she was going to be a nurse she better find out if she liked being in a hospital environment.
She filled out several applications for nonclinical hospital openings online and then got a call about a position in environmental services. Would she be interested?
Yes she would. After a few months on the job as an environmental tech, her superiors encouraged her to pursue more responsibility within the hospital. Shortly thereafter, now with a certified nursing assistant license, she began working in the emergency department.
“I loved it,” Hammargren said. “The people were great. ER medicine felt like home for me.”
Four years later, with a nursing degree now in hand, she became an RN. She has been part of the staff and leadership of the medical center emergency department ever since.
“She is very passionate and driven,” said Cheryl Page, director of the medical center emergency department. “Whatever it is that she’s doing for us, she’s passionate about it. When Chelsie is working on something in the office, you can count on it being taken care of.”
Evolution with education
That emergency department opening that began with a curiosity about what it was like to work in a hospital has since evolved into a clinical leadership role that involves scheduling for the nursing staff and assisting in continuing their education. She still “works the floor” as a nurse while also serving an administrative role.
“I love the way every day is different,” she said.
Hammargren started on the ground floor, so to speak. Because of it, she has unique insight into how it all needs to come together within an area of health care where teamwork and efficiency is vital.
“As a clinical care lead, we’re all very fortunate that Chelsie works here,” Page said. “If something needs to be done, no matter what it is, she gets right in there and does it. Plus she does it with a smile. People follow her example on that because she’s such a positive leader.”
Family and 12-hour shifts
Page said Hammargren treats her patients as if they’re part of her own family. In this case that’s an apt comparison because Hammargren and her husband Jordan are parents to Zeke (5), Aden (3) and Enzo (8 months).
There are advantages to taking an emergency department skillset home to the family, especially with the little ones. At a birthday party at her brother’s house last summer, young Aden, who his mother affectionately refers to as “the goofy one,” started eating grapes. Then he started choking.
“Within seconds I grabbed him, put him over my knee and got it out of him,” Hammargren said. “Everyone sorta looked at me at that point and it was like, ‘Wow.’ It was an immediate response. I would hope I’d do that even if I wasn’t an emergency room nurse, but my instincts took over in that situation.”
The incident still comes up in conversation occasionally.
“I’ll hear, ‘Mommy, do you remember that time I choked at my uncle’s house?’” she said. “And I’m like ‘Yes, I remember. Do you remember to chew your food?’”
Mentoring other nurses
Hammargren is often in charge of introducing new staff members to their responsibilities. During that process the new nurses, like all nurses at Sanford, establish that they’re part of a legacy of providing safe and reliable evidence-based care.
It’s a role that can positively influence patients and communities as well as colleagues. Many times Hammargren and the ED staff represent a patient’s introduction to Sanford Health. She’s comfortable with that.
“There are people who will tell you that nursing is their calling,” Hammargren said. “For me, something just felt right about that space. Even going back to when I was an environmental tech, something felt right about this.”
It’s a role they all take seriously.
“The biggest reward in nursing is that you get to make a difference for someone in what could be the most vulnerable time in their life,” Page said. “You have to be kind, caring and respectful, but you also have to be willing to go the extra mile for your patients. The reward for that in nursing is to know you helped save somebody’s life. There is no other feeling quite like that.”
Support at work
Hammargren credits Page, who has worked for the hospital for 37 years, for her inspiration, encouragement and mentorship. It’s something Hammargren has taken to heart by paying it forward when new people join the staff. For all of her own 14 years with Sanford, she has helped others in the profession address the challenges.
“Everyone has days where things will happen and you’ll kind of question what you’re doing,” she said. “Cheryl has been there to lead the way for me. I wouldn’t be where I am without her support.”
The emergency department would not be where it is without Hammargren’s support and service. It is a role that may be overlooked by some, but not those in need of care or those entrusted with delivering it.
“Chelsie has always wanted to make things better,” Page said. “If it’s a process within our department or within the hospital, she has been on the committees where she has a voice. It’s so important to have people like her who want to make changes and be positive about it. She has done that in a fabulous and very humble way.”
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