Claire Frenzel has spent almost 20 years at Sanford Health. She has worked as a nurse in the ambulatory setting, in clinical services and as someone who helps bring the benefits of technology to health care providers and their patients.
As the technology solutions business partner at Sanford Health in Bemidji, Minnesota, Frenzel has tapped into her extensive and diverse professional experience to keep day-to-day operations running smoothly. That has earned her selection as the 2022 Becky Nelson Nursing Leadership Fellow.
The yearlong fellowship provides mentorship as well as valuable, hands-on professional development opportunities for an aspiring Sanford Health nursing leader.
In that regard, Frenzel certainly qualifies.
“Claire really connects the dots of really understanding how our system works and how all of that works to empower our nurses to take care of our patients,” said Kelly Hagen, vice president, nursing – Bemidji. “Claire, with her IT perspective, allows us to understand things about care and care delivery, patient care and patient care documentation that we otherwise might not understand.”
Fellowship an ‘opportunity to learn from others’
The Becky Nelson Nursing Leadership Fellowship was created in 2014 to honor Becky Nelson for her contributions to Sanford Health. Nelson, who began her career as a staff nurse, spent decades at Sanford and retired as the organization’s chief operating officer. She returned in 2018 as the Good Samaritan Society’s chief of staff to guide the integration with Sanford.
The fellowship is awarded annually to one nursing leader applicant who is selected from more than 8,100 Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society nurses.
Julie Smith, now executive director, value strategy and clinical operations at Sanford Health Plan, was selected the 2020 fellow as the director of nursing for the Good Samaritan Society Home and Community Based Service.
The pandemic did not permit a 2021 fellow, so Smith’s tenure lasted about two years and included career-expanding awareness of Sanford Health and her role within it.
“I can’t say enough good things about it,” Smith said. “The opportunity to learn from others, the opportunity to see some other areas that I wouldn’t get to see otherwise, was inspiring to me. There is a lot to learn. There is responsibility that comes with it – some extra time commitments that come with whatever project you’re involved with – but I think it goes a long way in showing Sanford’s commitment to a clinical space and a nursing space.”
Leaders’ influence on nursing culture
For Frenzel, the next year will include challenges as varied as her present job description. It will also include the same kind of distinctive commitment to her profession that she brought to health care in the first place.
“Claire was selected for the passion in her application, for the experience she brings and also for the goals that she has set to really understand more about what nursing leadership does to help build a resilient nursing culture,” Sanford chief nursing officer Erica DeBoer said. “Most importantly, she was selected to give her the opportunity to continue to learn and grow as a nursing leader.”
As someone who has developed technological expertise as it applies to health care, Frenzel is a liaison to executive leadership in Bemidji and throughout the enterprise. It is a vital role with a direct connection to caring for patients.
“I’ve had amazing mentors that have always encouraged me to seek opportunities and to progress as a leader,” said Frenzel, a Bemidji State graduate who is now pursuing a master of science degree in nursing leadership and management at the University of Mary. “They have always supported decisions and encouraged me to have a voice in nursing and leadership.”
Nurse leads ‘from her heart’
In Frenzel’s application for the fellowship, she was asked to share experiences and key achievements over the course of her career in health care.
Her response included these words:
“I have had to understand the technical infrastructure of the vast systems that work together to keep our day-to-day operations going,” she wrote. “However, I have also had the privilege to translate back to Technology Solutions staff the critical work they do every day to keep our patients safe, treat their illnesses and prevent disease. This is one of my most proud achievements!”
That kind of earnest enthusiasm has defined her efforts at Sanford. The exclamation point at the end of that last sentence says a lot about how she approaches her responsibilities.
“Claire is always leading from her heart,” said Suzy Collignon-Hodgen, system executive director, technology solutions business management. “She’s just all-around a good-hearted, wonderful leader and is constantly caring for others during COVID.”
Collignon-Hodgen mentioned how Frenzel joined other nurses in delivering hundreds of vaccinations when the demand for shots was high. It was an example of keeping the balance between technology solutions and the pandemic obstacles facing nurses.
“On top of volunteering to do that, so many things that Claire does are from the heart,” Collignon-Hodgen said. “She’s just an amazing leader.”
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