After 20 years at Sanford Health and a stint as a South Dakota Army National Guard motor transport operator, Kathy Schuler is well-equipped for duty.
“I’ve been able to be a circulating nurse, a post-anesthesia care nurse,” Schuler said. “There’s just something special about taking care of people and making them feel better and making them feel comfortable.”
Now an executive director at the Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, Kathy and fellow leaders are hoping to recruit other veterans and military members to health care — specifically the field of nursing.
“At Sanford, you can start in one area and quickly, as long as you’re verbal about your desires and your goals, there’s a lot of support here to move up within the ranks of Sanford,” Schuler said.
Nursing on front line of workforce shortage
Leading nearly 10,000 nurses between Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan Society, Chief Nursing Officer Erica DeBoer is on a mission to fortify the team.
“Our community really is different,” DeBoer said. “When you think about the workforce shortage, nursing is on the forefront of that. We are the most trusted profession but when you look at what COVID did for our profession it was really a challenge.”
Men and women transitioning out of the military can help fill those open positions.
“My dad was actually in the Air Force,” DeBoer said. “He had that kind of brain — ‘How do things work? How do I fix it?’
“It’s probably why I succeeded and loved critical care so much as I love to understand how things work. He got machinery. I loved the human body and figuring out how it works and what I can do to make that better.”
Veterans have high retention rate
Figuring out how to attract and develop LPNs, RNs and more with military experience is retired U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Weckman, head of Sanford’s military and veteran affairs.
You can even visit a special website, type in your military occupational specialty (MOS) code and see what jobs at Sanford Health and the Society match those skills.
“Veterans have a higher retention rate. Veterans actually have a higher educational rate. When they’re hired, a higher rate just showing up to the job for that first day,” Weckman said.
Sanford Health aspires to be an employer of choice for veterans. It has been recognized by the Military Times’ “Best for Vets” Employers List and is a Military Friendly Employer for the third year in a row.
“In the Navy, we call it honor, courage and commitment,” Weckman said. “When you hire a veteran you’re going to have someone that comes from a culture that has values that we all would cherish and want.”
‘Honor to serve people’
Caring for babies on up to older adults, DeBoer adds there’s a wide variety of opportunities for those leaving military service.
“It’s about opening our doors and helping them understand that we can be that space. When they transition out of the military, no matter where that is, they can come, they can understand and learn more about Sanford and what we have to offer them and how they could continue their career with us,” DeBoer said.
Growing up in Milbank, Schuler says it was an honor to be a part of the 740th Transportation Company. She joined right out of high school and would eventually win “Soldier of the Year” honors.
“I have a lot of really good memories of being in the Army National Guard,” Schuler said. “You can find similar traits within the Sanford family because we’re all a team. We function similarly in that we work together for a common goal and that’s to take care of patients.
“It’s just an honor to serve people, it’s an honor to have been in the military and it’s an honor to work at Sanford.”
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