Sanford nurse Jackee Haak knew she wanted to work in health care from a very young age.
“I have a memory of playing ‘emergency room’ with my dolls when I was little, and I grew up for a long time thinking I wanted to be a doctor,” said Haak, an RN at Sanford Medical Center Fargo in North Dakota. “But when I was 18, I had foot surgery and the majority of my time was spent with the nurse and not the doctor. I decided that I would want more time with the patient, so that kind of changed my course of thinking, and I decided nursing would be a better fit for me.”
Haak is now the nursing director of the family birth center in Fargo and she spends a great deal of time with patients, including newborn babies who start their lives in need of care at the facility’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Haak, who started her career at Sanford in 2003, isn’t just known for her leadership skills in the hospital, however. She is also a veteran, having served in the National Guard and deploying to Iraq in 2003 and 2004 — a place where, ironically, she didn’t use her nursing skills at all.
“I was actually field communications,” said Haak. “We got to run the encryption and devices for the internet routers and phones. Not at all medical related.”
That service eventually led her to be involved in the launch of Sanford’s Veteran Employee Resource Group. Sanford is known as one of the nation’s best places for veterans to work, and along with sharing that bond with some of her co-workers, Haak also leads the Veterans Ambassador Program, where she leads a group of veterans who volunteer at the hospital.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have patient visitor volunteers throughout the whole hospital, but this specifically focuses on our veteran patients. The volunteers will go and visit these patients and check in on them and make sure they’re doing okay and see what they need,” said Haak.
“Not to sound cheesy, but it’s an instant bond. Whether they’re trying to navigate the VA health system — which can be really challenging — or if they’re having some yucky memories that they want to talk about, when somebody walks in and says ‘Hey, I was in there too. I understand the language you’re speaking,’ we’re able to give them a little bit of comfort and camaraderie,” Haak said.
Nurses Week recognition
For Nurses Week, Haak focuses most of her energy not on herself, but on the team that she leads in the family birth center.
“I think it’s really important, especially after the last couple of years. We’ve asked more and more of the nursing staff, because we’ve never been through a pandemic before,” said Haak. “There are times when it can be a thankless job, but they need to know how important their work is.”
That said, Haak’s work is pretty important too — to her team of nurses, to her veterans group and volunteers, and of course to all of the patients she’s helped along the way. Just like she wanted to do all those years ago when she first dreamed of being in health care.
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