Respiratory therapists find home at Sanford Health

With more jobs than applicants in Midwest, Sanford recruits further west

Doctor holding tablet computer with normal male chest x-ray image

Brenette Conrique Perez didn’t see North Dakota as part of her future when she was in school, but she’s now been a respiratory care specialist at Sanford Medical Center – Bismarck since 2015.

The variety of her duties is a big positive but so too are some of the things that stay the same every day.

“My job is never boring,” she said. “And it’s always rewarding.”

Perez is the product of a recruiting effort made by Sanford Health that reaches outside the Midwest, where Sanford Health is based, to areas where respiratory therapist candidates are in greater supply.

For example, a few members of Sanford’s talent acquisition team take a yearly trip to California to visit feeder schools that produce RT graduates.

For Perez, that initial experience meant listening to the team with an open mind. Next, she recognized a significant career opportunity many miles from where she grew up.

Above all, she knew a climate change was coming — San Diego is a little warmer most days than Bismarck — but it has turned into a wise decision.

“When I talk about my transition from southern California to North Dakota, it’s never negative,” she said. “Everyone is so willing to help compared to what I was used to in a big city.”

Respiratory therapists from the West

Perez is an example of the mutual benefit that can come when Sanford Health looks outside the box — or outside the Midwest in this instance — to find qualified respiratory therapists.

There are more jobs than applicants within the region, something that has people like Brooklyn Streff, a talent advisor for Sanford Health, talking about careers for people in places like California.

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“We offer great sign-on bonus opportunities,” Streff said. “I tell them about our very small-town friendly and family-oriented atmosphere. I also tell them about flexible scheduling and a lot of other great incentives that Sanford offers.”

Will Murphy, a respiratory therapy specialist at Sanford Medical Center Fargo, is from Loma Linda, California. This native of southern California was initially drawn to the fact that respiratory therapists were in need in North Dakota. He has since found plenty of other reasons for making the move.

“When I interviewed I had a good feeling about about them,” said Murphy, who began in 2014. “They were people I could talk to very easily.”

Advancing in the profession

Murphy did not know what role he would take when he started, but he was committed to learning more. He was going to keep asking questions, confident that there were people who would help him with the answers as he advanced in the profession.

“One of the things that has kept me here are the responsibilities,” he said. “It might sound cheesy but I’ve grown since the day I started working here. I’ve grown in my knowledge of respiratory care thanks to this place. It’s a great place to be — you get right into it here.”

Perez found the situation similar. Opportunities for advancement in San Diego could have taken years.

“New grads are looking at night shifts at the bottom of the pool,” she said. “Here I was able to get into critical areas of care much sooner. I was able to start getting my feet wet right away. It was an awesome experience right from the beginning.”

Winter another season for RTs

Adapting to a new climate is a necessary part of the conversation for someone who moves from San Diego to Bismarck, or from Loma Linda to Fargo.

There are unavoidable realities. For many, however, the transition is not as big a deal as they imagined.

“We’ll get questions like ‘Do you have to have chains around your tires to get around in the winter?’” Streff said. “I’ll tell them ‘No, a two-wheel drive car will get you around town just fine.’ But I’ll also tell them that one of the things that is cool about the Midwest is that you have four seasons. In California you get one or two seasons.”

Working with warm people

There’s more than one way to measure the temperature of a community. On that count, respiratory therapists like Murphy and Perez don’t find it nearly as cold.

When Perez’s friends back home ask her how it’s going, they’re sure to ask about the weather. She replies warmly.

“Most of my co-workers here have become friends that will be lifetime friends,” she said.

“Everyone is friendly, accommodating and including. I’ve never felt like an outsider. It’s been a great experience for me and I highly encourage new grads to venture out — take on the adventure of a lifetime that you’ll never forget.”

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Posted In Bismarck, Fargo, Heart, People & Culture, Pulmonology, Rehabilitation & Therapy, Rural Health

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