Susan Jarvis: ‘The most important work there is’

Health care leader began career as a nurse and now oversees all clinics and hospitals in the Fargo market.

Susan Jarvis smiling
Susan Jarvis smiling

In this Sanford Health leader profile, Susan Jarvis, vice president of operations in Fargo, North Dakota, shares her journey through health care and management, from working as a nurse in the emergency department to her current leadership position. Through it all, she emphasizes her belief that health care is the most important work there is and the difference that Sanford Health makes in the lives of its patients.

Where did you grow up and what was your early life like?

I grew up in Georgia, just south of Atlanta. Fargo really reminds me of the place I grew up. As a child, my father sold caskets and my mother was a newspaper reporter. However, she became the first director of public relations at a new hospital that was opening, which is what helped lead me into my current career.

What is your educational background?

My mother recommended that I become a nurse. I went to nursing school at Clayton State University and then began work in the emergency department at the hospital my mom worked at. Eventually, I got into management. I received my bachelor in health arts through the hospital. At the University of St. Francis, I got into management and became a nurse manager. After receiving my M.S. in nursing from the University of Phoenix, I became the director of cardiology, emergency and critical care. In 2005, I moved from the Atlanta area to Greenville, South Carolina, to become the director of nursing, emergency services. Besides being in charge of both an adult and pediatric ED, I was also in charge of transport and the supplemental resource team, as well as director of nursing for behavioral health and interim director of nursing for our children’s hospital. I then accepted a position in Asheville, North Carolina, where I was in charge of two emergency departments, the flight program and EMS (emergency medical services), as well as the bed office and house supervisors.

How did you come to Sanford Health?

In 2010, I became the executive director of emergency, trauma and critical services in Fargo. I made three visits to Fargo and fell in love with Sanford Health and the Fargo community. I learned about the transformational gift of Denny Sanford, the construction of a new hospital, the pursuit of Level 1 adult trauma status and a lot of other opportunities. People don’t realize how awesome the health care we provide at Sanford Health is. I saw the chance to come to a system that is really making a difference for patients.

What is your current position and the associated roles and responsibilities?

After the new hospital opened in Fargo, I became the vice president of operations. I am responsible for all clinics and hospitals in the Fargo market.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love working with people — their development and helping them find the right fit. I also love working on major projects, like the pursuit of Level 1 adult trauma status, which we recently attained.

What are you most proud of in your work so far at Sanford Health?

I am very proud of the new medical center, which required the creation of new workflows with a whole team of people. I was very proud to be involved with the design of many of the areas. Second, I am proud that we have attained Level 1 adult trauma verification, a project that’s been going on since before I got here. Third, I am really proud of the team we have put together in Fargo, which I believe is primed to do great things. Finally, I had the great honor of being named YWCA Woman of the Year for Fargo in the business category this year.

What would you like to accomplish in the future?

The thing that I think about every day is being the premier employer of choice. I want our staff to be extremely proud of where they work, and I want every position at Sanford Health to be a coveted one.

Are there any messages you would like to share with other employees?

I want everyone to know that the work that you do is the most important work that there is, and you should be proud of it.

Can you speak about your family life and what you enjoy doing in your free time?

I am married to my husband, Ed, who farms, and we have just celebrated our 37th anniversary. I have two daughters. Jessica lives in Colorado Springs and is a logistics manager for medical machinery. Katie lives in Hope, North Dakota, and works in graphic design. Both are married. I have one grandson, Walker.

In my free time, I love to cook. I also follow football and baseball — the Atlanta Falcons and Braves. Finally, I enjoy reading, biking and traveling.

Posted In Corporate Services & Administration, Sanford Stories