On this day at the Sanford Family Birth Center in Fargo, North Dakota, it’s time for baby’s very first bath. Two nursing students are taking great care of the little one with some help from their professor, Sanford Health nurse Shannon Harriger.
Harriger wears a lot of hats. She’s a nurse at Sanford Fargo, an assistant professor at North Dakota State University’s school of nursing, having earned her doctorate in nursing practice. And on top of all that, she’s also a veteran of the U.S. Army.
“My mom is a nurse and my dad is an Army Vietnam vet. So it was a perfect fit for me to do both,” said Harriger. “I had a four-year tour in Landstuhl, Germany, in the Army Nurse Corps, then I spent my last year at Fort Riley, Kansas, and then retired as a captain.”
In the Army Nurse Corps, Harriger first worked in postpartum care, and eventually transitioned into labor and delivery, a field she has been passionate about for as long as she can remember. She also knew she wanted to teach, so when it came time to pick a hospital to work at, the choice was simple.
“At Sanford, they showed me that their core values really aligned with mine, and with NDSU and with the military. They have taught the discipline, integrity, the work ethic — Sanford values all of that,” said Harriger.
Continuing her own education
The hospital system has also helped her continue her education. Most recently, Harriger received the Sanford Veteran Professional Development Grant for Employees, an award of up to $3,000 annually for all eligible veterans throughout Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan Society.
“I was able to attend a conference and get my community education done. So that allows me to really be up-to-date on the most current evidence-based practice, bringing that to the classroom and then bring it into the clinical setting,” said Harriger.
All of Harriger’s paths continue to pay dividends. Her military service helped her become a nurse, which helped her become a professor, which helps her teach new students. In return, Sanford has allowed her to continue her studies as well, based in part on her past military service. It’s a virtuous cycle that Harriger does not take for granted.
“With teaching and Sanford, I’m able to really bridge the theory to practice, and so what I teach in the classroom I’m able to bring to the students. And what I learn at Sanford I’m able to bring to students,” Harriger said. “To really be engaged and show my passion for nursing and hopefully role model for them as they become professionals too.”
A life of service
Back in the hospital room, Harriger is still pursuing her passion for nursing and taking care of newborns, including this first bath. She’s also still teaching, giving her new students some hands-on learning they won’t forget.
“It’s amazing. They light up, they love it, they’re engaged, they want to be there and learn,” Harriger said. “They’re nervous at first for sure, but by the end of their clinical experience, they’re confident, they’re competent, they are teaching patients. So the hands-on part of it is so important. And their soft skills of teaching and empathy and caring really is shown through at the clinical bedside.”
Harriger continues to give of herself. From the Army Nurse Corps to NDSU to Sanford Health and beyond, she truly lives a life of service.
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