N.D. hospital provided development opportunities
It was Sept. 9, 1975. I was a diploma nurse just one year out of college, and my supervisor tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I need you to cover for an upcoming maternity leave in a different department.” This temporary coverage in the chronic dialysis unit lasted more than 11 years and was the beginning of my leadership journey. Little did I know that being the medical director of the dialysis unit would provide the framework for my leadership development.
Fast forward to 1984. The CEO of the organization walks into my office and asks if I would consider a new position as the director of quality/risk and niche program development. This position included a seat at the administrative table. At that time, “C-suite” language had not become vogue.
Five years later, I received another personal visit by the CEO asking whether I would become the assistant administrator/director of nursing. This opportunity for growth in one organization over 35 years causes great pause and reflection.
North Dakota has 50 providers of care. These providers vary greatly in size and scope. They include acute-care, long-term acutecare, psychiatric, critical-access, state-owned and Indian Health Service facilities.
St. Alexius Medical Center, Bismarck, N.D.—the first hospital in the Dakota Territory—is a 263-bed tertiary-care facility. As a member of the C-suite for more than 20 years, the opportunities for servant leadership were abundant. Stability in one organization, yet the ability to professionally progress, was a grand demonstration by the hospital’s sponsor, Benedictine Sisters of the Annunciation, of the value of community presence as well as personal and professional growth.
As a part of an even grander community, this C-suite position provided me the opportunity to join conversations that never before included a nurse, and certainly not a chief nurse executive from North Dakota.
As an executive, the healthcare universe became a laboratory. The ability to search out, network and partner with other healthcare providers provided a means to identifying and deploying “the best of the best” strategies for staff and patients at the local level.
Serving in academic capacities at the local and national level as teacher and mentor shed light and kept me based in reality that our youth and those who will fill our shoes in years to come are so bright and so compassionate; it affirmed that we are in great hands.
Rural America provides for numerous advantages. North Dakota has been reimbursed much less than other states by Medicare, yet the reportable outcomes from our facilities show our state ranking among the best in the nation— learning to do more with less is innate in our culture.
Rural job opportunities exist, as do the opportunities for professional growth. Remaining with one facility during one’s career yet pursuing graduate and post-graduate education outside the immediate area expanded the executives’ horizons and significant network opportunities. Healthcare information technology has a fertile ground in North Dakota and is not foreign to the C-suite. Based on the geographical challenges, using telehealth in North Dakota has a history of 30-plus years.
As a C-suite executive, participating in the development of healthcare policy is very common. Lobbying for appropriate scopes of professional practice, the national nurse reinvestment act as well as adequate facility reimbursement is second nature. Because fewer names and faces exist in this circle, it reminds me of the theme song from the sitcom “Cheers”—everybody knows your name.
Living in North Dakota has provided me the ability to influence and participate at many tables, to encourage change, to educate the public and to be a part of a profession that desires beyond a doubt to provide quality healthcare. It is about “taking that leap.”
I have great gratitude for the sponsors, my leadership team and staff that made my job easy. As I walk through a new door, the door to St. John’s Hospital and Health System, Springfield, Mo., I enter with courage and great optimism. I will never forget my rural roots and how that shaped me into the healthcare professional and patient advocate I am today. Linda Knodel is vice president and chief nursing executive for St. John’s Hospital and Health System, Springfield, Mo.