An important aspect for any thriving community is access to healthcare. With two major health care systems, one of the highest nationally rated VA Health Care Systems (HCS) and several independent and specialty medical clinics, the Fargo-Moorhead area is strongly committed to the physical and economic health of the community.
Essentia Health, Sanford Health and the Fargo VA HCS all see health care and its economic role expanding to meet the growing population of the surrounding region. “The biggest need is keeping up with the growth of our region and the demand for primary and specialty services that comes along with it.” says Tim Sayler, chief operating officer at Essentia Health.
Likewise, Sanford Health sees the need to expand specialty care providers and treatment options for the region proven by their recently opened, stateof-the-art $494 million Medical Center. “Families no longer have to leave – the care they need is available here,” says Ellen Cooke, chief operating officer at Sanford Health.
The economic impact of health care in the region cannot be denied. With the expanding population driving the need for more locations and services, job opportunities are readily available in a variety of fields with these top regional employers.
Medical professionals from specialists and surgeons to nursing staff and technicians are all in high demand. Sanford and Essentia Health as well as the Fargo VA are not only increasing primary care services, but a wider range of specialty care services as well.
Support staff keeps these health care systems running with skilled people in information and equipment technology, scheduling, coding, environmental and food services and many more. Plus, staff often gain advancement opportunities and training such as Sanford’s scholarship opportunities for current staff members – no matter their current role – to obtain LPN training.
With more than 12,500 current full-time positions, all three health systems are recruiting additional employees to keep pace with population and service expansion. “While facilities and technology are important in the delivery of health services, our people will always be our most valued resource,” Sayler says.
Multi-million dollar investments in new and expanded facilities demonstrate the commitment to health in the growing metro and surrounding region. Beyond the revolutionary surgical and interventional equipment of their new facility, Sanford’s Ellen Cooke explains how technology helps team members provide improved patient care. Nurses equipped with portable devices are alerted to patient call lights, addressing needs efficiently with fewer trips to reduce traffic and noise. Likewise, the Fargo VA has incorporated direct feedback technology into patient rooms so nurses can immediately follow up with residents for greater healing and a better experience.
Home away from home best describes one of the greatest changes happening at the Essentia and Sanford hospitals, and involves working with Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley with more than $5 million in planned facility expansion. Having hospitalized children is extremely stressful and expensive for families and the additional space keeps pace with the growing number of children and families coming to the Fargo-Moorhead area for medical care.
At the Essentia Health hospital, a Ronald McDonald family room is being built for families as part of the renovations in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This room will allow them to stay close even while resting, showering or eating. A third house for the charity is also being built near the new Sanford Medical Center in south Fargo. As a Level II Pediatric Trauma Center, Sanford Health recognizes the importance of families having access to housing and meal assistance especially for unexpected or lengthy stays.
Expanded urgent and walk-in care needs are also being addressed as evidenced by Essentia Health’s purchase of several 7-Day Clinic locations. “We are actively looking for ways to meet the increasing demand our patients have for primary care services – especially in the area of unscheduled, walk-in care,” says Peter Jacobson, who oversees primary care operations for Essentia.
With the expansion of services at its new 1-million-square-foot medical center to the southwest, Sanford Health is reallocating existing space with an urgent care clinic in the downtown Broadway facility to meet the changing needs of patients.
Adding clinic locations and remodeling existing facilities is also geared toward patient needs and expectations in the Fargo-Moorhead area. With a $3.75 million remodel and expansion, Sanford Health is growing its existing West Fargo clinic to include services such as patient community education and pediatrics. Likewise, Essentia Health’s new 21,000-square-foot south Fargo clinic provides primary care, pediatrics, diabetic education and lab services, along with expanded hours for walk-in care to meet the needs of busy, young families.
The Fargo VA Medical Center is also responding to growth with a new 19,000-square-foot primary care wing with a similarly sized Community Living Center addition for rehabilitation and skilled nursing services. Fargo VA Health Care Services is also increasing telehealth options, allowing veterans to be treated at their community-based VA clinics, and in some cases in the privacy of their own homes, greatly improving access to specialty care and mental health providers.
With these expanded facilities also comes greater focus on patient care and the types of programs needed to promote better health and wellness. This expansion of care is increasing the need for new types of medical and support staff.
Beyond medical needs, the Fargo VA Medical Center offers programs designed to meet the specific needs of those who have served. From creative outlets to social events, veteran-created art showcases, aroma therapy and activities such as yoga and Tai Chi, the VA coordinates with area artists, writers, instructors and others to relieve stress and channel experiences into beneficial and therapeutic results.
“VA Health Care Systems often use the creative arts as a form of rehabilitative treatment to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities,” says Lavonne Liversage, Fargo VA Health Care System director.
Care teams are directed by a physician and include cross-functional teams to assist with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma so patients stay with lifestyle changes that are otherwise hard to maintain. “It’s helpful for patients to be accountable and feel that we care,” says Julie Dahl, Sanford RN and care team health coach. “We can kind of catch people that otherwise would have fallen off the wagon, so to speak.”
Essentia Health uses this care model for chronic conditions and for primary-care patients. “Teambased care truly is the future of care for all patients,” says Heidi Olson-Fitzgerald, a physician assistant at Essentia Health. “By working together in collaboration to provide access to care of patients in new and innovative ways, the care teams are able to provide great, quality health care in a cost-effective manner.”
With expansion expected to continue for Sanford, Essentia, the Fargo VA and many independent and specialty clinics throughout the region, the need for additional medical and support staff will remain strong. “As our community grows, we continue to build upon services to meet the needs of the population we serve,” Sayler says.
F-M AREA HEALTH CARE STATS
9 HEALTH RESEARCH LOCATIONS
9 SURGICAL CENTERS
9 MEDICAL SPAS