Bismarck's two competing health systems are coming together to take care of the community during the coronavirus pandemic and also to help recognize nurses, who hospital officials say are at the heart of that effort. CHI St. Alexius Health and Sanford Health are presenting sponsors of the second annual Nurses: The Heart of Health Care luncheon honoring 10 local nursing professionals. The Bismarck Tribune event, which is taking on a virtual form this year due to the pandemic, kicked off Tuesday morning with the delivery of 350 boxed lunches sponsored by Bismarck State College to Heaven's Helpers Soup Cafe in Bismarck.
The prepackaged meals initially were meant to be served to the 10 nurses and their loved ones at an event at the college. The annual luncheon coincides with National Nurses Week, which is celebrated May 6-12 each year.
“When we started planning this event, we had no idea what we would be in the midst of today,” Bismarck Tribune Publisher Gary Adkisson said. “It really is neat how this has come together and that there's going to be more benefit, community wise, than if we'd have had our event.” Bismarck's D&N Cinematics was onsite at the Tribune for much of the day Tuesday, recording sponsors' remarks, which will be converted into a video and gifted to each of the 10 nurses. The video, which also features clips of each of the nursing professionals receiving their awards, will be shared on the Tribune's Facebook page and website in about a week, according to Adkisson.
Kurt Schley, president of CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, expressed appreciation for nurses and the work they are doing amid the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital, as of noon Tuesday, has no patients that are COVID-19 positive, according to Schley.
“During these unprecedented days in health care, nurses are stepping up with physicians, other providers and caregivers, despite the dangers,” Schley said. “They use their medical expertise, knowledge and compassion to heal people and get them back to their lives and families.
“It's been said, 'God gathered the strongest people in the world and made them nurses,'” he added. “Their selfless dedication stirs powerful feelings in our hearts. Words cannot fully express our gratitude.”
Dr. Michael LeBeau, president of Sanford Health in Bismarck, also expressed appreciation for nurses, whom he called the foundation of health care. He said selecting the 10 nurses to honor was a difficult task, especially during the current pandemic when “great work” is being done. The hospital, as of noon Tuesday, had two COVID-19 positive patients, according to LeBeau.
“As we build health care systems across our country, many times we fall in love with names on the side of buildings. But health care is driven through the eyes of the patient, and those eyes of the patient are fixed on nurses,” LeBeau said. “A nurse spends 12 hours, multiple days in a row, with the patient and the family. That family relationship is what people remember.
“The nurse has not only the ability to care for patients but to leave an indelible mark on their lives without nurses, there's not health care,” he added.
CHI St. Alexius and Sanford have collaborated “very strongly” in their fight against the coronavirus, Schley said.
“We had a conversation early on and said, 'Hey, this is about the community and our patients and let's work together to stomp this thing out, or control this thing, and it's been that way since day one,” he said. “I hope that Bismarck feels well cared for,” LeBeau added. “When it comes to taking care of the community, I hope people see that they are in good hands with the two health care systems in town.”
University of Mary President James Shea provided the opening prayer at the virtual event. Representatives from the University of Mary, North Dakota State University Nursing at Sanford Health and Bismarck State College also were invited to participate. Each of the three nursing schools received $4,000 in scholarships at the event.