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Shining a light on bright, brilliant women of the Perham area

LUMINOUS A special publication of the Perham Focus

Sarah Fulton

The Health Defenders

Women Leaders of Perham Health Making A Difference During COVID-19

Jill Doll

Cheryl Krause Kailey Witt

Women in healthcare. From physicians, specialists, and administrative professionals, to directors, environmental service workers, and nurses we thank you. Together, we all play a crucial role in contributing to the health and wellness of our communities.


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Sometimes you have to be the best at home, sometimes you have to be the best at work… It’s definitely a challenge being a full-time working parent. I think this pandemic has kind of put everybody to the test. —DR. KAILEY WITT


Perham Health doctor, Chief of Staff, and mom of two Kailey Witt is surviving the chaos of COVID-19 with humor, cautious optimism, and a little help from her community of friends and colleagues. BY MARIE JOHNSON For Luminous


have a shirt that says ‘Chaos Coordinator,’” Dr. Kailey Witt says with a laugh. “That pretty much sums it up.” A family practice physician at Perham Health for the past five years, Kailey stepped into the additional role of Chief of Staff in January 2020. She, along with everyone else at the time, had no idea COVID-19 — and all the chaos that comes with it — was just around the corner. A couple months into her new leadership role, Kailey was swept into the whirlwind of hospital, school and 6 | LUMINOUS 2020

community conversations about the coronavirus and all the pandemicrelated plans and preparations that suddenly needed to be made. For the first few weeks after COVID-19 hit in mid-March, Kailey juggled “a few hours of meetings every day” along with her full clinic schedule, she says. She became an integral part of Perham Health’s incident command team, and also volunteered to be part of the incident command team at Perham-Dent Public Schools — a commitment that requires weekly meetings with Otter

Tail County Public Health officials and school leaders across the county, “to make sure that we’re all on the same page...so that we can best serve the community,” she says. At Perham Health, new guidelines about how to handle the virus were coming in from state and federal authorities “daily, if not hourly,” Kailey says. As a key member of the organization’s leadership team, a big part of her job has been to stay on top of those changes, work through them, and incorporate them into Perham Health’s protocols and routines. “We came up with plans as far as staffing with nurses, and housekeeping, and registration, and physicians — we had to come up with different plans for staffing all the different scenarios, depending on how busy the hospital gets or how many cases (of COVID-19) are in the community,” she says. As Chief of Staff, the scope of Kailey’s impact is broad, with her decisions affecting the Perham Health hospital, clinics and Perham Living long-term care facilities. “Her communication is impeccable, and she is very easy to approach,” Megan Hemmelgarn says of her colleague, Kailey. Megan is a nurse and Obstetrics Health Coach at Perham Health, and one of Kailey’s closest friends. With Kailey’s talent for “ensuring she stays up-to-date regarding practice guidelines” and a “largerthan-life laugh that echoes throughout the halls of our facility,” Megan adds, “It is no surprise that she has functioned so well as Chief of Staff at our facility.” Dr. Kailey Witt, Perham Health’s Chief of Staff and a member of the incident command teams for Perham Health and Perham-Dent Public Schools, has an important and influential role in COVID-19 planning and decision-making. Marie Johnson / Tribune

LUMINOUS 2020 | 7

Early on in the pandemic, Perham Health leadership was primarily focused on planning for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients. That meant making sure there’d be enough beds and caregivers to accommodate those patients, and ensuring patients with symptoms of the virus were kept separate from those without. “We had to make a lot of changes to both the clinic and hospital, as far as how patients get in and out, visitor restrictions, patient flow, and also making sure we had proper PPE (personal protective equipment)...because we can’t run a hospital if everybody is sick and out,” Kailey says. “Also, getting the testing capabilities and figuring out how we’re going to do that and the logistics of that, and also the logistics of how to get people in for their chronic medical illnesses, and healthy kiddos in for their well child visits and vaccines…” It was meeting after meeting for a while there, and though things had

Kailey with her kids, Bailey, right, and Tucker. Submitted Photos

slowed down a bit by this fall, the pandemic ‘chaos’ was still keeping Kailey even busier than usual. And that’s saying something. Even before COVID-19, Kailey’s schedule could get crazy. An obstetrician and gynecologist, Kailey

is used to getting middle-of-thenight calls for labor and delivery. Her kids are used to it, too, she says. Bailey, age 6, and her little brother Tucker, 4, “have learned that they get dropped off at random places sometimes, and they just go with it.” One recent morning at about 5 a.m., for example, while Kailey’s husband, Bill, was out of town on business and one of her patients went into labor, she piled her sleepy kids into the car and had a nurse stay with them in the Perham Health parking lot until one of her physician friends came to pick them up. Other times, when she knows she’ll need to be away for the night, she calls a neighbor kid to come and spend the night at her place. “It’s a little crazy, but we make it work,” she says. “It really does take a community… My kids have learned to be very flexible, (and) it makes us appreciate the times we have together that are calm.” Those times have been fewer and farther between during COVID-19,


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but there have still been some nice moments, Kailey says, such as the board meetings she’s been able to attend virtually from out on the lake on the family pontoon. She’s also been finding new arts and crafts activities to do with her kids, and has been doing more reading for enjoyment again, “which has been quite lovely, actually,” she says. And while her kids don’t always understand why they can’t go out more and see more people — they’re particularly missing their grandparents, Kailey says — they have been making good use of Zoom, Facetime and calls on Alexa, so they’re not feeling totally isolated. School has helped, too, as first grader Bailey gets to see her classmates again. Tucker is in daycare. “It’s a hard balance,” Kailey says of juggling home and work life during such a chaotic time. “We have good days and bad days. Our house probably isn’t as clean as it usually is… My husband has helped pick up the slack, and we’ve just kind of adjusted.”

Kailey and her husband, Bill. The couple have lived in Perham for the past five years. Bill is the Manager of Design Engineering at Lund Boat Company in New York Mills.

Bill is the manager of design engineering at Lund Boat Company in New York Mills. A Wahpeton, North Dakota native, Kailey grew up spending her summers in the Lakes Area, and she and Bill

(Kailey) truly enjoys her patients and their families, and goes above and beyond in regards to the care she provides. —MEGAN HEMMELGARN, COLLEAGUE AND PATIENT OF KAILEY’S

always knew they wanted to settle down here, she says. She did her undergraduate work at the University of North Dakota, then remained there for medical school. She did her residency training in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was her hometown family physician in Wahpeton who inspired her to become a doctor. “Dr. Mayo… I just always looked up to him and aspired to that, and I was able to shadow him in high school and that kind of solidified that that’s what I wanted to do,” she says. Now that she’s been in the field for a number of years, she says, “I love it. I love it. I love family medicine and that I get to see a variety of things…


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I see people of all ages, and I love that. I see some grandmas, and then I deliver their grandchild, and I see multigenerational families… I love taking those journeys with patients, to be a part of their life.” Megan, who doctored with Kailey herself two years ago during the pregnancy and birth of her daughter, describes Kailey as the kind of provider who, “truly enjoys her patients and their families, and goes above and beyond in regards to the care she provides… She may have a mom that is close to delivering and many other patients calling/ messaging, but when you are in the room with her, her attention is focused on you and your needs.” In all her patient visits lately, Kailey says she enters the exam room assuming COVID-19 is going to come up, and she’s prepared for that. She takes the time to “wade through the misinformation” with her patients, sifting through what’s true and what’s not and assessing individual patients’ risks given their unique medical histories. With the increase in COVID-19 case numbers in the region this fall, Kailey says the Perham Health leadership team has been reviewing their surge plans with staff again, “bringing people up-to-date and telling people what the plans are now and preparing them for what they may have to do.” “I feel that we’re well prepared for it — all the providers and the nurses,”

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Kailey, second from left, dressed up for the holidays at Perham Health with her friends and coworkers (left to right) RN Megan Hemmelgarn, APRNCNP Mindy Anderson, and LPN Stacy Sandford, who is Kailey’s nurse.

Kailey, right, with two of her closest friends, Megan Hemmelgarn, left, and Andrea Seurer, center, during a prepandemic girls weekend in Arizona. Submitted Photos

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she says. “We’ve seen cases now, so we’re all prepared for what it can look like. And we have a great team who, everybody’s willing to pitch in and help out where needed.” Kailey doesn’t think there’s going to be a “quick fix” to the pandemic anytime soon. Even if a vaccine becomes available in the near future, she surmises, it’ll take a while to get it distributed to everyone who wants it. “I’m hopeful that we’ll come out of this next year and get back to some normalcy, and not be wearing masks everywhere,” she says cautiously. “At this point, it’s surprised us so many times already, I’m just going with the flow, making the best of it.” Trying to make the best of it is advice she often shares with her patients, too — especially the working parents like herself who are struggling to maintain a balance between work and family life. “It’s definitely something that a lot of moms deal with,” Kailey says. “Something I tell all my patients is that, ‘Your kids still think you’re doing a good job.’ Sometimes you have to be the best at home, sometimes you have to be the best at work… It’s definitely a challenge being a full-time working parent. I think this pandemic has kind of put everybody to the test.” “We will get through it,” she says, adding with a laugh, “but it may not be pretty.” 

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LONG-TERM (AND LIFELONG) CAREGIVER Jill Doll has been tending to the needs of others since she was a child. Today, she’s Perham Living’s Director of Nursing. BY VICKI GERDES For Luminous


enning native Jill Doll has been a caregiver for almost as long as she can remember. “Growing up, I took care of my grandma and grandpa, and I enjoyed doing that, so that’s what really drew me into nursing,” she says. “In high school, I had a job at the nursing home in Henning.” After graduating from high school, Jill went to college in Fergus Falls, obtaining her nursing degree from Minnesota State Community & Technical College (also known as M State), before taking her first job with Perham Health.

“I worked at the Perham hospital and clinic from 2006 to 2012,” she says. After that, she moved over to Tri-County Health Care in Wadena, working as their women’s health coordinator and satellite clinic manager until 2017. “Then I had an opportunity to come back here (to Perham Health),” says Jill, “and I was super excited to be back.” Jill is currently the Director of Nursing at Perham Living.

“Now that I’m back working at a long-term care facility, I feel like my career kind of went full circle,” she adds. Jill says that while she has always enjoyed what she does for a living, the advent of the coronavirus pandemic has led to some unanticipated challenges. “Every day is a new challenge, that’s for sure,” she says. “There’s always different rules and regulations, and everything’s changing constantly.” This state of flux has also led to new opportunities, however.

Jill Doll, the Director of Nursing at Perham Living, says her job duties have completely changed since COVID-19 hit. She’s now strictly focused on infection control management and regulation compliance. Marie Johnson / Tribune LUMINOUS 2020 | 11

“It really gives us an opportunity to get creative with our thinking, and do things in ways that we haven’t done them before,” Jill says. Some of those creative, “outside the box” changes have included the acquisition of multiple Facebook Portal tablets that allowed residents to continue to interact with family in real time, with video chats and other digital communication options, “which is something we haven’t done as often in the past,” she says. “It’s just really forced us to adapt the way we deliver our model of care.” Outdoor visits have also been a way to allow for more social interaction between residents and the outside world. “We have a beautiful courtyard at Perham Living, and thankfully we’ve had a lot of nice, warm fall days, so we’ve been able to take advantage of that,” she says. “It’s really saved us

Every day is a new challenge, that’s for sure. There’s always different rules and regulations, and everything’s changing constantly. —JILL DOLL

this year, and enabled us to keep our residents connected with their loved ones. ” As winter weather began to take over, the staff and residents had to continue to adapt. “There is guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health on how we can do that,” Jill says, noting that a lot of it depends on the level of infection — i.e., the number of active

Jocelyn, Jill, Charlotte, B.J., Macy and Ben enjoy a family stroll hand-in-hand. Submitted Photos

COVID-19 cases in the county and within the walls of Perham Living itself. “When you’re at level 2, you can have visitors come in the building,” she says, though social distancing restrictions need to be enforced. The hope is for Perham Living to be able to maintain a level 2 status for as long as possible during the winter months, says Jill — “and we’ll still have all the digital options, too.” Jill says her role at Perham Living has changed quite a bit since the pandemic hit in mid-March. “I was in charge of daily operations,” she explains, “managing the nursing care of the residents and the overall nursing functions of the facility.” Since COVID-19 hit, however, her job has been “strictly focusing on infection control management and practices to keep our facility compliant with regulations.” The residents and families have been “very supportive and


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understanding” of the need to keep up with those regulations, she says. “I can only imagine what it feels like to be a family member and not be able to see your loved ones as much as you’d like to, but they’ve been so kind and supportive of our efforts,” Jill says. “We really appreciate everything they do to help us through this, as well.” JIll also has nothing but positive things to say about her staff’s efforts in coping with all the changes thrown their way since March. “The staff here is so wonderful,” she says. “They care about our residents so much, and take such good care of them, working hard to help keep them connected with their families (as well as) spending so much time with them in one-on-one activities and keeping them busy so they’re not feeling isolated.” Residents are not required to remain isolated from each other, but must maintain proper safety precautions. “Our residents are able to wear a mask and interact with each other,” Jill says, adding Jill (second from right) with her family, fiancee B.J. Oseien (second from left) and their children: Ben, Jocelyn, Charlotte and Macy.

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that depending on what the level of COVID-19 infection is, they are even able to participate in some organized activities together. “Wearing a mask is encouraged,” she said, though there are obviously some medical exceptions allowed, and there has also been a marked increase in cleaning and sanitation efforts surrounding group activities. “Every two weeks, there’s a website we have to check and that gives us a percentage of (local) COVID positivity rate,” she says. “That rate tells us how often we need to be testing our staff. If it goes over 5%, we need to test our staff weekly, and if it’s under 5% we still have to test our staff monthly.” As for the residents, they are checked daily for COVID-19 symptoms, and if they show any signs, they are tested immediately. While her work life has seen a lot of fluctuation since the pandemic started, Jill says her home life has been a source of stability.

Jill has been in the nursing profession since high school. Submitted Photo

A mother of two daughters — Charlotte, 2, and Jocelyn, 9 — Jill is engaged to B.J. Oseien, who has two children of his own: daughter Macy, 12, and son Ben, 15. Their blended family lives together in Henning, and while there is a marriage in their future, there are not yet any definitive

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plans — something for which she is currently rather grateful. “I’m glad we didn’t, because I think COVID would probably have ruined anything we had planned,” she says. Helping their kids with their educations became quite challenging last spring, when they were suddenly forced to switch to remote learning instead of sending them off to school every day. “That was really difficult to manage, with (balancing) work and home life, so I’m very glad that the kids are back in school this fall,” Jill says, adding that they haven’t had to make any switches to distance learning so far. “We are still very busy, because they are in athletics, as well.” When she’s not busy balancing career and family activities, Jill says she really enjoys reading, “and in the summer we all like to go to the lake as a family. We really enjoyed that this year. We enjoy going to all the different sporting events together, as well.” 


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THE ‘DETECTIVE’ WITH ALL THE DETAILS As Infection Control and Employee Health Nurse, Cheryl Krause supports and protects the folks on the front lines, as well as their families and patients. BY REBECCA MITCHELL For Luminous


heryl Krause compares her job during the COVID-19 pandemic to that of being a detective. She starts her mornings by checking on any new positive cases, sifting through data for sciencebased evidence, and alerting employees who are considered close contacts of those infected. This ‘detective work’ of contact tracing is one way she makes sure Perham Health employees, their families, and their patients are kept safe. When Cheryl took on the role of Infection Control and Employee Health Nurse at Perham Health, it immediately expanded on her longtime love of helping patients and their families to include her own ‘family’ of healthcare workers.

“I’m not going to lead them astray,” she says. “I’m going to help protect them during this pandemic, and keep them safe.” Cheryl started her healthcare career in the 1990s and has held various positions across a range of facilities. She’s worked in an acute care hospital, rehab hospital, home health, school nursing and predominantly longterm care. Through it all, her love for helping people who are hurting has never waned. She’s about three years into her current position now, and says with a laugh, “I think someone should have warned me. But no one warned me.”

When the pandemic arrived in Minnesota in March 2020, Cheryl’s role at Perham Health quickly shifted. Her days were suddenly chock-full of educational efforts — and personal reassurances — to employees about the coronavirus, personal protective equipment and disinfectants. Family Centered Care Director, Jill Carlson, says Cheryl’s work became “vital” to Perham Health’s daily operations, as she helped employees grasp and prepare for the new policies, regulations and workloads that kept coming so quickly down the pike during the early days of the pandemic.

At Perham Health, Cheryl Krause is the Infection Control coordinator. “My head was just spinning,” she says, thinking back to the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, when information and hospital policies were changing rapidly. Marie Johnson / Luminous LUMINOUS 2020 | 15

“My role was to help alleviatae fear and get them (the frontline workers) to step back, take a calming breath, and look at this logically,” Cheryl says. “Infection control principles did not change.” COVID-19 data and guidelines provided by science-backed sources like the Minnesota Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Healthcare Safety Network and World Health Organization gave Cheryl a way to center herself.

She weeded through the fact and fiction to write ever-changing policies for Perham Health, as Jill says: “She goes back to the facts and specific resources and doesn’t...let our own ideas of what might be a better way... fog up the clear vision of what should be happening.” With these resources to refer to, Cheryl to trust in, and daily employee huddles from March through May that kept them up-to-date on changes, Perham Health workers’ concerns were lessened.

Her ability not to get shook or rattled with the volume of people that are coming at her with questions (is remarkable). —JILL CARLSON, CHERYL’S COLLEAGUE

“We did have to know what we’re dealing with, because every virus and bacteria is spread differently,” Cheryl says. “We just need to know how it’s transmitted and spread and then we can deal with it. We know what to do.” Even before the pandemic, Cheryl’s job entailed observing proper hand hygiene and how personal protective equipment was being worn, making sure supplies were in their assigned spots, and checking that surfaces were clean. It was a “more quiet” role then, she says, one that let her blend into the background. After loads of data analysis, she would support employees with the kind of detailed information that helps protect them. She worked with surgeons on surgical infections, for example, and educated patients about infections, too. In any and all of her roles, Cheryl loves a good laugh, Jill says. She visits with new employees about infection control principles and, as Jill says, “spices it up” with her wit. The two

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have neighboring offices, giving Jill the treat of hearing Cheryl’s kind welcomes and having easy access to her for information. “She’s just a very welcoming presence to all those new employees who are maybe nervous, or excited, or whatever, and even though she’s going over really mundane things about washing hands and infection control, she does her best to keep it lively and entertaining and not be a dull presentation,” Jill says. While unknowns about COVID-19 remain, Cheryl’s approach is to step back and consider ways to mitigate the virus, including social distancing, mask wearing and good hand hygiene — simple tools that she says could have kept businesses open early on. Technology has also been a useful tool to keep lives moving forward and people connected, she says, and it’s a tool that’s gotten better as the pandemic’s worn on. “If we’re going to take anything into the future based on this

Cheryl has always lived in the Lakes Area, growing up in Vergas and now living in Detroit Lakes. She has two children who are in their 20s. The family includes, left to right: Zachery and Abigail Eifealdt, Zachery Krause, Duane Krause and Cheryl. Submitted Photo

pandemic, I think it’s the fact that we have to be ready to use our technology,” Cheryl says. She traces her leadership skills and love of educating back to her time as a 4-H member — an experience she still draws from, she says, when conducting

meetings, interacting with people and giving presentations today as a leader in employee education at Perham Health. “Do I get down? Do I get frustrated? Of course I do,” she says. “But if I can help a staff person go home to their family and not worry


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about hugging their child because they were here taking care of somebody with COVID, that’s what I need to do.” She knows the people here well, and the Lakes Area in general — she grew up in Vergas and has long lived in Detroit Lakes, where her husband, Duane, is from. Perham is now part of their community, too. Cheryl makes sure all the employees in Perham Health’s hospital, clinic and long-term care facilities know she’s available and happy to answer their questions. She stops by stations twice a day, and when employees are concerned about possible coronavirus exposure, she sits, listens and offers a risk assessment that leaves them feeling more relaxed about what to do. “People come to me constantly,” Cheryl says. “Before COVID, I was wondering if they even knew where my office was. Guess what? They know where my office is, because now … every hour I have a person

in my office asking me a question, making sure they’re doing it right, just looking for that reassurance. And I’m very happy to give that, because people need that reassurance to be able to keep healthy themselves, too, because they have to lower their stress levels.”

Cheryl’s been married to her husband, Duane, for 29 years. Submitted Photo

The loads of questions don’t stop Cheryl’s smile. “I think her ability not to get shook or rattled with the volume of people that are coming at her with questions (is remarkable),” Jill says. “And she’s very good at taking and prioritizing and just focusing on what needs to get done.” She’s continually helping shoulder the weight of research and providing accurate, efficient and scientificbased information. “Everyone needs a person that they can trust, that they know has the upto-date information,” Cheryl says. When Cheryl isn’t supporting coworkers, she loves spending time in nature. She and Duane live outside of Detroit Lakes on 20 acres of woods. They have two children, Abigail and Zachery, who are both in their twenties. “I raise guinea hens and chickens, and I have cats and dogs,” Cheryl says with a laugh. “Actually, during this pandemic, outdoors is the best place to be, so I’m glad I enjoy it.” 

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As the Nursing Manager of Perham Health Clinics in Perham, New York Mills and Ottertail, including the COVID-19 Clinic that’s been temporarily set up in Perham, Sarah Fulton oversees the nursing staff and ensures continued quality nursing care in a time of rapidfire change within the healthcare industry. Marie Johnson / Tribune

THE COORDINATOR S OF THE COVID-19 CLINIC Drive-through coronavirus tests and rapid-fire policy changes are just part of Nursing Manager Sarah Fulton’s ‘new normal’ days at work. BY ROSALIN ALCOSER For Luminous

arah Fulton has been at the forefront of patient care at Perham Health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nursing Manager of not only the regular Perham Health Clinics in Perham, New York Mills and Ottertail, but also the temporary COVID-19 Clinic that’s been set up in Perham, Sarah oversees the nursing staff and helps ensure continued high-quality patient care at those facilities — all during a uniquely challenging time within the healthcare industry. It keeps Sarah on her toes to have to navigate the ever-changing landscape of nursing care during the pandemic, with new guidelines coming at her almost daily from state and federal health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health. LUMINOUS 2020 | 19

“It’s basically problem-solving,” says Beth Ulschmid of Sarah’s job. “You never know what the day’s going to bring.” As the Director of Clinic Operations at Perham Health, Beth has worked closely with Sarah for the past year and a half. “She’s a wonderful leader,” Beth says of her colleague. “She exceeds my expectations every day. She’s very new in her management role, (and) so bright, quick, creative and fun.” Sarah may not be long into her current position, but she’s not short on nursing experience. After high school, she attended Minnesota State Community and Technical

She’s a wonderful leader … bright, quick, creative and fun. —BETH ULSCHMID, SARAH’S COLLEAGUE

College to become a Registered Nurse and Licensed Practical Nurse, and later earned a bachelor of arts degree in nursing from Bemidji State University. She is currently working on a dual master’s degree (in business administration and nursing leadership

and management) at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. The nursing leadership and management program, “teaches you how to be a good leader, build teams and create a good culture that people want to work in,” Sarah says. Originally from Minneapolis, Sarah has always had family in the Lakes Area and has lived here for the past 15 years. She’s been with Sanford Health for the past 12 years, working in Perham for the last two of those. “I always enjoyed the area, and kind of knew when I graduated that I wanted to end up here,” she says. In addition to her role as Nursing Manager at the clinics, she is also a flight nurse with Sanford AirMed, which she’s been for the past six years. “My background is emergency medicine — that’s where I started at Sanford, as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant),” she says. “I’ve always loved emergency medicine, since I was in high school.” Before Sarah could achieve her dream of becoming a flight nurse, she says she needed professional experience in intensive care, so she spent a few years working on an ICU floor: “Then I did AirMed, and it’s just an amazing career.” When she’s not flying with AirMed or running the clinics at Perham Health, Sarah likes to spend time with her eight-year-old son. She says her son is her life, and he keeps her busy with sports like hockey, football, Sarah Fulton and her eight-year old son enjoying a day in the snow. Submitted Photos

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Sarah, right, loves her job as a flight nurse with AirMed. She’s pictured here with helicopter pilot Bill Schafer, left, paramedic Kari Schwab, and Santa Claus.

soccer, baseball and swimming. She also does a little volunteer work, such as with her church, First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes. Since the arrival of the pandemic, running the COVID-19 Clinic has become an integrated part of Sarah’s ‘new normal’ daily duties: “COVID is kind of wrapped in my job title now, I guess,” she says. The COVID-19 Clinic is separate from the regular clinic at Perham Health, with its own entrance. It’s located inside the addition most recently built onto the facility, added to accommodate a special care clinic. “We were able to convert that, very basically, to where we see the patients with symptoms, so it’s easy to keep the germs contained,” Beth says. “The rest of the clinic is where we see patients without those symptoms.”

To identify which patients need to be seen in the COVID-19 Clinic and which do not, Sarah and other clinic leaders consult the most current state and federal guidelines, and screen patients accordingly. “What we do is look at those guidelines and follow that guidance,” she says. “Basically whatever you see

when you look at the CDC website, or the MDH website, on symptoms and exposure, are really what we’re following.” “Every time the CDC changes the list of symptoms, we have to change our questions (for patients),” Beth adds. All of Perham Health’s COVID-19 testing is done through the clinic’s

The biggest change is how quickly information is passed on to us, and how quickly we need to accommodate that. —SARAH FULTON, ON NURSING DURING THE PANDEMIC

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drive-through testing service, the coordination of which has become a big part of Sarah’s job. “Basically what my job has been is arranging how the drive-through works — what patients go through the drive-through, who needs to be seen in the clinic, and just the day to day operations,” she says. The testing is by appointment only, but, “We have lots of patients calling in that have COVID symptoms that don’t want to be seen and just want testing,” Sarah says. Those patients are referred to an RN in the clinic for a quick triage to see if they qualify for testing before they are put on the drive-through schedule. “I think that the biggest change with COVID is that, in healthcare, we’ve always been very protocoldriven, policy-driven, resource-based driven, and everything we’ve ever done is based on research,” Sarah says. “COVID has taught a lot of us that we are fluid, and we can change

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Sarah and her son. Submitted Photo

rapidly if we need to. So the biggest change is how quickly information is passed on to us, and how quickly we need to accommodate that.” She adds that staff members have kept in good spirits over the course of the pandemic, and have done everything they can to make

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community members feel safe and confident about visiting the clinic for their normal medical care. “The staff here at Perham Health... has been just amazing,” Sarah says. Still, some people have been waiting longer than they normally would to visit the clinic, meaning they’re going in sicker, because they’re concerned about being exposed to COVID-19. “Perham Health has worked exceptionally hard at creating safety measures in cleaning, handwashing, screening of patients, and the respiratory care clinic (COVID-19 Clinic) so that patients with symptoms go into a separate area,” Sarah assures. “Just because COVID is here does not mean that diabetes or hypertension or colon cancer or any kind of cancers have gone away. There are still people in our community who face those things every day, and we need to be here to be able to support them.” 

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Profile for Perham Focus

Luminous 2020  

Shining a light on bright, brilliant women of the Perham area. The Health Defenders: Women Leaders of Perham Health Making A Difference Duri...

Luminous 2020  

Shining a light on bright, brilliant women of the Perham area. The Health Defenders: Women Leaders of Perham Health Making A Difference Duri...