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Liz Engum, right, a Warroad native, has been a nurse for five years at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. Submitted Photo | Sanford Bemidji Medical Center

Annual Report | Health: 'Floating' job offers variety for Sanford Bemidji nurse

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Annual Report | Health: 'Floating' job offers variety for Sanford Bemidji nurse
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEMIDJI - Sanford Bemidji nurse Liz Engum could be working in any department on any given day.

Engum is one of 18 nurses in the so-called floating nurse pool - the Nurse Resource Team - at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. Floating nurses have set schedules but are sent to different departments within the medical center throughout their workdays. Their assignments are based on patient load to ensure adequate staffing in each department.


"Really, at any time, I can be switched," said Engum, who, when interviewed in the mid-afternoon in early June, was en route to her third department that day.

Engum might be working in the emergency room one day, when a patient first arrives at the hospital seeking help. As the patient is treated, he might be admitted into the intensive care unit, where Engum just might happen to be working the following day. And, a few days later, he might be recovering from a procedure while Engum, then working as a med/surg nurse, would help him recover.

"They might come in super sick, you might wonder if they're even going to make it, and then you get to see them leave here feeling better," she said. "It's fun to see the progression of their stay."

Engum, who has been in that floating nurse pool for about four years, grew up in Warroad, graduating from high school there in 1999. After moving to Detroit Lakes for a while, her husband's career brought them to Bemidji. She enrolled in the two-year license practical nursing program at Northwest Technical College, graduating about eight years ago.

She then enrolled Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls to obtain an associate's degree in nursing. She graduated in 2007.

Both programs - the LPN at NTC and the ADN at Thief River Falls -required two semesters each of clinical experience, which Engum completed at Sanford Bemidji sites.

"I had an awesome clinical experience," she said, noting the experiences prepared her well for the workforce. "You're kind of exposed to all types of nursing, even in the clinic, psychiatric."

Clinicals offered exposure to all departments, but Engum found that she best liked "med/surg," or medical/surgery nursing. This refers to nurses who work on the second floor of Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, covering basically all departments other than ICU, pediatrics or labor and delivery.

"I really like that because it's fairly diverse" in terms of the types of patients seen, Engum said. "I get to work with every employee basically in the hospital."

Med/surg had an opening at the time of her graduation; Engum applied and got the job.

"I called every day," she recalled, laughing.

After a year in med/surg, Engum requested to transfer to the float pool. She was working four or five eight-hour shifts a week in med/surg and, in float, would work three 12-hour days.

Engum now has re-enrolled in school. She is attending Bemidji State University, where she will build upon a two-year associate's degree to obtain a bachelor's degree.

"It's really kind of a step process," Engum said.

Engum said she would perhaps consider going on to get her master's degree to be a nurse practitioner later down the road, in 10 years or so. But, now, she is focused on her family, obtaining her bachelor's degree and enjoying her work in the float pool.

"The one thing I don't like is when I have to see people who are in pain, whether physically or psychologically, especially in pediatric situations," she said, noting that it is even more difficult when she can't do anything for their pain.

She enjoys the flow of her work, that it offers a variety of nursing experiences.

"I really liked (nursing) as soon as I got into the CNA program," she said, referencing her NTC schooling. "I knew I liked it then."

Bethany Wesley
(218) 333-9200 x337