During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers have been tirelessly working to help, care for, and protect their patients and community members. In order to keep up with the demanding pace, these workers face long, grueling shifts and serve many more patients than they would have before the pandemic. At hospitals and healthcare clinics around the world, there are teams of healthcare leaders who work behind the scenes, not only ensuring their organizations are operating smoothly, but also that their staff is safe and well-cared-for during these extremely challenging times.
St. Catherine University nursing alumna Jessie Thurber-Dean, BSN’03, MHA, RN, RNC-OB, NE-BC, is one of these leaders. Thurber-Dean is the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) at St. Anthony North Health Campus — a 113-bed community hospital north of Denver, Colorado — where she oversees around 1,400 employees. She was a bedside nurse for over eight years before she transitioned into nursing leadership, so she was intimately aware of the long hours that nurses and healthcare staff put in during times of crisis. As a part of the administrative team at the hospital, she puts in extra time to ensure all of her staff — especially the nursing teams directly impacted by COVID (ED, ICU and the COVID floor) — are looked after during their long and stressful shifts. Thurber-Dean makes every possible effort to connect with her staff to see what they need, or what would help the very tired teams, including going above and beyond by providing coloring books and art kits, a dedicated relaxation room for them to step away and reframe, and even visits with ponies.
As a part of the COVID Incident Command Team at the hospital, Thurber-Dean is also responsible for the COVID-19 vaccine clinic. This monumental task of setting up the clinic included coordinating the shipment of vaccines and their storage, staffing the vaccine clinic, processing documentation, and scheduling second vaccine dose appointments. Starting on December 16, 2020, Thurber-Dean and her team managed to get almost all of her staff vaccinated with their first dose in just three days. Afterward, the hospital’s vaccine clinic became a community partner, vaccinating community members according to the state-approved tiers. Thurber-Dean set up an impressive operation, implementing and executing separate queues and processes for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as first and second doses. As of mid-March, the hospital’s vaccine clinic had given over 6,000 doses and will continue to provide vaccinations for as long as they are needed. “I love the people I work with and the things we do to help our patients and our community. It is challenging but rewarding,” says Thurber-Dean.
Her hospital recently honored her efforts and leadership with their “Constituent Spotlight.” “I have had such amazing nursing leaders who saw leadership potential and grew me into the nursing leader I am today,” she reflects. In addition to great professional mentors, Thurber-Dean also credits her education. “I am proud because it is such an excellent nursing program and provided an excellent education. St. Kate’s is an incredible school and provided me with the foundation to be a great nurse,” she says. “St. Kate’s helped create the excellent nursing leader I am today.”