New Year, New Career: Prairie St. John's

Published: Jun 13, 2017

Hope and healing manifests at Prairie St. John’s

Mission-based work drives the team-oriented Prairie St. John’s staff to provide each patient with personalized care.

Michelle Parkinson, Prairie St. John’s human resource director and a 24-year- veteran of the healthcare industry, is propelled by its mission of hope and healing. “For me, it’s about how being a part of the team makes me feel and see how we are making lives better for the people in our community; that’s why working at Prairie St. John’s is so important to me,” Parkinson said.

The 110-inpatient bed facility with several outpatient programs offers a “continuum of care” to address a person’s behavioral health or substance use challenges. Treatment team professionals work with patients throughout their recovery journey, whether they need immediate crisis stabilization, a 30-day residential program, daily outpatient therapy or just a quarterly “check-in” visit. Annually, Prairie St. John’s serves approximately 6,600 patients primarily from North Dakota and Minnesota.

Licensed Addiction Counselor, Connie Longie, added “We are motivated to heal the whole person – body, mind, and soul. We connect patients with the self-help community and other agencies with specific areas of expertise. One such example is Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. When we have a patient who has been impacted by domestic abuse we begin the therapeutic process and connect the patient with the specialized services offered at Rape and Abuse to set in motion what we believe will be the best outcome for the patient. The key for supporting longevity in recovery is to believe in the person and provide resources and opportunities for them to grow.”


Staff creates warm and loving environment

Prairie St. John’s mobilizes treatment teams, which include psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, nurses, and counselors to piece together effective and personalized treatment for each of their patients. The relationship-based process works to build trust over a period of time. Visiting with patients casually in this supportive environment gives our nurses and treatment team members insight into the person’s life. The treatment teams do not have specific tests to run that will illustrate what’s wrong with a patient instead Prairie St. John’s employees talk to patients to figure that out.

“It’s about helping people to get back on track, to find where they want to go in life, and arm them with coping skills to use the next time they have a challenge in life. Everyone has instances where things didn’t go their way. Our job is to help them work through the challenges when they are at their worst, to see that there is hope and people to help them get back to living their life,” Parkinson said.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five adults in the U.S., around 43.8 million, experience mental illness in a given year.

“We are working to help people be confident in themselves, their abilities and to find their dream again,” Parkinson said.


Company culture emphasize self-care

“We have 400 employees, but the CEO still knows who you are. Anyone is encouraged to be on committees, to share ideas and bring suggestions on how to serve our patients better,” Parkinson said.

The employee engagement committee at Prairie St. John’s designed two lounges for the staff; one with Wi-Fi and a large television, the other with massage chairs to encourage quiet and relaxation. In another program, employees write “happy grams” or thank you notes to their coworkers.

“Coworkers are amazing to work with and a valued support system. The fiscal benefits are a bonus but the real PERK is the unbelievable support from the entire organization,” Longie said.

Employees understand that Prairie St. John’s culture of caring is vital to the recovery business.

“I have worked in other facilities in the Fargo-Moorhead area and other communities over the last 16 years to find the true value with working in the mental health and substance abuse field is the support for each other as we help people find themselves again,” Longie said. “I wouldn’t trade places with anyone, anywhere.”


Openings at Prairie St. John’s offer opportunities to all

More than half of the employees at Prairie St. John's are nursing staff, including registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and psychiatric technicians. Prairie doesn’t require prior experience. All employees are trained to handle crisis situations and given the skills to verbally deescalate a person who is depressed, anxious, angry or frustrated. Psychiatric technicians are typically students who are interested in the mental health field.

“We attempt to give our psych techs a wide variety of experience to help them determine what they want to do with their degree. Our hope is that they will grow with Prairie and become a nurse, therapist, addiction counselor or social worker,” Parkinson said.

Tuition reimbursement is available for both LPNs and RNs.

“Many people forget that when you work in healthcare, it’s not just for clinicians, you have to run a business just like any other company. There are so many opportunities grow in a position you get to be excited about every day,” Parkinson said.

Visit to join a compassionate team focused on being a leader in supporting healthy lifestyles through evidence-based treatment of behavioral health and substance use challenges.

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