The healthcare field is a major backbone of the Bismarck economy with more than 5,000 employees working at hospitals and doctor’s offices throughout the city. But don’t let the numbers fool you. When it comes down to it, North Dakotans are pretty darn healthy. In 2008, publisher CQ Press ranked the city ninth on the list of Healthiest States in America, and Bismarck took top billing on the same list for lowest annual health insurance premiums and highest number of hospital beds available. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of North Dakota has one of the lowest infectious disease rates in the country. While healthcare may seem like big business in this city, it’s the community feel of the hospitals that truly sets Bismarck’s standard of patient care apart.
Take Medcenter One, one of two hospitals located in the capitol city. This 223-bed facility is accredited by The Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and has been designated by the state as a Level II trauma center, the highest ranking available in North Dakota. And to think, the hospital got its start with just two men who possessed a true pioneer spirit—and we’re not talking about Lewis and Clark. Medcenter President and CEO James Cooper proudly recounts the tale of Eric Quain and Niles Ramstad, two innovative doctors who founded the Quain & Ramstad Clinic in 1902. That clinic would later become Medcenter One. Today, in addition to receiving Magnet designation, the hospital has received recognition for its programs in bariatric surgery and cardiac rehabilitation. Medcenter One also as three walk-in clinics—one located downtown, another on the northern end of the city and a third that specializes in pediatrics—all of which have websites that are continuously updated to notify patients of wait times. Despite all of the awards and recognition Medcenter One has received, it’s the community feel of the hospital that Cooper is most proud of.
“We’re living and working in a small community,” he says. “We take care of our neighbors, our friends and sometimes even our family members. It puts a different dedication onto the work that gets done here.”
When it comes the hospital’s smallest patients, the proof is in the painting—or at least the murals that will line the walls of the soon-to-be-remodeled children’s hospital. The new design is part of a grander scheme concocted by a teenager named Amber DesRoches, a patient who came to the hospital after being diagnosed with leukemia at age 11. Amber had a certain affinity for Neverland—it was her escape from treatments and doctor visits. After she passed away in 2007, her family approached the hospital with a handful of Amber’s journals and a plan: bring Amber’s love for Peter Pan to life. In the summer of 2010, the imaginative world that Amber drew out on the pages of her journal will take over the pediatric unit of the hospital. The nursing station will be morphed into a pirate ship with aquarium portals teeming with tropic fish that the children will feed. And the treatment room ceiling will come alive with ocean-like light features that young patients can watch during procedures. With the help of more than $600,000 of community donations and pledges, the plan to create a hospital that doesn’t feel much like a hospital at all will become a reality.
That same sense of neighborly care and support is also deeply ingrained into St. Alexius Medical Center, a full-service hospital founded by a group of Benedictine sisters as the first community hospital in Dakota Territory. The hospital that started in a hotel with 15 beds and a coal stove in each room is now a 306-bed acute care hospital that has received Magnet status. In its early years, the hospital treated notable people like Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy—even Sioux chief Sitting Bull. Now, aside from offering services that range from children’s and women’s health to medical imaging and surgical care, the hospital also offers home care and hospice services to many of Bismarck’s regular folks. The hospital also provides a range of other services through its Centers of Excellence, many of which have been recipients of individual awards.