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Berkland helps guide Sanford Health

Diana Berkland

Now working as Sanford Health’s vice president, nursing and clinical services, Diana Berkland ’72/’94 M.S./’14 Ph.D. has pretty much seen it all in the field of nursing. She’s worked as a clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner and now is a health-care executive.

“I practiced as a nurse practitioner for a few years prior to being invited to consider an executive position at Sanford. That was a hard decision for me because I loved the work of nursing and my work at the bedside, so that was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” she said. “I feel that I’ve been able to create an environment where we deliver outstanding patient care and an outstanding patient experience for the patients and families that we’ve been called to serve as health-care professionals.”

Part of that experience involves an interdisciplinary team that includes nurses, physicians, pharmacists and individuals in physical and occupational therapy, to name a few of the participants.

Berkland admits she’s no longer an expert in clinical care but rather works as a conduit to form high-performing teams of experts.

“I became a catalyst for the conversation and, in fact, I’m doing that today throughout Sanford,” she said. “I’m doing that by hosting conversations every single day across all regions where we have nurses, physicians, pharmacists and other therapists who come together. We’re influencing clinical practice by focusing on best practices and rolling that out across the entire footprint of Sanford.

“I would say that one of my greatest strengths is that I’ve spent so much time at the bedside, as well as the time I spent in hospital operations. That experience gives me insights that I probably wouldn’t have, had I not lived that,” Berkland continued. “Some of the things I learned through my formal and informal education are how to phrase things differently to bring people together, how to withhold judgment but listen with a willingness to be influenced and recognize that not being the expert in everything isn’t a bad thing—really rely on your team to bring all that together.

Berkland served on the South Dakota Board of Nursing for more than 10 years and was its president for three. She said that service helped her career, not only as a bedside nurse, but also in her current role.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned early on in my professional career, it’s how important it is to establish trustful relationships,” she said. “Once you have the trust and respect of a group of people, it really serves everyone, and I think all boats rise. I think that’s what we’ve done in nursing in the state of South Dakota, and that’s really attributed to a number of nursing leaders in the state.”