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DeeAndra Sandgren, from florist to Good Samaritan Society VP

DeeAndra Sandgren
Sandgren VP

DeeAndra Sandgren, vice president of nursing and clinical services for the Good Samaritan Society, holds bachelor’s degrees from South Dakota State University and Black Hills State University.

While it doesn’t show on her resume, she also earned a life degree while growing up in Lemmon and later living in Rapid City and Spearfish. Sandgren said it’s amazing how useful her multicolored occupational background is in her current role. She has worked as a roofing salesman for her father, been a floral designer, worked as both a bouncer and poker dealer at Deadwood and done other hospitality jobs.

“I’ve met all sorts of different people, so I can relate to all types of people,” said Sandgren, who has spent her entire nursing career with the Good Samaritan Society.

In her current role, she oversees clinical practice and sets the vision for delivering person-centered care for a nursing staff of nearly 6,400 at more than 330 facilities in 17 states from Florida to Hawaii. “We serve all the time zones,” the Sioux Falls resident said. “It’s really humbling when you think about the number of people who are affected by our decisions.”

Humility isn’t a trait Sandgren had to work on. Those who grow up in the forgotten corner of South Dakota tend to find humility in the water they drink.

“I have a serious job, but I don’t take myself too seriously. I enjoy laughing and joking with my co-workers,” said Sandgren, who assumed her current role in July after serving in an interim role since May. Some months are mostly spent on the road visiting facilities. Other times she is at the Society’s national campus in southeast Sioux Falls.

But Sandgren doesn’t like to stay there too long.

“A good day in the office is when I’m not in the office. I love to solicit feedback at our facilities and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our frontline staff,” the 2012 SDSU graduate said. There are five Good Samaritan facilities in Sioux Falls and 22 in South Dakota, where Good Samaritan Society has been headquartered since 1963. 

No intention of being a nurse

Sandgren didn’t see herself joining the Society while in nursing school any more than she saw herself pursuing a nursing career at age 30.

She went to South Dakota School of Mines and Technology right out of high school and took general studies for two years. After a few years in the car business and slinging cards in Deadwood, Sandgren decided finishing that college degree might be a good thing. She enrolled at Black Hills State with the aim of getting a business degree with a health care focus.

However, Black Hills dropped the health care focus. She graduated in 2009 with a business administration degree with a marketing focus.

America was in a recession at that point. Marketing grads weren’t in demand. Sandgren was working in collections at Premier BankCard. Also at this time, her grandmother had some health issues that landed her in the hospital. 

“I was spending time with her. I came home one night and told my husband that I’m going to become a nurse. And he was just like, okay let’s make it happen. You’ll be amazing.”

Moved to Sioux Falls for accelerated program

A search of the internet found the SDSU accelerated program, which, at the time, was only offered in Sioux Falls.

Sandgren with family

For a year, the family decided they could pull it off. Sandgren headed east and got an apartment in Sioux Falls. Wayne and Natalie stayed in Spearfish but would periodically make weekend visits. 

“My husband and daughter both loved the zoo, and after a couple trips to the Sioux Falls zoo, they decided moving here would be alright.”

That happened in summer 2012, shortly before Sandgren graduated from the accelerated program in August. 

Sandgren said she loved the accelerated program and camaraderie created in a rapid-paced, intense program. “You spend night and day with them sometimes.” She also loved emergency room work, which is where she did her preceptorship and where she expected to work upon graduation.

Sandgran Graduating
Sandgren with SDSU sign and friends

Finding a perfect fit at Good Samaritan Society 

When it came time to look for a job, the Good Samaritan Society was the first to contact her. She started out as a charge nurse in the rehab unit at Good Samaritan Society - Sioux Falls Village.

“You’re the eyes and ears for the doctor. It was incredible the variety of skills I used every day—IVs, catheters, wound care, lab draws, LVAD (heart pump) monitoring. I got to do almost everything I enjoyed in the hospital, had a ton of autonomy and got to advocate for the patient’s wishes. 

“The best part was getting to spend a couple of weeks with the resident learning their story. Then you do the patient education on how to care for themselves and send them home. The care is body, mind and spirit. You really get a chance to do it all in long-term care,” Sandgren said.

Sandgren at Good Sam

Within 16 months, staff development had been added to her duties. “I do have a passion for teaching. I was teaching nursing assistants and providing support for all of the onboarding for Good Samaritan nursing staff in Sioux Falls. She designed and hosted training classes covering best care practices, admission/discharge procedures, assessment tools, order entry and time management.

With Sandgren as instructor, the certified nurse assistant class had a 100% pass rate on their board exam, and she was ensuring all 700 staff members in Sioux Falls met state and federal training requirements.

Moving into Nursing leadership

Good Samaritan recognized her natural administrative skills and promoted Sandgren to director of nursing services at Good Samaritan Society - Luther Manor in Sioux Falls in 2015.

“I’m a little bit of a control freak,” she said with a chuckle. “Somebody has to be in charge.  People needed guidance and I’m grateful the staff put their faith in me.” Sandgren would look at situations that didn’t have adequate procedures and develop a process. “That’s what excites me the most. I get a really great opportunity to look at the problem and come up with solutions to take down barriers.”

Erica DeBoer ’97, chief nursing officer at Sanford Health, said, “Recently I had the privilege to round with her at some of the Good Samaritan Society sites in Iowa. No matter the interaction, if there was a problem presented, she was able to connect the dots and get resources deployed as needed to solve the problem for the short term. She is diligent about her follow up and communication for the longer-term needs.”

Sandgren was in the director of nursing services role until 2020, when she became regional clinical services director, providing leadership at 19 locations.

During that time, she designed and implemented nursing home administration of the COVID-19 antibody infusion, increased retention for directors of nursing services by 86% and provided enthusiastic mentoring and onboarding of field leaders.

DeBoer observed, “DeeAndra is a powerful advocate for resident and client care as well as articulate clinical voice for our clinical teams that serve in our skilled, home health and hospice spaces. She is new to her VP of nursing role, but she is a natural in the role and quickly adapts to the ever-changing landscape to solve problems and assure value is delivered to our residents, clients and employees.” 

DeeAndra Sandgren

VP keeps priority on people

In her current vice president role, Sandgren is responsible for a slew of federal and corporate reports, needs to keep an eye on the bottom line, and has to ensure a standardized level of nursing care is delivered at all facilities—139 nursing home facilities, 81 assisted living facilities, 60 independent living centers and 29 campuses where services are provided at twin homes as well as at 11 hospice agencies and another 11 home health agencies.     

But Sandgren doesn’t let the enormity of the job surpass the importance of the individual.

“Twenty minutes before this interview, I received an email from a colleague thanking me for my call a couple weeks earlier,” Sandgren said. “She had been on the verge of burnout. I talked about balance and the importance of taking care of the caregiver. She has a passion for running and now has gotten back into doing that and is modeling that balance for her folks.” 

Working in long-term care can lead to long-term relationships, she added.

Sandgren shared she recently reconnected with a man she first got to know 10 years ago when she was a charge nurse and his wife was in a rehab unit. He later ended up in the rehab unit, and Sandgren connected with him in a different context. Now he is living at an independent living unit that Sandgren was visiting.

In geriatric nursing, “We get to do a little bit of everything. Helping patients find what they think is their best quality of life is very rewarding. I really think I have the best job in the world. I get to empower people do more than they ever thought they could,” Sandgren said.