Director of nursing honored with Patriot Award

Serving others is good medicine for the soul.

Megan Soukup, a CNA at Good Samaritan Society – Wagner in South Dakota, is known for loving and looking out for residents.

“I started here in 2019. I was 15,” Megan, who grew up on a farm nearby, says. “From there on, I kind of discovered that serving others is what I really like. It’s my passion. It’s kind of where I stuck ever since."

The 19-year-old is also serving the country in the South Dakota Army National Guard. She hopes to put in 20 years and drills with the 155th Engineer Company in Wagner.

"I’m a soldier first. Then my job is heavy equipment operator, so construction. I do excavators, dozers, loaders, scrapers, road graders. All kinds of heavy junk equipment like that,” Megan says smiling.

'We like to treat our military family well'

Returning recently from annual training overseas, Megan is integrating smoothly at the Society, and her fellow caregivers are happy to have her back.

“She’s a very hard worker. She loves her residents,” Kelsey Schochenmaier, RN, the location's director of nursing, says.

In addition to being a CNA, Megan helps out as a certified medication aide. She's also learning to be a restorative aide.

The team here is "very, very flexible with my schedule when it comes to Guards," Megan says.

“We like to treat our military family well,” Kelsey says. “Without them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms that we enjoy here."

The Society and Sanford Health want to be an employer of choice for military members and veterans.

“It’s important. That’s who (Megan) is, that’s where she wants to belong and we want her to stay here,” Kelsey says.

Patriot Award for supervisor support

Grateful for the Society’s support of her military service, Megan is nominating Kelsey for a Patriot Award.

“I was very honored, but I didn’t feel like it was just for me. It’s a team effort here to make everything work. If I didn’t have my CNAs or my nurses, we wouldn’t be able to serve our residents,” Kelsey says.

Nursing home administrator Whitney Podzimek says treating staff members like family, whether they’re military or not, is the mission. One Kelsey carries out time and time again.

“Definitely honored to have that type of award here in this facility,” Whitney says. “The military is near and dear to my heart. My husband has served in the Army."“(Kelsey) always is putting other people first. Her sitting in that desk, she’s such a bright, smart, brilliant nurse, I don’t really have to worry about this building."

Kelsey and her crew are creating a force for good providing quality care.

“We’ve got to support our military. We’ve got to be there for them because they support us through everything too,” Kelsey says.

Developing caregivers with military backgrounds

A recipient of the Sanford Veteran Professional Development Grant, Megan’s health care career is off to a promising start. She eventually wants to become a radiology tech.

“Beyond, beyond grateful. It’s amazing. You don’t realize it until you get home (from duty) and you see all the opportunities and all the things they (Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society) have available to veterans. It’s very amazing,” Megan says.

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