Support System

May 1, 2019 | by anna rogers

In celebration of National Nurses Week (May 6-12), we’re featuring five women at Yellowstone Surgery Center who are leading and caring for the nurses in their departments. As clinical directors, these women are the support and driving force behind the nursing staff, all tracing their current success back to their nursing roots. They are managers and moms, wearing many hats and proving that the sky is the limit in a career in nursing.

Laying the Foundation 

Seventeen years ago, Rob Gagnon was tasked with staffing Yellowstone Surgery Center with the best people out there. The physicians were adamant – as executive director, he was to find the best nurses and offer them the best benefits to bring them on board.

This willingness to put its people first didn’t end at recruitment for Yellowstone Surgery Center. The company built and continues to build a culture that values, supports, and retains its staff.

“Yellowstone Surgery Center is the place where people want to end up,” says Laurel Struck, Director of Marketing. After the thrills of crazy hours and intense work environments, this is a place where people come to settle in; a place where the staff can be career driven and family focused.

The center’s ability to be such a place is rooted in solid leadership, a foundation that supports its staff and unites everyone in a common goal: patient care. Excellent patient care is the driving force behind every decision made at Yellowstone Surgery Center, and it is the why behind an intentional structure of clinical directors who support the valuable nursing staff.


“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the policy you've decided upon is being carried out.” - Ronald Reagan

Gagnon has made this his mantra in his role at Yellowstone Surgery Center and based on the high retention of staff and degree to which his clinical directors love their jobs, it’s clear that this management style is working.

“It was an adjustment coming to Yellowstone Surgery Center from a place with so much oversight and input,” says Jonna Lamb, OR Nursing Director at the Downtown facility. “I’ve been given more space to grow. Instead of being told what to do, I’m asked, ‘What do you think?’”

Jonna is one of five clinical directors who all agree – YSC really values women and gives them input, providing autonomy with just the right amount of direction and support to drive growth.

Teresa Harris is the Senior Director of Clinical Operations & Quality, yet she views her role from the perspective of supporting the clinical directors under her. “I’m not a boss, I am a leader, and to be a leader, I need to be a servant,” she says. “What I do takes the pressure off of my four directors, so they’re able to focus on their staff. I handle the laws, regulations, risk management, etc., taking on what would otherwise be a heavy burden on their shoulders and a distraction from making the staff a priority.”


Spend just five minutes with this group of clinical directors together in a room and their collaboration with one another will be evident. As nurses, they are rooted in empathy – toward their patients, the staff they support, and one another. They feel free to speak what they think and trust that it will be heard and valued by their colleagues. Among the five highly successful women working closely together, they avoid competitive attitudes and instead focus on teamwork. 

Sarah Wald, Pre-Post Op Nursing Director at the West location, once worked under Sue Dahl, the Pre-Post Op Nursing Director at the Downtown location. “Sarah was my employee, and then I became sort of a mentor to her, but now, we’re partners. I view her as my equal. We’re not competing with each other. Our end goal is the same – staff support and patient care.”

Sarah Wald and Sara White, OR Nursing Director of the West location, have collaborated together to open and run Yellowstone Surgery Center’s West facility. “We do it all – whatever needs to be done,” they both remarked with a smile.

Sarah Wald says she really enjoys problem-solving and improving processes. "My greatest desire is to make changes where they’re needed and make sure our staff has everything they need to be successful in patient care.”

“Perioperative nursing is a team environment, says Sara White. “We’ve all come from that clinical environment as nurses, and as managers, we’re working to build that teamwork in our facilities.”


These five clinical directors have something else in common – they’re all moms. For each of them, finding a healthy balance between work and family is important. They all feel that Yellowstone Surgery Center has created an environment where this is attainable, with no weekend work and no on-call for the directors or their nursing staff. 

In addition to striking a healthy work-life balance, the directors view their roles as mothers as a strength on the job.

“Caring for my children and for patients has made me more compassionate,” says Sue Dahl. “Compassionate… but tough!” They all let out a little laugh at this and share stories of times they’ve told their kids, “Oh, you’re fine!”

Teresa sees many parallels between her work as a mom to four girls and a leader to four clinical directors. “Having four girls helps me realize that people are created with distinct personalities, and if I want to be an effective mother and an effective director, I need to adjust how I relate to each person. I seek to be open to feedback and constructive criticism from the women I lead and to listen to what they need from me.”

It’s this shared mentality of openness and camaraderie balanced with hard work and dedication to their staff that makes these five clinical directors at Yellowstone Surgery Center so successful. Building on their experiences as nurses, they are supporting the nursing staff to create an environment that excels in patient care.

Originally printed in the MONTH 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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