Jan Kamphuis when she began her nursing career (left) and today (right).

Celebrating 39 years on National Nurses Day

April 24, 2019

Growing up in a small Iowa town, Jan Kamphuis found herself in a hospital room more often than she would have liked. She broke her arm twice, needed stitches in her hand and had her fair share of bumps and bruises.

“I was a total klutz,” Kamphuis said.

But those childhood injuries sparked a love for medicine that has shaped Kamphuis’ career. The vice president of nursing and clinical services retires next month after almost 39 years at Sanford Bismarck.

She leaves behind a powerful legacy, not only in the lives of the staff and patients she has impacted through her work but as a donor to the Sanford Health Foundation.


Called to nursing

Kamphuis started her career in a white cap and dress as an emergency room nurse. She originally wanted to be a lab tech, but with her outgoing personality, a high school counselor encouraged her to pursue nursing instead.

“I was drawn to helping others,” Kamphuis said.

Shortly after graduating with her degree in nursing, Kamphuis married her husband, Mark. The couple moved to Bismarck and, nearly four decades later, still call the community home.

Kamphuis took a nursing job in the Bismarck Hospital emergency room. Within a few years, she was leading the ER department. In that role, she helped start the hospital’s first flight team.

Then in 1989, while working on her master’s degree and raising two little girls, Kamphuis was offered a new challenge. She was promoted to director of nursing, and despite title changes, mergers and acquisitions, her role hasn’t changed in 30 years.

“I’m still the voice for nursing,” Kamphuis said. “My job is to advocate for nurses and represent them at the table.”

Under her leadership, the nursing profession evolved, not just with the changes in technology but even how nurses were identified in the hospital. She helped Bismarck Hospital nurses put away their white caps and dresses and don more practical scrubs instead.

Kamphuis also played a key role in helping Sanford Bismarck earn Magnet recognition for the third time. This is the highest and most prestigious distinction a health care organization can receive for nursing excellence and high quality patient care. Currently, Sanford Bismarck is the only Magnet-designated health care system in North Dakota.


Giving back

Kamphuis’ father always told her, “If you give back, it comes back 10 fold.” She has taken that advice to heart and has given back to her coworkers and the patients they serve in whatever way was needed.

“Philanthropy really aligns with the philosophy of nursing,” Kamphuis said. “Our goal is to lighten the burden of others. Whatever we can do to help others, that’s what we are called to do.”

Kamphuis has supported advancing the nursing profession through scholarships. She received a scholarship to study nursing and has wanted to pay that gift forward to others.

She’s also given back to major projects including building a new kidney dialysis center, the children’s hospital renovation and, most recently, the Above and Beyond campaign for child life.

“You never know how your support will come back to make a difference for you,” Kamphuis said. “The more you give, the more you get back in different ways.”


Join the celebration

On May 6, National Nurses Day, Kamphuis will celebrate her retirement.

“I want to make it a celebration of nurses as a profession,” Kamphuis said. “For me, that’s really the most important thing.”

Join in celebrating Kamphuis and all nurses. National Nurses Week, May 6-12, is a great opportunity to honor a nurse who has made a difference in your life through the Foundation’s Guardian Angel program.

The process is easy:

  1. Make a gift in honor of a nurse, other staff or volunteer.
  2. Your honoree will receive a personalized card and Guardian Angel pin.
  3. Every dollar of your gift can be directed to the area of health care that matters to you.