Making History at Altru Specialty Center

For 120 years, we’ve brought specialists together, added services and grown to meet our region’s needs. Now, with 14 locations in the Grand Cities, convenient health care is right around the corner.

One such location is Altru Specialty Center. On March 11, we celebrated with a community open house, complete with an official ribbon cutting ceremony and guided tours throughout the facility. That same day, the state of North Dakota also granted us a provisional license.

Ribbon Cutting Full Group

The only hospital of its kind in Eastern North Dakota to have single specialty care under one roof, Altru Specialty Center is home to:

First since 1976
The first opening of a new hospital in Grand Forks since 1976, Altru Specialty Center will feature four operating rooms and 45 private beds. Learn more in this infographic:

ASC stats(Click to view larger.)

Inpatient Rehabilitation
The second floor of Altru Specialty Center is home to Altru’s inpatient rehabilitation services. It features 23 spacious patient rooms, a dedicated cafeteria and a comfortable family day room.

Inpatient Rehab

Photography by Mark Schlanser-EAPC. All rights reserved.

Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), Altru’s inpatient rehabilitation has the goal of maximizing or restoring a functional level of independence for discharge to a community setting.

Rehabilitation patients will relocate to Altru Specialty Center starting March 25, and orthopedic and podiatry patients will follow the next week.

Joint Replacement Center
As a leader in knee and hip replacement, the Joint Replacement Center’s goal is to get patients back to their active routines as quickly as possible. Twenty-two private rooms (located on the first floor of Altru Specialty Center) and dedicated occupational and physical therapists are for joint replacement patients.

Physical therapy

Photography by Mark Schlanser-EAPC. All rights reserved.

Key benefits of the program include:

  • Reduced length of hospital stay
  • Modern techniques in pain control
  • Designated Blue Distinction® Center+ for Knee and Hip Replacement
Photography by Mark Schlanser-EAPC. All rights reserved.

Photography by Mark Schlanser-EAPC. All rights reserved.

It’s About Our Patients
Altru patients will experience several benefits from this transition. In addition to individual rooms increasing privacy and decreasing wait times, some rooms also house larger beds and wider doors for bariatric patients. From state-of-the-art equipment to warm, home-like finishes throughout, patients and visitors will enjoy the brand new space.

JRC Patient Room

Photography by Mark Schlanser-EAPC. All rights reserved.

Additionally, moving these specialties to South Washington Medical Park frees up space at our main campus to allow for additional capacity and complete conversion of private patient rooms.

Thank You
Thank you to the core group of individuals (pictured below) who made this milestone at Altru Specialty Center. Without your hard work and dedication, this important piece of our region’s history could not have happened.

ASC Core Group

See the full list of Altru services available at South Washington Medical Park and the news release.

Honoring Jim, My Stepdad and Best Friend, during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

I began a new career as a registered nurse at Altru Health System in October 2008. I started at Altru’s Endoscopy Center. Within two weeks, I had personal family knowledge of the importance of screening colonoscopy for people when they turn 50.

Did you get your colonoscopy?
I checked with my mom, Eileen, to see if she and my stepdad, Jim Forsberg, both 60, had their screening colonoscopies when they turned 50. She said they had had flexible sigmoidoscopy two years ago. While I was glad they had it done, I explained it didn’t give a complete look at the colon, as there is two to three feet of colon that isn’t seen during that procedure. I recommended they make appointments for colonoscopies, and mom assured me they would, as soon as they returned from winter in Surprise, AZ.

Surprise Tumors
Jim had complained of pain on his right side for a few months, and was doctoring with his family physician for a few months. Jim attributed the abdominal pain to medication he was on. Shortly after arriving in Arizona in November, the pain increased and Jim went to an emergency clinic for an assessment. It was determined his gallbladder needed to be removed. When the surgeons began, they saw large tumors throughout the liver, pinching off the gallbladder and continuing onto the diaphragm. They took the gallbladder out and closed up Jim. Our family’s life was forever changed.

When the initial shock of a Stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis set in, our focus became hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst. The oncologist said with treatment, Jim could have up to two years to live due to his good health. A port was placed and chemotherapy began.

Jim and Eileen Forsberg

Eileen and Jim Forsberg

As time passed, Jim seemed to wither away before our very eyes. When they flew home at Christmas, Jim had gone from 169 pounds to 146. When we saw him again in March, he had lost another 20 pounds. It was during this visit that he visited with his primary physician. While we’re all responsible for our own health, Jim told his physician he felt he had “dropped the ball” by not encouraging a colonoscopy when Jim turned 50. Jim said he might be facing death now, and that he didn’t want any other patients to have to go through this.

Last Months
I flew to Arizona to be with mom and Jim for one last vacation. He was frail, but was still excited for the visit. He’d purchased a golf cart to get around their retirement complex – a “bucket list” item, according to mom.

In May, Mom and Jim came back to Grand Forks. At just 127 pounds, he began care at Altru Cancer Center. Family gathered to celebrate his 65th birthday on May 30. After a stay in the hospital for pain and dehydration, we made the decision with Jim’s oncologist to take him home with Altru’s Hospice.

On a beautiful evening in June, surrounded by family, Jim left us and took his journey to heaven. It had only been seven months from his diagnosis.

Shari with Jim

Shari and Jim

Remembering Jim
It wasn’t until his funeral that I truly understood what a wonderful man my stepdad had been. Jim changed many people’s lives by always being there for them, or simply offering a cup of coffee and a laugh. No matter the time or day, they could call Jim. My stepdad owned Forsberg Motors Car Lot for 15 years and helped countless people jump their vehicle, pull them out of a ditch or give them a ride home.

Jim became my stepdad, but he also became my best friend. He always came to my rescue when things went wrong. He was the greatest grandpa in the world, coming up with fun things to do with his granddaughters. It was never boring at Grandpa Jim’s. He made every day a holiday with his happy, go lucky, positive attitude.

Life after Cancer
I continue to work at Altru’s Endoscopy Center and encourage people to schedule their screening colonoscopy when they turn 50, or earlier if there’s family history. Prevention is key when it comes to colon cancer. Every time a diagnosis of colon cancer is given to one of our patients, I think of the horrible, life-changing news our family received six years ago. Could a screening colonoscopy have prevented this?

I remember talking with my stepsister, Jami, after Jim’s diagnosis and was shocked when she told me she had had a large polyp removed at the age of 29. She was told to inform her family members that colon cancer could run in the family and to encourage early screening. Jami said she told Jim, but that he discredited it as a “female problem.” If only he had understood a little more, we may not have said goodbye so soon.

Dress in Blue Day | March 7, 2014
Altru’s GI Clinic and Endoscopy Center physicians and staff wear blue every day. Join the trend and help raise awareness of colon cancer by participating in Dress in Blue Day Friday, March 7, 2014. Please share this with your family and friends.


Have you or someone close to you experienced colon cancer? Please share your story here.

Shari Reynolds

Shari Reynolds loves her job as a registered nurse at Altru’s Endoscopy Center. In her free time, she enjoys riding her bike, shopping and spending time with her grandkids.


Give Your Heart Some Love

Hearts. They’re popping up everywhere lately. Mushy Valentine’s messages pump through our stores, homes and lives. And, just like that, the chocolates are gone, the flowers have wilted, and the hearts disappear. Valentine’s Day is over.

Love yourself. Live healthy.

This year, let’s focus on hearts just a little longer. February celebrates American Heart Month. It’s a time to give our hearts some extra attention and TLC. Our hearts are more powerful than we think.

It’s never too late to show yourself some love through healthy living. Here are some heart healthy tips to get you on the right beat.

American Heart Month Infographic

(Click to view larger.)

The Sanny and Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention and Genetics is offering a complimentary blood pressure screening during the month of February. To schedule your free screening, call 701.732.7620. 

What’s one way you’ll show your heart some love this month? Let us know. Sharing might inspire someone else to do the same.

Altru Alliance Celebrates $3 Million and Counting

3 MillionWhat do coffee pots, pain-relieving heart pillows and children’s books have in common? All were generously donated by Altru Alliance to patients, visitors and our communities.

Other examples of the Alliance at work include the Home Delivered Meals program, car seats for Safe Kids Grand Forks, nursing scholarships, courtesy vehicles, blanket warmers and more. Through the years, Altru Alliance has supported Altru Cancer Center, the Suicide Prevention Walk, the Smarter Leaner Greener program (offering free rides for kids who cannot afford to ride the bus), raised gardens at Parkwood Senior Living and countless other areas across Altru and our communities. 

The United Hospital Auxiliary was formed in 1971, a combination of the Deaconess and St. Michael’s Auxiliaries. RAVE (the Rehab Hospital Auxiliary) was integrated in July 1995. Following integration of the Grand Forks Clinic in 1997, the United Hospital Auxiliary changed its name to the Altru Auxiliary. In 2005, they changed their name to Altru Alliance.

The Auxiliary first gifted $2,694 in 1971, and the first major gift was $25,000 spread from 1974 – 1977 for the United Hospital Building fund.

In 1997, they reached their first million in giving. In 2005, they hit two million. Now nine years later, they’ve added another million to the total. These dollars provide services to patients and families, fund supportive activities and promote the health and welfare of our communities.

Altru Alliance Gift Shop
Altru Alliance Board President Jo Cultice says, “One of the most memorable moments in my tenure came at the end of 2012 when Susan Alexander, our Gift Shop manager, announced that for the first time, annual gross sales had exceeded half a million dollars! And the numbers just keep growing due to her expertise in management and our wonderful volunteers.”

Located near the hospital lobby, Altru Alliance Gift Shop carries a variety of gift items and home décor, as well as flowers, balloons and cards to cheer up patients and staff. The gift shop is the Alliance’s major source of funds.

Three longtime volunteers get together Wednesday mornings and arrange donated flowers to brighten patients’ stays. Jo explains, “The ladies go in and out of patient rooms on Wednesdays, saying hello. If they notice an area with no flowers, they bring one in and tell the patient to have a beautiful day, compliments of the Alliance.”

Candy Vigen, Scholarship Committee chair, presents a $500 Altru Alliance Scholarship to Shelby Breiland at the awards ceremony at Northland Community and Technical College on January 23, 2014. The Alliance gives Northland students $4,000 worth of scholarships every year.

Candy Vigen, Scholarship Committee chair, presents a $500 Altru Alliance Scholarship to Shelby Breiland at the awards ceremony at Northland Community and Technical College on January 23, 2014. The Alliance gives Northland students $4,000 worth of scholarships every year.

Membership Opportunities
Alliance membership is open to all adults. Dues are $10 per calendar year, which support patient care programs and community wellness services. Members can:

  • Volunteer in the gift shop and help in special assignment areas
  • Attend programs related to health and personal well-being
  • Participate in community service projects
  • Serve on the Alliance Board

Active members can serve in ways best suited to their schedules, including helping with fundraising sales or community events. For those who cannot become active members, the Alliance encourages an inactive membership. This means you will receive the Alliance newsletter and are welcome to attend activities, but will not be called to volunteer.

Jo says, “The greatest benefit of being a member is knowing that you have helped to make a patient’s visit a bit more comfortable, or more pleasant, or more memorable; or that you have helped a nurse or student with their education.”

All are welcome to attend the official celebration February 27, 2014, from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. 

For more information about Altru Alliance including upcoming events or membership, visit their webpage or call Volunteer Services at 701.780.5125. 


World Cancer DayPeople and organizations across the globe will come together to recognize World Cancer Day on February 4, 2014. Since opening Altru Cancer Center fourteen years ago, we have served more than 5,000 local patients battling a variety of cancers. 

Thanks to our many generous donors, in 2013 we were able to disperse $120,000 in fuel, lodging, nutritional supplements and programs for patients through Filling the Gap.

For 35 years and counting, Altru Cancer Center has been accredited through the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. In addition to providing care in Grand Forks, our providers see patients in Cavalier, Devils Lake, Grafton, Langdon, Roseau, Crookston, Thief River Falls and soon in East Grand Forks.

Learn more about Altru Cancer Center and #WorldCancerDay in this infographic.

Have you or a loved one received treatment at Altru Cancer Center? Please share your experience here.

Learn more about Debunking The Myths about cancer.

Emergency Room: Times are Improving

ER doctorThe Grand Forks Herald recently published the article, Waiting at the ER: Altru reports longer than average waits, vows to do better. We recognize that our ER wait times need to improve, and in recent months, they have.

The data reported (from April 2012 – March 2013) shows an average door-to-doctor wait time of 46 minutes. More recently, the average for October – December 2013 dropped to 25 minutes. This improvement is likely a result of:

  • Direct bedding patients
  • Implementing bedside registration
  • Stationing a 24/7 phlebotomist in the emergency department
  • Adding nurses during high volume times and
  • Recruiting doctors to improve staffing.

Depending on the severity of each emergency, our expert staff determines who gets seen first. For example, STEMI is a very serious type of heart attack in which time is of the essence. Since studying and improving our process, STEMI times have decreased significantly. From Q4 2012 to Q3 2013, median length of stay in the emergency department for a STEMI improved from 53 minutes to 32 minutes.

In 2013, we served 46,731 patients in our emergency room and urgent care, seeing an average of 81 patients per day in our ER alone. Our emergency department works hard to ensure patients are seen in the most timely manner possible, while providing thorough, high quality care.

Have you experienced Altru’s emergency room firsthand? Tell us about your experience.

Let’s Take a Road Trip

Road-tripRemember your last road trip? Maybe it was in college, when you crammed as many friends as possible into your tiny, junker-of-a car and cruised down the open highway. Or perhaps it was with family, reminding you why you splurged on the minivan with the built-in DVD players (um, can you say lifesaver?).

Road trips are fun, but they can also be stressful. So much has to happen to make the trip go smoothly. It takes planning – making sure there’s enough gas in the tank, sandwiches in the cooler, dollars in the wallet. You also need a clear idea of where you’re going, or a GPS helping to guide you along the way. Navigating unfamiliar roads can be challenging, yet exciting.

It’s a lot like the ever-changing field of health care. We’re navigating new roads every day, deciding which path is best. That’s why it’s so important to have a mission, vision and values guiding us through the journey and keeping us moving in the right direction.

Why are We going?
Our mission, or reason for our trip, is: Improving Health, Enriching Life. That’s the core of why we do what we do. Altru Health System is here to improve health and enrich the lives of all.


Where are We going?
This is our vision: Deliver world-class health care to the residents of our region. With proper planning and hard work, we will reach our ultimate destination.


What guides us?
Our values act as our moral compass, our decision-making guide. Which direction should we turn? Which path is best for our patients, our care, our team and our communities?

  • Meeting the needs and expectations of our patients is our highest priority.
  • We provide quality care that is demonstrated to achieve the best results for patients.
  • We work as a team and treat each other with honesty, loyalty and respect.
  • We are committed to improving the health of our communities.


How will We get there?
We’re entirely capable of getting there, as long as all the elements are working together, simultaneously. Think of our four major initiatives—service, access, quality, community—as the cylinders firing up our vehicle. The pistons are the initiatives in motion; they power us throughout the journey.

Major initiatives

To reach our destination, we’ll continually refer to our map, or our strategic plan. The mission and values guide us, but the plan tells us how we are going to get there.

As with any trip, reality is we’ll meet a few bumps in the road. We’ll grow weary. The kids will fight. We may even experience a couple of ugly potholes or lengthy detours along the route.

Sometimes, we’ll need to stop for fuel, stretch our legs and take in the views. At Altru, we need certain inputs (funds, the right people) to keep us going. Remember the reason we’re here, how far we’ve come and where we’re headed. This will help us endure any setbacks.

Are you a visual learner? Envision our imaginary road trip using this infographic. (Click to view larger.)

Road Infographic

Are We there yet?
Ah, the famous road trip question. While the journey may seem long at times, the important thing is that we keep moving forward. Rather than dwelling on how far we have to go, let’s focus on the next major milestone and enjoy the journey as it unfolds.

Everyone at Altru plays a role in our journey. How do you stay focused on the big picture at work? Let us know.

Healthy Relationships at Work: We Each Make a Difference

Guest blogger Karen Mellum, PhD, organizational development consultant at Altru, shares tips for making work happier by creating healthier relationships with co-workers.

I’m new to health care. One of the amazing things I notice about working here is the spirit of caring. Having come out of the financial world and its fascination with numbers and profit, I am often struck by Altru’s primary focus of caring for another human being.

Part of my role here involves leading general orientation, and I am frequently reminded of the Altru Promise. Our patients’ lives are impacted by how this promise is delivered. As we embark on a new year, I’ve been wondering how to translate those same words of promise to our work with one another.

Challenging Work
The health care work environment can be tough on work relationships (Longo, 2010). The work is fast-paced, resources can be stretched thin, emotions are heightened and the overall health system is increasingly complex. No wonder challenges occur in everyday interactions.

Given this situation, how can we still contribute to an excellent work experience together? What if we considered those value words of respect, compassion and thorough not just for patients, but also for our colleagues? What does a healthy workplace look like?


  • Trust. It’s the foundation of any relationship. At work, it means we can depend on one another to accomplish what needs to be done. Contrast this with mistrust, which separates people and impedes the flow of information and productivity. Without trust, people are hesitant to ask and to respond. Trust allows us to collaborate and partner in the care provided.
  • Respect. Like our promise to patients, respect is essential. According to Dr. Leiter (2010), respectful work relationships lay the groundwork and “permit resources to flow without the hiccups of mistrust, resentment, misunderstanding or fear.” Respect is given unconditionally, without regard to position, credentials or job title.
  • Support. During High 5! Sessions, participants were asked what they most appreciated about working at Altru. Nearly 40 percent cited “teamwork and co-workers” as their top reason. Encouragement goes a long way on difficult days. Support shows up when we make a mistake or are feeling uncertain, and cushions us through the tough moments. 
  • Communication. We need to actively listen and openly share. Addressing conflict in a respectful and honest manner is essential. Oppose this to unhealthy working relationships, where we find indirect, vague, defensive or secretive communication. These behaviors can negatively impact safety and well-being (Longo, 2010).
  • Appreciation. Think of the last time someone gave you a high five. Did you feel energized? Affirmation reinforces future positive contributions and boosts work satisfaction, morale and self-esteem. Recognition can come in many forms, private and public, formal and informal. A simple and genuine thank you can be savored.

Laughing baby

  • Humor. Healthy work relationships embrace laughter and joy in the moment. We remain aware of the seriousness of the mission, yet we appreciate the absurdities of life and allow levity to lighten our load. Healthy humor is not expressed at the expense of another person. Rather, laughter can connect us with our colleagues, break down barriers and open our minds to new ideas.

What Can I Do?
While we can’t control others, we have full control over our thoughts, attitudes and actions. So, as we each consider goals for 2014, perhaps we can focus at least one of them on building strong, healthy relationships at work:

  • Trust. Ask yourself, can others rely on me? Do I show up on time, contribute my fair share, and am I consistent in my words and actions? Do I notice that people want to work with me or seem to work around me?
  • Respect. Discuss as a team how respect shows up. For example, do members of the team agree to not discuss other group members who are absent? Then follow through with this agreement.
  • Support. Who do we notice on our teams who might be having a hard time lately? What could we do to show that we value them? Remember what it was like to be new and actively welcome new faces.
  • Communication. Ask for feedback on how you communicate. Do your behaviors line up with your spoken words? In your department, consider a no-tolerance policy for behaviors that undermine healthy relationships. This could include gossip, overly aggressive or demeaning behavior, or chronic complaining.
  • Appreciation. Set a goal to notice and recognize something positive in one of your teammates, perhaps weekly or monthly. Send a note telling them how they make a difference.
  • Humor. When was the last time you laughed at work? Look for the positive and enjoyable moments each day. Share them!

Healthy workplaces don’t just happen. They take time, effort and intention. As we look ahead to 2014, let’s choose to make our workplace an even better place to be. Each of us can make a difference and our patients will also reap the benefits of consistent, positive interactions.

If you are interested in additional resources, please contact Learning and Organizational Development at ext. 5179. 

Leiter, M. P., (Jun. 16, 2010).  A Healthy Workplace Based on Trust.  American Psychological Association Center for Organizational Excellence: Good Company Blog, June 16, 2010.  

Longo, J., (Jan. 31, 2010).  Combating disruptive behaviors: Strategies to promote a healthy work environment.  The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, Vol. 15, No. 1, Manuscript 5.

Karen MellumKaren Mellum, PhD, is an organizational development consultant at Altru. She provides consultation and training on leadership development, team development, change management and employee engagement. In her free time, Karen enjoys spending time with her family and golden retriever, running, reading, volunteering and traveling.

New Technology at Altru: Electromagnetic Navigational Bronchoscopy

GPSDid Santa bring shiny new technologies to your home this holiday? Perhaps a fancy camera, iPad or GPS for your vehicle?

At Altru, we got a different kind of technology: Electromagnetic Navigational Bronchoscopy® (ENB). Using GPS-like equipment, ENB guides and steers catheters through complex airways in the lungs. 

Looking Deeper
Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related death, taking the lives of more people yearly than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society.


Early detection improves survival; unfortunately, lung cancer is often recognized late. ENB provides the ability to detect lung cancer and other lung diseases earlier, sometimes even before symptoms are evident.

More than two-thirds of all lung lesions are found in distant regions of the lung. Traditional bronchoscopy cannot reach this far. Electromagnetic Navigational Bronchoscopy allows us to see deeper. Using this new technology, physicians can locate small lung lesions for diagnostic testing and potential treatment, minimizing the need for more invasive, surgical procedures.

How It Works

  • After a physician locates a lesion, or spot, deep on the lung through an X-ray, CT-Scan or PET-CT, the image is loaded onto planning software that creates a 3D map of the lungs.
  • A bronchoscope is placed through the mouth and into the airways of the lungs.
  • Catheters are places in the bronchoscope channel, where electromagnetic sensors guide the physician to the targeted lesion.
  • Once at the targeted lesion, the guide catheter is removed and the extended working channel catheter remains.
  • The biopsy tools can be extended to collect tissue samples for testing, diagnosis or placing a marker for treatment.

Learn more about the ENB procedure. Or, watch this Wellness in One, featuring Dr. Bansal, Altru pulmonologist:

Altru Health System is the only facility in eastern North Dakota to offer Electromagnetic Navigational Bronchoscopy to diagnose and treat lung disease. Learn more about Altru’s Pulmonary Lab or see the news release.

2013 InstaReview

As we come to the close of another year, we’re thankful for all we’ve been blessed with in 2013. Our patients have benefitted from new clinics, new services and new technology this year as we continually look for ways to provide an exceptional patient experience.

We were involved in our communities more than ever this year. It didn’t matter if we were walking, running, rollerblading or spinning on a bike, we were Improving Health and Enriching Life. We raised awareness for health issues and even recruited some four-legged volunteers to bring an extra smile to our patients’ faces. We crowned royalty, and remembered children lost too soon.

Take a look at a few of the highlights (click to view larger).


From all of us at Altru Health System, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday.

What was your favorite part of 2013? Let us know in a comment.