From early on, Laurie Solem knew she wanted to work in the healthcare field.
“My mother was a nurse and that was my direction as well,” she said from her office at SunQuest Healthcare in Huron. “I was going to be a nurse.”
Solem came to Huron from Pipestone, Minn., to attend Huron College in the 1980s and quickly landed a job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at what was then the Huron Nursing Home.
Then it occurred to her that there was a problem.
“I found out,” she said, “that I really didn’t like blood.”
What was nursing’s loss would become a win for healthcare administration in Huron however, as Solem seamlessly changed course, and became a Business Administration and Accounting major at Huron College, while continuing work at the nursing home.
While there, she caught the eye of Sharon Grayson, the administrator for the facility at that time.
“A position opened up in the business office and she suggested that it was an opportunity for me,” Solem said. She adapted well to the administrative side of the business and with the encouragement of her mentor, added more responsibilities to her resume, eventually taking the exam to become a healthcare administrator.
“Sharon always encouraged me to keep moving forward,” Solem said. “She was my mentor for administrator training —everyone is required to have one — and consistently pushed me to take any and all training that I could get. I owe everything to her.”
Patterning herself after Grayson’s example, Solem now oversees a staff of 150 people at SunQuest Healthcare (the nursing home) and SunQuest Village (the senior living apartments, with the newly added assisted living arrangements).
The only constant in life is change and working in the healthcare field is no different. In addition to overseeing the operation of the two sites, Solem is also the first in a line of staff and administration that deciphers and then both explains and trains staff on new regulations as they come down.
“We have to understand regs to be able to explain them to the staff,” she said.
“For instance, just last November, we had 690 pages of new regulations that were approved,” Solem said. “There are a wide variety of new things. Some of the new regulations address natural disasters after the catastrophic losses in nursing homes during last summer’s hurricanes in Texas and Florida. Now, we don’t have many hurricanes here, for certain, but being prepared for something of that nature means we are prepared for anything that takes place.”
And what is taking place is working. For the third consecutive year, SunQuest Healthcare has been awarded Five Stars, the highest level presented by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which conducts annual inspections of nursing home facilities across the nation.
“And we never know when that inspection is coming,” Solem said. “Which is fine. We pride ourselves on doing things the way they are supposed to be done each and every day. By adhering to that belief, we are always prepared.”
She and her husband Doug have three children; oldest son Alex is a wildlife biologist for the state of South Dakota in Huron and his spouse Sarah is a pharmacist. Daughter Hannah is a registered nurse in Little Rock, Iowa and her husband Nate is an instructor at Northwest Iowa Community College. Youngest son Ryland is a pre-law student at South Dakota State.
The Solems have four grandchildren — Kellen, Kamryn, Gibson and Griffen.
Laurie Solem, administrator at SunQuest Healthcare Center, poses for a picture in her office in the senior nursing facility.