Dickinson nurse honored with North Dakota Nurses Hall of Fame induction
Tessa Johnson, Executive Director of Evergreen and CountryHouse, has a career in nursing that spans years of service for southwest North Dakota, including in her role as president of the North Dakota Nurses Association.
DICKINSON — The coronavirus pandemic hit nurses exceptionally hard, and one of Dickinson’s very own is being recognized for her advocacy through it all. Tessa Johnson was honored with the North Dakota Nurses Hall of Fame Award during a NDN Association meeting on Sept. 19.
Johnson is a registered nurse, executive director of CountryHouse and Evergreen senior care centers, and President of the North Dakota Nurses Association.
“It was very unexpected, but it feels amazing,” Johnson said. “I’m so humbled to know that that effort, especially during COVID, the things that we as a board did, and you know, the things that I went through as the president during that really hard time were appreciated and inspired others, because that's always my goal.”
She said the award is given to registered nurses on an as-needed basis when they have made a historically significant contribution of long-lasting importance to the practice of nursing in the Roughrider State. Sherri Miller, executive director of the North Dakota Nursing Association, said she believes Johnson is the first recipient of this particular award in more than 30 years.
“We have different awards that we can give out, kind of as needed basis and I came across that one and thought it was perfect for her,” Miller said. “She's just always been there for me and for all the board and all the other nurses. And then really I think the biggest thing is that she was in this position during the pandemic. It's something that none of us have ever experienced.”
Johnson did news interviews, nurse advocacy, for national and international news organizations, Miller said. She added while Johnson is kind and caring, she also isn’t afraid to say what needs to be said.
“She just very eloquently represented us and was a strong voice for nursing,” Miller said. “We thought it was really appropriate that she gets the award.”
Johnson said while some people might not realize how much work goes into a non-profit organization, she felt it was important to speak up about things that matter to her.
“I spoke to a group of nursing students yesterday and what I told them was, people truly want to listen to what nurses have to say, even a girl who grew up in small town Dickinson, you know,” Johnson said. “We are the experts in our field and the backbone of health care and our lawmakers, our legislators, they don't always know what we know. And so we have to be able to advocate for our profession because if we don't, no one else is going to do it.”
This is Johnson’s eighth year volunteering on the NDNA board. She said the meeting was bittersweet because since her term is up, it was her last one.
“It's really nice to know that, you know, people have appreciated and been inspired by the effort that I put into that because it's been a lot of commitment and a lot of hard work, but it's super, super rewarding,” Johnson said. “One of the most rewarding experiences of my life. So to be honored with this is just really, you know, the icing on the cake because I do it for the nurses and truly want to make a difference.”
Johnson hopes to continue to advocate for nurses.
“I've really always been passionate about leadership and helping people grow and learn and took that to a whole other level of getting our voices out and meeting some really incredible nurses across the state,” Johnson said. “I've worked with a lot of board members. And I know that right now our NDNA board is in a really good position. We have really strong board members that deeply care and our president elect as well. So I feel good about the time that I've spent, and knowing that it'll continue to be successful. I absolutely will remain an NDNA member and participate in things and continue to give my support and advocacy to the nurses, just at a different capacity.”