Gustavson Named Social Worker Of The Year

8 Sep 2021 News

Mountrail Bethel Home’s Kelly Gustavson was named the Social Worker of the Year last week at the Long Term Care Association of North Dakota’s annual convention. Unfortunately, the convention moved to virtual again this year meaning that the planned celebration was not held in person. As a result, the NDLTCA will provide Mountrail Bethel Home with funds to hold a celebration later.

It was a different experience for Gustavson who has usually been a part of the decision making for this honor. The award decision changed recently to have the nominees judged by past winners of the award. Prior to that, the decision was made by the board of Long Term Care Social Workers of North Dakota. Currently, Gustavson holds the position of president of that board.

Any facility in North Dakota is able to nominate their candidate for the award, with an average of five to six nominees per year. Each member of the selection committee then reviews the nominations, scoring each question to create a cumulative score.

A copy of the video made to support Kelly’s nomination can be found at She says that when watching the video, she was so excited to see her deskmate Flo in the pictures, but she also cried when she listened to it. She says that she was glad she was at home when she was watching it.

When describing her job, Gustavson says that a nursing home social worker is often the first person contacted for a referral. They are the first person a resident or their family meet at the facility. She says that her job is to make sure that all rights available to a resident are met, including having the psycho-social care planned correctly. She works as part of the care team to make sure that all needs are met including nursing, activity, dietary and therapy. She is quick to point out that she could not do her job without everyone else in the facility.

Her job is to help families and residents with the transition to nursing home care. That includes making sure they know this is not a “jail”. They can come and go. Even throughout  COVID, they have guidelines in place for residents to be able to leave the facility.

One thing that may set Gustavson apart is her firm belief that it does not matter the time of day, her job is to be there, especially when it comes to answering questions or being there to support them when a resident is ill or dying.

She points out that boundaries are fluid for her. She never wants a family to be worried, which is why she is available after “regular” work hours. She says that she could sit all day with the residents and their families. She says that she wants to be that person that supports them at the worst times when needed.

“My entire heart is in the whole building,” she says. “I cannot imagine doing anything else.”

This past year and a half have been hard for everyone in long-term care.

Throughout the pandemic, the goal has been to provide good care. She didn’t want families to have a hard time seeing their loved ones, even though at times that choice was taken away from them.

As president of the LTCSWND, Gustavson says the board is made up of six regional representatives. The group serves as a voice for long-term care social workers, not only in planning, but also serving as a resource to staff in their regions. When social workers have questions, they provide the answers. Sometimes that includes sending out a request for resources and ideas from other areas.

Having just celebrated their 50th anniversary, the group has changed over the years. They have provided meetings and trainings. Providing that training virtually is  new for this organization as well.

Gustavson says that every nursing home is different and every one is in a different place. The training and CEUs need to be completed even despite a pandemic. In order to keep up with the requirements by the ND Board of Social Work, they are looking for alternatives that include virtual and independent trainings.

The letter of submission from Mountrail Bethel Home read, “It takes a special heart and soul to be a Social Worker. Kind, caring, patient, understanding, helpful, dedicated and selfless are some of the qualities that Kelly was born with. That is why she is a perfect fit for Social Work.

Kelly graduated from the University of Mary in 1991 with her degree in Social and Behavioral Science. In 2000 she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Right out of college, Kelly started working for Williams and Ward County with Home and Community Based Service Programs.

In 2012, Kelly found her calling as the Director of Social Services for the Mountrail Bethel Home, although this wasn’t the first time, she had been at Mountrail Bethel Home. She had actually completed her internship here.

Kelly is always willing to go the extra mile for everyone she works with.

Families are always commenting on how amazing Kelly is to them. Aside from giving the absolute best care to our residents, she is there for the families, day in and day out. Her cellphone is on practically 24/7 and she is available to families whatever the topic is. During this pandemic, she has fielded some tough calls in regard to visits and positive COVID cases.

She has handled them with grace and compassion.

Kelly is an active member of the LTCSWND. She became treasurer when she joined in 2012 and held that position until she was elected as President in 2019.

When Kelly isn’t working, her other hours of the day are dedicated to her family. During the summer days you can find her in her garden, camping at Smishek Lake with family and friends or running her son to all of his activities, rarely finding some time for herself.

Not only is Kelly an amazing advocate for the residents and their families, but she is also an amazing friend and colleague. Her door is always open, the candy jar is always full, and she is always willing to listen, console and be there for staff.”

MCMC Administrator/CEO Stephanie Everett says, “Kelly Gustavson does not know where the off button is for her compassion for our residents inside the Mountrail Bethel Home.  She is the first person they talk to when entering our Nursing Home to the last person they see, for her dedication to the end of life care is beyond anything I have witnessed.  The one area I marvel at with her is her desire to be with our residents at the end of their life. It does not matter where she is; she drops everything, comes in, does the angel prayer with the resident, and is with them and the families as the residents take their last breath. So many families have expressed their gratitude for this simple action.   So, in ending, Kelly Gustavson deserves this reward for her love of every resident is portrayed by her actions and her words daily.”