Perham Health's Sonda Tolle receives statewide award

The Vice President of Patient Services was recently chosen to receive the Minnesota Nurse Leader Star Award from the Minnesota Organization of Leaders in Nursing.

Vice President of Patient Services Sonda Tolle has been with Perham Health for about eight years as of 2023.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — Some people have a calling or a passion that drives them to do what they love. For Perham Health Vice President of Patient Services Sonda Tolle, this calling is nursing. This passion has driven her since she started her career about 37 years ago. That drive was so strong it was noticed and recently recognized by her colleagues when they chose her to receive the Minnesota Nurse Leader Star Award from the Minnesota Organization of Leaders in Nursing.

"(The award) is something that your peers nominate you for, and then you're selected to be a recipient by a group of other nurse leaders," Tolle shared. "It's really neat. It's very, very humbling when you think of all the nurse leaders throughout the state of Minnesota. There's a lot of leaders that I respect and that I'm friends with, but there's excellent people in Minnesota. So it's a true honor, and it's very humbling."

Tolle was interested in health care from a young age. Her goal was always to become a nurse, so that's what she decided to pursue when she graduated from high school. She went to college to study nursing, and, according to her, it's been wonderful. "It was meant to be," she said.

The health care world and nursing looked quite different when she first started. Getting a job in nursing was quite difficult, but she was able to find one in long-term care once she finished her schooling. Afterward, she made the transition to the hospital setting. Throughout the years, she's worked in public health, as a school nurse and more. That's one of the many beauties of nursing, Tolle said. There are plenty of opportunities to do many different kinds of jobs.

Sonda Tolle has been a nurse for about 37 years.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

She originally started her career outside of the Perham area. In fact, she used to work in the Twin Cities. About 22 years ago, she left metro health care for rural nursing and hasn't looked back. She started her work at Perham Health about eight years ago, and she's loved it ever since.


"I love rural health care; it's my favorite," she explained. "You know, in a rural facility, you have to know how to take care of any sort of situation or patient that enters your door. You have to be able to take care of the little babies all the way to geriatric patients, and you have to be resourceful. In larger communities, they have teams that can start your IVs for IV therapy. Well here, we need to provide all those skills. So I think when you practice in rural health care, you really get to practice to the full extent of your licensure or your skill set. You really get to use all that you have been educated to do."

She also finds that, in a rural setting, she gets to develop relationships differently than in a metro area. Everyone in the facility — from patients to staff — has a little more intimacy in their relationships. One of the reasons she's always loved nursing is the ability to work with other people.

As the person responsible for overall patient care in the hospital setting, she's involved with many different areas throughout the Perham Health system, from the emergency department to the operating room and more. Because of this, she's been able to develop relationships with people all throughout Perham Health's halls. Her colleagues nominated her for the Star Leader Award because of the respect and comradery she has cultivated with them.

"To be nominated and selected by a group of peers — it's very humbling. I'm very honored," Tolle said. "But I am the leader I am today, not because of who I am, but because of all the people that I have worked with and then the great people that I work with here. You know, it takes a whole team to be the person you are."

The Minnesota Organization of Leaders in Nursing announced and gave Tolle the award at their October conference. She had no idea she was being considered as a recipient and was completely caught by surprise. It's a true honor for her to be recognized, especially by people who know and understand the hard work she puts into her career every day.

Tolle is humble. She doesn't do the work that she does to be recognized and rewarded. She does it because it's what she loves to do, she even kept the award a secret for several months. She's simply here to serve the community in the way she loves.

"It's a true pleasure and honor to serve the Perham community," she said. "I do my very, very best to lead this organization so that our patients and families receive the very best care. That's our goal — to serve the community so that we can provide health and wellness."

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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