Reflections on the “Big Move” of 1976

In May 2016, we celebrate the 40 year anniversary of the May 5, 1976 move to HCMC’s current downtown campus from the nearby site of Hennepin County General Hospital (“Old General”).

Wanda Folkedahl, RN, RNC-NIC & Laurie Farrell RN, RNC-NIC

Staff Nurses

HCMC Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NBICU)


Also featuring Jeb Kotzian, APRN, CRNA, HCMC Chief Nurse Anesthetist


Wanda Folkedahl (pictured left) Wanda Folkedahl

My role at the time of the move and my role today.

HCMC hired me as a nurse in April 5, 1976. At that time I had three years of experience in adult/peds and NBICU. I was in the Old General for only one month before moving to the new facility. I was a senior staff nurse from 1983 to December 31, 2014 and then started my phasing out retirement program on January 1, 2015. I continue with preceptor and charge nurse roles as needed. I have maintained a Neonatal Level 3 certification for 26 years since 1990.


What I most remember about the Big Move of 1976.

During the Big Move of 1976, my supervisor Julie Boran and I came over early with one convalescent baby and helped everyone settle in as needed. The “first” patient moved according to the news was a respirator baby brought over by Laurie Farrell.


What I think is the biggest difference between HCMC then and now.

The biggest difference between then and now for the whole hospital is technology and second is cost of parking. I remember the doctors having one computer for just them. I parked at a meter for 90 cents around the hospital. The biggest difference for the NBICU is the survival and also length of stay. It was not unusual to have babies have a 1st birthday in our unit.


Wanda with a patient.PICTURED ON LEFT: Wanda with a patient.


What I’m most excited about for HCMC’s future.

I am most excited about the Simulation Center and its role in keeping HCMC a great teaching hospital for employees, medical staff, and students in all areas.


Laurie Farrell (pictured right above)

My role at the time of the move and my role today.

I was hired by HCMC as a staff nurse in the NBICU on November 18, 1974. Prior to that I worked for two years at another hospital in a Pediatric ICU. I was in the Old General until moving day on May 5, 1976. Little did I know then that I would absolutely LOVE my job in the NBICU and stay here for 42 years (seems like just yesterday when I started working!). I received my certification (RNC-NIC) in the NICU specialty in 1992. In January 2014 I started my phased retirement option.


What I most remember about the Big Move of 1976.

The morning of May 5, 1976, I moved the first ventilated baby to the “new” hospital and found myself on the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune! He was my primary patient, and his family and I still remain good friends. His older brother works also at HCMC as an advanced practice nurse. He is the Chief Nurse Anesthetist here, Jeb Kotzian.

 Jeb Kotzian, APRN, CRNA

PICTURED ON RIGHT: Jeb Kotzian, APRN, CRNA, HCMC’s chief nurse anesthetist. When Jeb was one year old, his newborn baby brother Aaron was the first patient to be moved from the Old General to the new buildings. Unfortunately Aaron died about a month after the move. For many years Jeb thought Laurie was his aunt because she has such a close relationship with the family. He got his start in healthcare when Laurie mentioned that HCMC’s NICU was hiring for a healthcare assistant role. Eventually he decided on nursing as his path and today works as HCMC’s chief nurse anesthetist. He says he is incredibly proud to work at HCMC where the mission is powerful and the people provide outstanding care.


What I think is the biggest difference between HCMC then and now.

There’s a lot of BIG differences between then and now in the NBICU. I think the biggest was the use of surfactant for immature lungs that are deficient. Our patients used to spend longer months in the unit before going home (sometimes 12 to 18 months!) because of injured lungs. Surfactant changed all that.


What I’m most excited about for HCMC’s future.

My daughter became a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner in the NBICU unit last year! This is sooo exciting for me! She’s so great and will carry on the legacy I started 42 years ago. In addition I’m excited about the hospital’s overall expansion. This involves the new downtown clinic and specialty center opening 2018 and future clinics opening in the metro area.


Susan Braun-Johnson, PT, MBA

Patient Safety Coordinator

HCMC Department of Performance Measurement & Improvement


How I got started at HCMC.

My father was a general surgeon in northern Minnesota who had interned at Minneapolis General Hospital, A photo of Sue’s father as an intern at Minneapolis General Hospital, which was featured in Life magazine. Caption states, “On way to bed, whence he may be roused at any time, interne has forgotten to remove surgical mask. Internes must buy own diagnostic instruments, in which they invest about $175.”which was run by the City of Minneapolis at that time. The hospital was turned over to the County in 1964 and became Hennepin County General Hospital. Growing up, there was a copy of the May 1941 Life magazine in our house with a photo of my dad as an intern at Minneapolis General Hospital. The article it appeared in was called, “The Interne: In the Hospital His Learning Is Applied to Life.” Seeing this was a large part of what inspired me to want to work for this hospital.

(PICTURED ON THE RIGHT: A photo of Sue’s father as an intern at Minneapolis General Hospital, which was featured in Life magazine. Caption states, “On way to bed, whence he may be roused at any time, interne has forgotten to remove surgical mask. Internes must buy own diagnostic instruments, in which they invest about $175.”)


My role at the time of the move and my role today.

At the time of the big move in 1976, I had already worked at Hennepin County General Hospital for about eight years. I started here as a staff physical therapist, then was promoted to senior physical therapist, and then to department head of Physical Therapy. I advocated for the need to have Occupational Therapy as an ancillary service at the hospital and hired the first occupational therapists. At the time of the move, I was the newly appointed manager/director of Therapy Department which included PT and OT. My job title was Chief Physical Therapist. One of my favorite Native American patients said to me after reading my name badge, “Nowadays anyone will call themselves a chief.”


Since then, I have held many different positions and worked in many different departments such as Employee Health Services, Organization Development and Learning, and Employee Safety and now most recently Patient Safety. Although my background is in physical therapy, I went back to school for my MBA and continually looked for ways to improve the services HCMC provides for its staff and the patients we serve. I like to help wherever there is a need. I have also led the development or upgrade of a variety of programs, including the HCMC Ergonomics Program, the Allied Health Annual Required Training Program, and the Environmental Rounds Program just to name a few.


Currently I work as the Patient Safety Coordinator in the Performance Measurement and Improvement Department. This work is very rewarding and challenging as we try to make HCMC safer place for all our patients!


What I most remember about the Big Move of 1976.

Sue (second from left) and the rest of the Physical Therapy team around the time of the Big MoveI look back fondly on the comradery of all staff involved. Everyone came together to help push carts of things down the street from the old hospital to the new building. I especially remember moving the Hubbard tank (a figure-eight shaped whirlpool tub that fits the entire body) into the new building and how it only fit into one elevator. I took many pictures of the building we were leaving and of the move down the street. It was really the end of an era. Even though the old hospital was not in good condition, it was sad to leave it and all the great memories and traditions.

 (PICTURED ON THE LEFT: Sue (second from left) and the rest of the Physical Therapy team around the time of the Big Move.) 

What I think is the biggest difference between HCMC then and now.

Healthcare as a whole has become more regulated. Infection Prevention is more important and needed. Staff seem to come to work and stay mostly in their own work areas. Before, people from across the facility would come together and to have fun. For example, on Friday nights many of the staff would gather after work for socializing and dinner at a local establishment. Now with how spread out the buildings are and because we are all so busy, it can be difficult to find time to connect and socialize with staff outside your specific work area. As a result, I think the comradery has changed and we are more siloed.


What I’m most excited about for HCMC’s future.

HCMC has an important place in the community, and I think it is essential for us to continue our mission. What has kept me here all these years was the opportunity to always learn something new. It’s an exciting environment and I am never bored. I am sure this will continue in HCMC’s future. It will also be interesting to see how moving the downtown clinics out of the hospital and into the new clinic and specialty center will improve the inpatient care experience. 



Phill Gill

Manager of Bioelectronics and Telecom

HCMC Department of Analytics and Information Technology

 Phill in the Bioelectronics Department, located in the lower level of the Red Building.

My role at the time of the move and my role today.

I worked as a bioelectronics specialist at the time of the move, and today I am the IT manager for the Bioelectronics Department and Telecom. We are responsible for all the electronics used in patient care at HCMC. I’ve always liked electronics. The year I graduated high school my father had open heart surgery in Rochester, and when he was in intensive care I saw all this really cool, new equipment that was state of the art for the time. I decided then that that’s what I wanted to do.


My first two years at HCMC I also worked in Central Supply, which was a combination of storeroom and equipment reprocessing facility. One of the things I remember about that job was that certain needles (e.g., biopsy needles) had to be hand sharpened on a wet stone and then sterilized. We had two steam sterilizers and one gas sterilizer. Central Supply also stocked and restocked supply carts, which were stainless steel carts with all the supplies needed for a particular area. Other than these supply carts, there were no supply cabinets or delivery of supplies to units.


What I most remember about the Big Move of 1976.

Our CEO at the time was a former army officer who had been in charge of logistics for the army. He was the one who did all the logistics planning for the move. Things went relatively smooth. We had far less equipment than we have today. For example, at that time of the move the hospital probably had only maybe 4-5 defibrillators that were stationed in key areas. Invasive blood pressure monitoring was minimal at the time.


When it came time to move, we had bought some new equipment that was already installed in the new facility. But other equipment in use had to be moved over. As a patient was transferred out of the old hospital, we were there as they left, pulled the old monitoring down, hustled it over to new hospital, and installed it before patient got there.

 A 1960s function generator with an “Old General” inventory tag. This is currently stored in the Biolectronics Department (but no longer used).

What I think is the biggest difference between HCMC then and now.

In 1976, we probably had less than 1,000 devices that we had to maintain. Today we have over 20,000 devices. All the equipment back then was analog. Now everything is digital and a lot more complicated. The Bioelectronics staff back then consisted of one supervisor and about 3-4 technicians. Today we have one manager and a staff of 11 technicians.


Another interesting thing is that we kept all of our maintenance records for Bioelectronics on old Hollerith cards. These were punch cards that were used in data processing. We used the cards to track maintenance on equipment.


What I’m most excited about for HCMC’s future.

Obviously the new clinic building we are opening in 2018 is really exciting. It will be not be quite the same kind of move as in 1976, but it will still be a logistics challenge to get all the downtown clinics over there. We will have to think about how much equipment can be installed ahead of time, how much stuff is going to be taken from current location over, downtime, etc. It will be an interesting challenge.


M. Thomas Stillman, MD, FACP

Director of Undergraduate Medical Education

HCMC Department of Medicine

Dr. Stillman


My role at the time of the move and my role today.

At the time of the move I was the Director of the Division of Rheumatology within the Department of Internal Medicine. I served in that position from 1973 to 1998, and then as the Director of Undergraduate Medical Education from 1998 to today. Counting my time as an intern at HCMC, starting in 1964, this is my 52nd year at HCMC.


What I most remember about the Big Move of 1976.

I remember the move very well. What impressed me the most was the coming together of all the HCMC physicians to help in some way with the move. It was so well organized. We kept the number of hospitalized patients requiring to be moved to a minimum, and all medical personnel stayed with the patients, including those walking and those who were bedridden. The streets were closed to any traffic and supervised by Minneapolis police. Not a single untoward incident occurred with this move. This represented a true cooperative effort between the community and HCMC health care personnel.


What I think is the biggest difference between HCMC then and now.

There has certainly been significant change over the 52 years I have been at HCMC. When I started my work as an intern in Minneapolis General Hospital with 20-bed wards and only curtains separating the beds, it was quite common for all 20 patients to awaken simultaneously when a metal bed pan came crashing to the floor. As an intern, I rode in the ambulances praying that we would know what to do when we arrived at the scene, always relying on the expertise of the ambulance drivers. Technology was limited to a few selective blood tests, plain single view x-rays, and sophisticated tests such as injecting air into the spinal column to visualize the brain. There has certainly been remarkable change with state-of-the-art imaging, ultrasounds, PET scans, endoscopies, and hundreds of treatment options, all being documented carefully on electronic health records.

 Dr. Stillman

But what has impressed me more than this change is what has NOT changed! We at Hennepin have remained committed to total patient-centered care: knowing individuality; providing care that is respectful and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values; and ensuring that the patients guide our clinical decisions. We have not let technology create barriers between us and the personal connection that we have with our patients. What hasn’t changed is that we have maintained a workplace that exudes warmth, support, and congeniality.


What I’m most excited about for HCMC’s future.

I remain excited for HCMC’s future as we continue to provide excellent health care to all-comers, including the non- and under-insured patients. For these individuals, we have been and will continue to be their safety net hospital. Our medical staff will remain available to provide superb medical consultative care to all patients and referring health care workers. Hennepin will also remain as an educational model for the training of physicians and all health care individuals who will continue to hold their heads high and remain proud to be known as a “Hennepinite.”



 To check out previous blogs, click here



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