Allina takes a leap of faith, fully embraces ‘Orange Frog’

When Isanti County was considering partners to join their “Happiness Advantage/Orange Frog” Initiative, one of their first thoughts was the Cambridge Medical Center. After all, who else embodied the need for improved mental health than the people on the front lines of the entire COVID pandemic? At the same time, though, that same reason was why the county was uncertain if Allina/CMC would be willing or able to take on such a project. As it turned out, CMC was the perfect partner for this initiative.

“Why would Cambridge Medical Center decide to do the ‘Happiness Advantage?’” rhetorically asked Nicki Klanderud, Community Engagement Manager for CMC, during a presentation before the Isanti County Commissioners. “It ties into the work we are doing.”

Klanderud explained that as a nonprofit medical facility, they have to do a community health needs assessment every three years. In both their assessment three years ago and this latest one, the three main priorities were: the lack of social connectedness, mental health, and substance abuse.

Additionally, Klanderud said that it is equally important to look after the mental health of the CMC staff.

“Healthcare is always changing. It is so important to help us support our teams and to support each other,” she said. “Happiness Advantage, the premise around that, is about making those connections and supporting each other so we can make it through these big changes.”

She said a small group committee came up with a mission statement for the medical center to employ. Simply put, it states “we are a supportive culture that fosters joy, sparks connection, and models positivity, so we are the trusted healthcare facility to give and receive care.”

“Who wouldn’t want to work at a place like this?” she asked. “A place that fosters joy, sparks connections, and models positivity. Do you think our patients would enjoy coming into our doors if all of our staff modeled this kind of behavior?”


Klanderud said one of the main things they started was the Happiness Advantage workshops.

“We have had over 225 staff go through this workshop,” she proclaimed. “This is not a mandatory workshop. This is voluntary. Typically in the healthcare setting, if there is a workshop or training that is voluntary, not many people come. So this number right here shows you what our staff is craving right now. They are looking for that positivity and the kindness and gratitude that this workshop helps kind of re-frame the mindset. Our goal was 150, and we thought that was a stretch goal.”

She added they have another workshop scheduled for the end of November, so the number should increase to over 250.

Other activities they’ve started include department “joy bombs,” sharing good news at huddles, putting up interactive walls where staff can share positivity and gratitude, a place on walls for sharing photos of pets, cookies, and even painting some of the walls orange.

MAY 11

Of all the activities and workshops CMC has started over less than the last year, one particular workshop had the biggest impact, according to Klanderud. A workshop that was almost canceled.

“May 11, why does this day stick in my head? This is the day that our labor and delivery unit closed,” she said. “We had this workshop planned and we considered canceling it. We did not want to be disingenuous or anything like that. But when we looked at the roster that day of the people that signed up, we had a handful of our OB nurses sign up for this workshop. So we could not, not do it.

“This day wasn’t about a dance party, woo-hoo happiness, joy. This day was about being compassionate, caring, supportive, and connecting with colleagues that we have been very grateful for.

“So the Happiness Advantage is much, much more than just happiness and woo-hoo. This is about building connections and gratitude for the people that are surrounding us every day.”


Klanderud said they are bringing this new attitude to patients by bringing stuffed orange frogs to kids who are in for things like getting blood drawn.

Additionally, in October they held a joint workshop with GracePointe Crossing residents and Cambridge-Isanti High School seniors, focusing on the inter-generational connection.

“I can’t say enough about this day,” said Karla Patrick, Community Health Program Specialist at CMC. “What I witness in this room, with the senior students and senior citizens, was so powerful. At the end of the session, the senior citizens and senior students were saying ‘when are we doing this again?’ When the workshop was done, a lot of them stayed and visited, they got out their cell phones and exchanged cell phone numbers and got on Facebook and friended each other.”

Looking farther ahead, Klanderud said they are looking for ways they can implement Happiness Advantage into the new building that is about to be constructed. She said they are considering which contractors best embody the ‘Happiness Advantage’ while selecting who is working on their design team.

Looking into the future, the county will hold a workshop that is open to the public on Nov. 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Isanti County Historical Society. People can sign up by emailing or learn more information here:

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