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Staff members reflect on Tri-County’s past, present and future

These three ladies have given their life to the work at Tri-County Health Care.

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Lois Miller (2021) Photo courtesy Tri-County Health Care
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There have been many changes at Tri-County Health Care throughout the years. There are new and updated buildings, healthcare has evolved, and staff members have come and gone. Through all these changes, Tri-County has continued to adapt to serve patients better.

Over the years, there have been several staff members who have experienced many of these changes firsthand. Tri-County has 27 employees with 35-plus years of service to the organization and the communities it serves. Each of them comes from different backgrounds and have served in various roles. They all share something in common; they have their own story to share. The three staff members with the most years of service shared their stories and journeys throughout their history at Tri-County.

Growing up in the shadows of Wesley Hospital

For Lois Miller, health care has always been front and center, figuratively and literally. She grew up right across the street from Wesley Hospital and recalls watching staff come and go each and every day. Seeing and learning about their roles in the healthcare industry intrigued her so much that she decided to apply. Tri-County is the first organization she ever worked at, and she’s planning for it also to be her last!

Over the years, Lois continued her professional growth, becoming a registered nurse in the medical/surgical unit and ICU before moving to a supervisor role from 1979-1992. She then moved to her role in cardiac rehab and has worked there ever since.

“I love working in cardiac rehab and doing stress testing,” Lois noted. “It is wonderful to see people improve both physically and mentally while going through their rehab.”

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There isn’t a person more knowledgeable of the evolution of healthcare in Wadena. Lois recalls opening the first intensive care unit with its giant cardiac monitoring system. She remembers helping develop x-ray films in the darkroom, counting drips per minute until IV pumps came around, and even when patients had to go down the hall to use the restroom!

Lois will celebrate her 51st work anniversary on June 11. While she noted the new facility will help Tri-County grow and stay up-to-date, she can also look back fondly at her time working at each of the older buildings.

“I have stayed at Tri-County because the hospital is an important part of my life. It is an extension of my home and family,” Lois said. “It has helped that in my almost 51 years of working here, I have never had to drive to work!”

Finding a family and career at Tri-County

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Kathy Waln (2021). Photo courtesy Tri-County Health Care

There may be no one better to ask than Kathy Waln when it comes to internal professional growth. She has worn many different hats in her time, first with Wadena Medical Center and then Tri-County Health Care when the hospital and clinic merged in 2008. Kathy has worked in medical records, data entry, billing/claims, provider credentialing and coding and has held titles as Business Office Supervisor and Patient Financial Services Director and is currently Tri-County’s Business Office Manager.

She will reach 47 years of employment in October and cherishes the opportunity to form lifelong friendships with people she can count on. That doesn’t happen without the support system Tri-County provides its staff.

“Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to try new things, learn, develop and advance,” Kathy said. “I have been given opportunities here that I might not have had with other employers.”

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She has also formed lifelong friendships with people she can count on in good times and the bad. That culture of caring carries over to patient care. The new facility will help continue to set up a quality staff for continued success.

“Providing excellent customer service is a priority in all areas at Tri-County,” Kathy said. “We offer great, compassionate care and our new facility will give us the opportunity to grow our services to meet the needs of our patients!”

A reliable support system

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Pat Malvin (2021) Photo courtesy Tri-County Health Care

When Pat Malvin was looking to move to the Wadena area, she applied to various hospitals. She accepted a job at Tri-County with the task of starting the respiratory therapy department program.

The department has seen many changes over the years, but Pat has remained the one constant. She finished her 46th year in the department last April and has seen it come full circle. When she started in 1975, she was the lone respiratory therapist. There were times when they staffed up to five when they would provide services at nursing homes and oxygen for patients in their homes, but the department is now back to one respiratory therapist.

Pat says the most significant change in her time at Tri-County has been the shift from inpatient to outpatient. She noted when she started, it wasn’t uncommon to have 50-plus patients in the hospital. That shift will continue to advance in the new building, and she pointed to surgery as one of several examples.

“Things that used to be a big procedure can now be a same-day surgery which has been incredible,” Pat said. “That has really changed why you don’t have as many inpatients because you can go home the same day and that makes a lot of difference in patient load.”

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Pat has also stayed with Tri-County through thick and thin. She found a reliable support system when her late husband was diagnosed with cancer when they were in their 20s. At that time, you had to travel for chemotherapy and radiation treatments and Pat needed to be gone from work. She always felt supported about needing to be gone, which became a major sticking point for her.

Even as Pat planned to retire early in 2020, when COVID-19 struck the world, she said she couldn’t in clear conscience leave because she was the only respiratory therapist. Her new retirement is now officially set for this June, but she will always be thankful for her time at Tri-County.

“I have a real sense of loyalty to Tri-County because all throughout my husband’s illness – they supported me and gave me any time off I needed,” she said. “I will always treasure the relationships I have made at Tri-County.”

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