Kris Mullikin – pulse article

Apr 15, 2024

The Richland Hospital and Clinics will be turning 100 years old in 2024. As part of our centennial celebration, we’re highlighting staff members whose long commitment to the organization has helped shape who we are. Without dedicated team members like these, we couldn’t do what we do.

For Kris Mullikin, great care and a satisfying work experience are rooted in relationships. Kris started working at The Richland Hospital in June of 1989. This year will mark her 35th year working as a Physical Therapist Assistant.

In talking to Kris, it’s evident that she finds her work deeply fulfilling. In fact, for Kris, work is like a home away from home and a second family. “You spend so much of your life at work,” she says, “in many cases more time with your ‘work family’ than your own family at home.” It’s her ‘work family’ and the relationships that she’s formed with patients that have kept Kris here for so many years.

“I live in Wauzeka and have a fairly long commute,” Kris said. “Through the years I’ve had other job offers that would be closer to home, but I never wanted to leave the people here.” When she was first hired, Kris was one of three people in the PT department; the department now has 33 team members. If you work on the 4th floor, you know Kris is wonderfully inclusive and finds ways to bring people together.

Over the years, Kris has served patients in nursing homes, area schools, inpatient and outpatient settings, and provided in-home health services. And while the department has grown, her role and priorities have remained largely the same. When asked what keeps her work engaging, she answered without hesitation: “The patients.”

“Working in physical therapy allows us to create really strong relationships with patients because we see them frequently over a three-month period. We get to know them, get to know their sense of humor, what’s happening with their family.” Kris says, knowing patients well isn’t just a pleasant side effect of her work, it improves how she provides care. “Knowing a patient well allows us to help them engage with their treatment differently. We can tailor our teaching to their interests and help them understand why what we are doing is important. If I know someone was a mechanic, I use different analogies than I would for someone interested in computers.”

Kris says there’s often more than just ‘physical’ therapy happening in her sessions. “It’s emotional,” she says. “Oftentimes when a patient is coming in for PT, there is a pain component.” Connecting emotionally helps people work through that pain. The sessions often help Kris, too. “There are times I come out of a session feeling better because of the conversations we’ve shared,” she says. “My patients help me, too.”

In looking to the future and The Richland Hospital and Clinics’ next 100 years, Kris says remaining independent and community-focused are key. “We’ve always been great at striving to be better as an organization,” Kris points out. “I think staying independent and offering the services our community needs will help us continue to thrive.”

Thank you, Kris, for reminding us of the essential role relationships play in a healthy workplace and in health care.