A lot has changed since Terry Kinzie began work at Clark Fork Valley Hospital nearly 31 years ago, but the biggest transformation has been in the realm of technology.
"It’s gone from a rural hospital to a medical center," said the 64-year-old certified laboratory scientist. "It’s not a band-aid station any more; we can give more state-of-the-art patient care," said Kinzie, who had planned to stay at Plains only a year. His sights were on Alaska, but while on vacation on the Kenai Peninsula, Terry’s wife, Carol, had an traffic encounter with a stubborn moose that wouldn’t let her pass. "She even nudged him, but all he did was blow snot and wouldn’t move," said Kinzie, a Plains resident. That put a halt to any move to the Last Frontier, Kinzie said, who now is glad he stayed put.
"We love it here," said Kinzie. He was hired in June 1982 and is among three others with high longevity at the hospital, along with Juanita Adolph, an LPN hired in 1974, Chris Cockrell, an RN who came on board in 1979, and Lynne Shotwell, an LPN also hired in 1979.
"Terry is enjoyed by all of our staff and has served this community well for 30 years," said Dr. Gregory S. Hanson, the hospital’s president and CEO. "We are privileged to have someone of his caliber dedicate his career to the mission of Clark Fork Valley Hospital," he added.
Members of the hospital staff showed their fondness of Kinzie in January when they put on a comical skit about him at the hospital’s Christmas party. Staff member Mark French, one of the organizers of the skit, said the script included some of Kinzie’s "colorful sayings and friendly practical pranks" he’s done at the hospital. "Those that were closest to Terry understood the sayings and jokes the best. Others did not connect on some things but enough to make it funny," said French. "We wanted to roast and thank him for his friendship, fun and generosity," he said.
Kinzie said the modernization of the lab has been a big plus for the technicians. "When I started it was all manual. It used to take us eight hours for the chem panel test, but now it takes us about six minutes," said Kinzie, who also noted the hospital has seen extensive advancements in EKG, X-ray and ultrasound, all areas that Kinzie has worked over the years, although most of his time today is in the lab. He said quality control has also taken major leaps toward the betterment of patient care, which is also a benefit to the technicians.
He is also happy that his work hours have changed a lot over the years. In addition to putting in his 12-hour shifts when he started, he was also routinely called back in for an additional 15-20 hours a week, mainly because there were only two lab technicians in the early days. Today, there are eight lab techs and Kinzie works a 12-hour shift for three days and has no callbacks. He’s also worked as manager of the department on and off for over 20 years, but would rather take a hands-on role in the lab. "I’m just not into that bean counting stuff," said Kinzie.
After receiving his medical technologist degree from the Medical Institute of Minnesota in 1968 Kinzie worked in hospitals in Nebraska and South Dakota before moving to Montana. But he said the education and training never stops, mostly because of the constant medical developments and the advancements in technology. He could have retired two years ago, but said he’s not ready just yet, mainly because he enjoys his job and likes his coworkers and management.