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A passion for leadership: Brinkman’s love for job has weathered many changes

Essentia Health-St. Mary’s senior administrative leader, Christy Brinkman, will celebrate 15 years with St. Mary’s in August. She was the recipient of the Kal Michaels Outstanding Leadership Award from Aging Services of Minnesota this past spring, and says she still has a passion for helping seniors. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

It’s been almost 15 years since Deer Creek native Christy Bendix first came to work for St. Mary’s Regional Health Center.

Both she and her employer have gone through some name changes since then: Ten years ago, she married fiancée Bob Brinkman and took his name, while St. Mary’s RHC became first St. Mary’s Innovis Health, and then three years ago, Essentia Health-St. Mary’s.

Brinkman’s job title and duties have also gone through numerous changes in that time — as has her family life. She and her husband Bob now have two children: Ryan, 7, and Emily, 3.

On the career front, she has gone from being hired as a health care intern in August of 1999, to senior living coordinator, senior living manager, director of home and community services, and most recently, senior administrative leader (2008).

The duties that come with those job titles have undergone numerous changes as well. Currently, Brinkman is the administrator for EHSM’s 96-bed nursing home, Oak Crossing (which also saw a name change in 2008, having previously been known as St. Mary’s Nursing Center).

She also oversees the health care organization’s clinical support, therapy, nutrition and housekeeping services, as well as inpatient/outpatient surgery and procedures.

Despite all the changes in names and job titles, one thing has remained a constant for Brinkman: her commitment to the job.

“I still have the same passion for what we do — caring for our seniors,” she said.

And it shows. This spring, Brinkman became the 2014 recipient of the Kal Michaels Outstanding Leadership Award from Aging Services of Minnesota.

The annual award “celebrates those whose leadership has benefited older adult services, enhancing the work environment for their organization’s employees and the quality of life for the seniors that the organization serves,” said a press release that was distributed when the award was announced.

Though she is proud of the award, Brinkman is also quick to point out that she sees it as “a team award,” rather than an individual accomplishment.

“It’s been humbling to have our team nominate me for this award, because it’s about them and not me,” she said. “I support them in their work and we go forward together.

“Our whole staff is really engaged in the process and feels good about their work here,” Brinkman added. “Our leaders and managers sit down with each employee individually, either monthly or quarterly, and what we get back from that is amazing feedback, not just about what they’re enjoying in their work, but also what we can do to help them do their jobs.

“A big part of our leadership work has been on engaging employees, and helping them to find and keep their passion for what they do. Health care is an exciting field, but it’s not easy. It’s a calling to serve others, it’s not just a job.”

All in all, despite all the name changes and shifts in focus that EHSM has undergone, “Our values and commitment to the community and our patients remains the same, with an emphasis on continuous improvement,” Brinkman said.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454