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Ready for 'something completely new'

Since he was 16 years old, Dr. Mark Lindquist has spent virtually his entire working career in a hospital emergency room -- first as an orderly, and later as a medical doctor.

But as of last Thursday, the medical director of the Essentia Health-St. Mary's emergency room and St. Mary's EMS ambulance service has left his E.R. days behind.

Lindquist, 55, has joined the staff of the Sanford Health Clinic in Detroit Lakes, where he'll start his new duties on Nov. 1.

"I'm taking a couple of weeks off," he said Tuesday.

At Sanford, Lindquist will be seeing "walk-in" patients that come in during the clinic's regular daytime hours, Monday through Thursday.

"Twenty-six years in the emergency room is a long time," he said. "I was growing tired of all the night shifts, and the recovery afterwards.

"I've been working nights, weekends and holidays since I was back in college -- really, since I was in high school," he said, noting that his first job was as an orderly at the hospital in his native Billings, Mont.

While he was earning his undergraduate degree at Concordia College in Moorhead, Lindquist continued to serve in the E.R. at St. Ansgar Hospital in Moorhead, and with the Fargo-Moorhead ambulance service.

His E.R. work continued through his years of medical school at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

"After 26 years, I feel like I've seen enough death and tragedy and serious illness that it was time to make a switch," he said.

So when the position at Sanford became available, Lindquist decided to take advantage of the opening.

"I'd been thinking about leaving the hospital for the past couple of years," he said. "I didn't know if such a position would exist in a couple more years, so it seemed to me that now was the time to make the switch."

Though there have been several administrative and staffing changes at EHSM this past year, Lindquist said that played no part in his decision -- nor did the fact that he was assaulted by a patient in the emergency room earlier this year.

"This was strictly a lifestyle decision," he said. "I was just tired -- I've seen enough bad things in my life.

"The longer you live in a town, the more likely the people you take care of are going to be friends, or the children of friends, and that's emotionally draining."

Lindquist has been a Detroit Lakes resident since 1985. He actually started out working at the Dakota Clinic, when "the family practice doctors covered the emergency room," he said.

Then he transferred to the Sanford Hospital in Fargo, where he served as E.R. medical director from 1989-99 before going to work at St. Mary's Regional Health Center (now EHSM) in the same position.

Lindquist said being able to stay in Detroit Lakes was a big part of his decision to accept the position at Sanford.

"I didn't want to leave Detroit Lakes," he said, noting that he has extended family in the area.

He and his wife RoxAnn -- married 34 years -- have also made the community their home, having raised three daughters here.

The oldest, Elizabeth, works as a commercial property broker in Minneapolis, while Emily makes her home in Oslo, Norway, with husband Garrett Raboin -- a DL native who now plays professional hockey in Norway. Youngest daughter Ellen, who is autistic, lives at home with them and works at the Becker County DAC.

Though Lindquist said that his job at EHSM has allowed him a certain degree of flexibility in scheduling, the night shifts have grown increasingly difficult.

"That was the main factor in the switch -- getting out of the night shifts," he said. "I'll have every weekend, every holiday off -- that's something I've never had in my career, ever.

"My family and friends think this is a real positive move. I'm sure it will be, but right now, it's tough to think I won't be going back to the emergency room, because it's really the only thing I've ever known.

"I'll miss the staff, the people I work with, and the chance to make a big difference. But big rewards come with huge risk -- and you are aware of those risks all the time. That's a lot of stress."

Still, Lindquist didn't feel any particular increase in that risk after being assaulted by a patient in the E.R. last March -- despite suffering a concussion and broken ribs.

"Forty percent of all emergency room doctors are assaulted at some point in their career," he said. "Though that was the only time I got beaten seriously, everyone (who works) in the E.R. gets punched or kicked at some point. It's just one of those things.

"I went back to work four days later," Lindquist added, noting that while he might have felt a "heightened sense of awareness" after the incident, it didn't really factor into his decision to leave EHSM.

Though his last day on the job was Oct. 13, Lindquist's former patients, friends and colleagues at EHSM will be giving him a more formal sendoff on Monday, Oct. 24, when a special farewell luncheon is planned.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the public is invited to come to St. Mary's EMS and wish Lindquist well in his new career. There will be a special recognition program for Lindquist starting at noon.

Then, about a week later, Lindquist will begin his new duties at Sanford.

"I've never worked regular hours before, so it's going to be interesting to see what that's like," he said.

"This is going to be something completely new for me, so I'm just going to have to see how it all plays out."

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