• Last modified 981 days ago (Nov. 11, 2021)


Nurse named state's health care worker of year

Staff writer

St. Luke Hospital and Living Center chief nursing officer Kathy McMillen is this year’s Kansas Hospital Association health care worker of the year.

Winners are selected based on leadership, teamwork, dedication, and perseverance. The award recognizes workers who are role models for other staff members and whose work reflects the values and mission of the hospital they serve.

“It’s a well-deserved award for her,” St. Luke chief executive Jeremy Ensey said.

Human resources employee Melissa Richardson nominated McMillen for the award.

McMillen said she learned about the award Oct. 28 while attending leadership institute in Salina.

“There are a lot of people who have been doing other things and working very hard in the last couple of years through the pandemic,” McMillen said.

McMillen said she thought her entire team should get an award.

“I feel that this could more appropriately be called the health care team of the year award,” she said. “The last 20 months have been life-changing for all people in health care. The nation was unprepared for what was unleashed upon us.”

McMillen said uncertainty over COVID-19 made questions arise for everyone at the hospital.

“Would they get sick?” she asked. “Would they take it home to their families? What did they need to do to protect themselves?”

It was not only nurses and physicians, but also food service and housekeeping employees who lived with those questions, McMillen said.

“The staff showed up every day,” she said. “They were tired and worried but they never gave up.”

Staff members lost friends and loved ones during the pandemic. In working, grieving, and persevering together, the staff drew close, she said.

“I feel so fortunate to be a part of this team of great people who care so deeply about their patients and their community. That is the true award for me,” she said.

Born and raised in Hillsboro, McMillen comes from a family deeply involved with medical care in the county. Her mother, Sarah Penner, was director of nursing at St. Luke. Her father, Charles Penner, was director of the county health department.

“We’re a pretty good little hospital,” McMillen said. “I find my role here at St. Luke very rewarding. I love the community and I love the hospital. Being part of that experience of providing very personal care is very rewarding to me.”

McMillen began working at St. Luke in March 2018 and was promoted to chief nursing officer in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began.

She was chosen for the award out of 16 finalists from throughout the state.

Last modified Nov. 11, 2021