‘This has been such a fun and exciting experience to be a part of’

Published 3:00 pm Monday, March 7, 2022

Manager at MercyOne clinic in Albert Lea happy to be a part of new endeavor

Life often takes you on unexpected twists, and the road to the goal is almost never straightforward.

Take Kristin Flatness, a registered nurse and the manager at MercyOne Albert Lea Family Medicine and Specialty Care, for example.

“I was actually working in another health care administration position at a senior living facility,” she said via email. “One of my tenants was a member of the Save Our Healthcare organization (that is what Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition was called at the time) and convinced me that I would be a great candidate for the new MercyOne Clinic director.”

So she decided to apply after she found the ad circled in red and placed in the middle of her desk.

“I didn’t want to let my tenant down, so I decided to give it a shot and apply,” she said. “Low and behold, that got me where I am today and I couldn’t be happier.”

But being a nurse wasn’t her original goal. 

Flatness, who was always interested in the medical field, had previously worked for about nine years in a hospital in-patient pharmacy.

“I wanted to go back to school to be a pharmacist,” she said. “But without any pharmacy schools in the area, that wasn’t an option for me. Nursing was the next best choice.”

And despite not pursuing pharmacy, she’s happy where she’s at.

“This has been such a fun and exciting experience to be a part of and I could not be more proud of the citizens of Albert Lea and thankful for the ALHC,” she said. “I am also grateful for being able to work with such a fantastic group of providers and staff here at the MercyOne clinic.”

But like everything else, the pandemic changed how she and her team at MercyOne operate.

“With COVID in full swing, we had to adapt our increasing acute visit demand to meet the needs of our sick patients,” she said. “We’ve created new safety protocols so that we are able to reduce exposure between our patients who are here for a well visit and patients who are coming in because they are sick.”

Those new protocols include specialty visits along with “well” visits such as regular child visits, physicians, Medicare wellness checks, chronic disease management visits and pre-op physicals.

But those procedures aren’t all.

“We then clear the clinic following cleaning protocols, and start seeing those with upper respiratory illness, possible influenza, strep, COVID-19 and other contagious illness,” she said. 

Before seeing them, she asks those patients to wait in their cars rather than the waiting room before being called into an exam room. She said she anticipated that process to change once COVID becomes more manageable.

Above all, she’s learned to never predict what could happen.

“Things can literally change minute-by-minute,” she said. “With COVID there were so many unknowns and policies and procedures changed hour-by-hour some days.”

Staffing was also a concern.

“You have to learn to take everything in stride and be flexible,” she said.

She encouraged anyone looking to join the health care field to visit mercyone.org/northiowa/careers.

Flatness graduated from Blue Earth Area High School and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She also earned a master’s degree in health care administration.