Written by Jaimee Green
Every year, the competition is tough. With 350 employees, it is usually anybody’s guess as to who will be recognized as Employee of the Year at each facility of Northeast Montana Health Services.
The Employees of the Year for 2012 were Stuart Conner for Trinity Hospital, Tommy Gonzalez for Poplar Hospital and Chris May for Faith Lutheran Home.
“This is a long time tradition we continue with each year in an effort to recognize those outstanding employees who truly personify what NEMHS is all about. They are employees who have an exemplary work ethic, are team players and who capture our mission statement while striving to achieve it every day in all they do,” said Peg Norgaard, CEO.
Conner began working for NEMHS at the Trinity campus in 2010 as an information systems specialist and spends his days assisting employees with their computer problems and helping manage the daily technological infrastructure of the facility.
“I enjoy being able to interact with people and continually problem solve,” he said.
Raised in Wolf Point, Conner was home-schooled by his mother, Kathy, and has always had an interest in computers.
“I had an old Compaq Windows 98 that I guess I spent too much time on, and it just snowballed from there,” he said.
After coming to NEMHS, he was trained in the IS department by Scott Nefzger, an information system specialist in Wolf Point, and Randy Iverson, IS, in Poplar, and credits them both with teaching him much of what he knows today.
Gonzales is a registered nurse who joined NEMHS in 2010 after he completed nursing school at Miles Community College, in Miles City. This is a second career for Gonzales, a native of western Kansas. He originally graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in forest management from Oklahoma State University.
He works at Poplar Hospital as a floor nurse and at Trinity Hospital where he works as a circulating nurse in the operating room.
“I really enjoy working for the patients. I enjoy knowing that I am able to make them feel better when they are in a bad situation,” he said.
Before becoming a nurse, Gonzales spent a number of years working throughout the United States as a fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in states such as Idaho, Alaska, Arkansas and Montana.
May has been an employee at FLH since 2008 as a certified nurse’s aide.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love the residents. They each have a story to tell and I enjoy listening to them. They are funny and interesting and if you just listen, you can learn so much from them,” she said.
“Chris has always been very passionate about the care she gives to the residents. She is creative and always looking for ways to make them happy. You can see the resident’s eyes light up when they see her,” said JoAnn Hibl, director of nursing at Faith Lutheran Home.
May and her husband, Mike, moved to the area nearly 10 years ago from Huntley to enjoy the areas bountiful pike fishing. Before joining NEMHS, she worked for nearly 20 years at Billings Deaconess as both a CNA and a medical courier.
Recipients of the Employee of the Year recognitions are selected by a committee of peers made up of one unidentified employee from each facility and the CEO. Those committee members review recommendation sheets handed in by employees and make the final selection.
Employees of the Year receive a traditional Christmas poinsettia plant and a check for $500 paid through money raised by the Employee Committee, a committee created to enable employees to have periodic parties and other moral building activities, as well as community benefit projects such as making baby blankets for newborns and purchasing equipment not given a line item in the budget. The employee committee serves as the umbrella committee under which separate sub-committees at each respective campus designate how fundraised money will be utilized at their respective facilities.
The Employee of the Year recognition has been taking place annually since 1989.