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Employee stories

Hear from some of Mercy's employees about what drew them to Mercy and what they're doing now.

Kristi Willenbring

Growing up in Dubuque with a mom who's a registered nurse and a dad who's a banker, Kristi Willenbring started at the University of Iowa as a biology major, until she discovered she enjoyed business classes more than science. She graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor of Business Administration.

She attended Iowa School of Banking, graduating in 2005, and worked as a banker at F&M Bank in Cedar Rapids. But something was lacking.  

Having "shadowed" her mom at work at Mercy Hospital in Dubuque, Kristi recognized the lure of health care work.

"It's the entire mission of a hospital that attracts me," she says. "The healing of the sick and the huge social benefit to the community. It's the human factor."

She began looking for work that combined accounting and health care, and joined Mercy in 2007 as a staff accountant/financial analyst in the finance department.  

"I love this," she says. "It's a locally-owned, stand-alone hospital."

Also, Kristi notes, she is Catholic and she believes in the work of the Sisters of Mercy.

"I think that causes it to be managed differently," she explains. "We're not just about the bottom line. We're more about doing what's right."

She immediately felt comfortable at Mercy, from her first job interview.

"Everybody is really helpful," she says. "There's room to grow. Ours is not a large department, but there are a lot of positions."

Kristi is working on her Masters in Health Care Administration, and appreciates having received a $5,000 annual scholarship for two years through Mercy's loan forgiveness program.

"Health care is a good place to work. It's a very stable industry. Historically, it's normally recession-proof," Kristi notes. "There are endless opportunities."

Mercy makes those opportunities even more meaningful, Kristi says, because its leadership is "phenomenal" in its commitment to making Mercy the best it can be.

"It's impressive. Everybody has ownership here," she says. "Contributions are noted and welcomed. It makes you feel that the work you do has value. It's our hospital. And we definitely have the Mercy Touch."

Erin Sneller

Erin Sneller knows firsthand what a difference a physical therapist can make.

Erin experienced ongoing knee pain, starting at age 14. Doctors couldn't seem to correct the problem. But when she saw a physical therapist (PT), his care worked. She's been pain-free ever since.

That experience piqued Erin's interest in physical therapy. She observed her PT at work, hung out with her high school athletic trainer and learned more through internships at the Workplace Learning Center.

After one year at St. Ambrose University, she finished her Associate of Arts degree at Kirkwood Community College. She graduated from the University of Iowa in psychology and physical therapy. A six-week internship at Mercy in 2007 solidified her career choice.  

"It was a real confidence-builder, and a big reason for my coming here," she explains. "Everyone was great. I worked with a 20-year Mercy veteran who really knew his stuff, but he let me do my own thing too."

She's been a full-time inpatient PT at Mercy since January 2009. Mercy's loan repayment program has been a big help and the flexible scheduling is great. Erin also sees the Mercy Touch in her co-workers and supervisors.

"The biggest thing I've noticed here at Mercy is that you can always tell that whoever is working with a patient really cares," Erin says. "They're good role models. I try to always hold a patient's hand, and answer questions. A lot of them are anxious and kind of scared."

That extra care is unique and important, she adds.

 "The biggest thing I've always wanted to do is find a solution to people's problems," Erin says. "It's really gratifying to have patients gain and improve."

Ashley Pritts

Her own family experience led Ashley Pritts into health care, and particularly into physical therapy.

Her brother had a stroke when he was born, and underwent physical therapy (PT) for 18 years.

She decided in high school she wanted to work as a PT, Ashley says. She graduated from St. Ambrose University with a doctorate in PT in December 2008. In January, she began as an inpatient PT at Mercy.

She came to Mercy because she knew some Mercy nurses, wanted to be closer to home and an opening came up.

"Everyone was so helpful," Ashley, 24, says of her job interview. She was also able to meet with two other PTs alone to hear what their experiences with Mercy were. "It seemed like one big family. The Mercy Touch is real."

She started first as a technician. After passing her boards, she began full-time as an inpatient PT.

She especially enjoys her work, Ashley adds, "because we're actually watching people get better and go home. We get them to that point. It's nice to see how they progress."

Anyone considering health care positions must "be sure they're in it because they want to help patients," Ashley says. "I see everyone at Mercy is like that. It's a real supportive environment. I really enjoy it here."