Employee Spotlights

Trading in a high-flying career for family and the greater good

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Chris Kispert is a family man. His easy-going demeanor and friendly smile make people immediately feel comfortable around him. Throughout his career, he has worked in finance, aviation and health care, but his most favorite role is dad.

Six years ago, Chris and his wife Gina were blessed with a miracle baby – Cecelia (Cece, for short). At the time, Chris was working as an emergency medical services (EMS) helicopter pilot. Scheduled two weeks on/two weeks off, Chris yearned to form a strong bond with his infant daughter. They were the “best of pals” when he was home, but after a two-week absence, Cece would no longer recognize him. Chris felt a nudge to make a change.

“After the birth of my daughter, Cecelia, I decided to alter my career path to spend more time at home watching her blossom,” he said. “This decision led me to PHS and the University of Minnesota, both of which played an integral role in acquiring my license in nursing home administration in 2022.”

Chris’s journey to Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) 

Chris’ past career as an EMS pilot and his well-rounded education from the U of M prepared him well for the purposeful work he does today as care center administrator at Norris Square in Cottage Grove, Minn.

Originally from Rochester, Chris lived all over the United States pursuing a variety of careers: helicopter pilot, tour guide, emergency medical pilot and tornado chaser for TV news. It was his role as an EMS pilot, however, that gave him the heart to work in health care.

“If we weren’t sitting at a base, we were in a hospital,” Chris said. “I just felt comfortable in that kind of environment.”

When he was flying, Chris was surrounded by nurses and paramedics. They were partners. Downtime was spent learning standard medical procedures, such as how to perform a tracheotomy. He would live with this team for extended periods of time, at the crash pad or an airport.

A call would come from a small, rural hospital that couldn’t address the medical issue, so Chris would fly people to the nearest metropolitan hospital. Sometimes “firefighters and police would call you and you had to go land on the highway,” he said.

Shifting careers

Chris would go wherever he was needed, yet the grueling schedule made it difficult on his family. When searching for a career that would allow him a more traditional schedule, Chris researched where certain industries were heading in the future. He liked the steady hours, flexibility and work-life balance a career in senior care offered.

“Senior living was nowhere on my radar, however, due to its growing need and my propensity to lean towards service-related industries, it popped up over and over,” Chris said.

Throughout his flying career, he had spent time with medical professionals, and “through osmosis, I enjoyed [the medical aspect],” he said. This funneled into an idea to apply as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), a certification Chris uses to this day.

Chris later received his nursing home administration license from the U of M’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His mentor Dr. Rajean Moone was “absolutely integral in me going through the program,” said Chris. Dr. Moone is the faculty director for long-term care administration at the college. Chris is grateful for Dr. Moone’s assistance, availability and encouragement throughout his studies.

“I was apprehensive to go back to school, but I have always enjoyed learning, especially when it is something I am interested in,” he reflected.

Although nervous to return, Chris felt at ease once he connected with his classmates who were all earning the same licensure. It was refreshing to see how the program catered to people with full-time jobs. They collaborated and asked each other questions about their real-world experiences. Many of his classmates also worked for senior living communities in the area which created a helpful network to discuss relevant issues. Chris has been a long-time U of M fan and feels that now he can finally represent the school.

Finding purposeful work

After joining PHS as a CNA at another community, Timber Hills, Chris learned that he loves working in the health care field.

“It’s never boring – ever,” he said.

On an average day, he checks in with his team to ensure all is well, then answers a few resident requests for support – “especially ones of residents I haven’t met,” he said.

It’s important to Chris to hear residents’ stories. He’ll talk with them about everything from their upbringing to vintage cars. He is excited to make a positive impact, taking concerns from CNAs and figuring out solutions to any problems.

He especially loves how his job lets him spend quality time with his daughter. Since Chris shifted from an odd-hours job to a more traditional routine, he’s been able to go to Cece’s soccer practices in the evenings. At home, he watches her play unicorns with cousins her age. She paints his fingernails.

“I don’t have my braids down perfectly yet, but I can do the ponies, I can do the side ponies …” he said with a laugh.

Chris values the PHS mission of enriching the lives of older adults and is grateful for a career that allows him more time with his family. Fellow employees support his flexibility when his daughter is sick. The life enrichment team encourages participation from employees’ families in events, creating a comforting and supportive environment.

“I can’t think of a single day that a resident or coworker hasn’t asked me about Cecelia or Gina, which makes me smile every time.”

Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to make a mark through Presbyterian Homes & Services careers.

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