If the healthcare industry had an Eagle Scout award, Kristen Kohlbrand, DNP-FNP, ENP, would have it. Her dedication to preventative care and emergency preparedness has been, and continues to be, the theme of her service throughout her many years as a healthcare worker.
Eighteen years ago, Kohlbrand began working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in the long-term care area of the facility where she currently works. As a single mother, and with her young daughter to support, a career in healthcare seemed like nothing more than a stable, viable option. Little did she know the exciting journey that lay ahead.
She continued studying and soon received her LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) certification, moving from the long-term care area to the emergency room (ER) at the local hospital. Despite the high stress and pressure situations that come from working in an emergency environment, Kohlbrand found herself uniquely equipped for the demands of the job and spent several years honing her skills in the ER.
With a few years experience under her belt, Kohlbrand saw more possibilities begin to open up for her in the healthcare field. She returned to school to receive her registered nurse (RN) certification and later came to Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMU) to complete her post-baccalaureate dual Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree and Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certificate, all the while continuing to work and make valuable contributions to the healthcare field.
Combining her experience in emergency preparedness and response prevention with her healthcare education, Kohlbrand was able to serve her community as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Weston County, Wyoming. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Weston County’s public health officer position was unfilled. With no public official to inform the community about what to do, Kohlbrand took the reins. Using Facebook, she posted updated information to the public about COVID-19 updates and protocols, all while still attending to emergency response needs throughout the area. “I saw a way to make a difference in the community by being more involved with the public health side, especially after COVID came around.” Kohlbrand added. “I saw it as a way to use my training in Emergency Preparedness to actually make a difference.”
Due to her exceptional service and dedication to healthcare in her community, the Weston County Board of Commissioners recently elected Kohlbrand as Weston County Public Health Officer.
In a recent news article, Kohlbrand said, “I wanted to fill the role because community health and prevention has been a focus of a lot of areas of my schooling, so I hope to be able to help educate and be a resource to people. . . .”
During the pandemic, mixed information from a variety of sources caused much of the public to lose trust in healthcare workers and services. Kohlbrand is working diligently to rebuild the public’s view of healthcare and hopes to emphasize the importance of preventative care in the process. “I hope to be able to bring awareness about preventative care rather than just sick care,” Kohlbrand says. “I want the community to know that as providers, we would rather keep them well to where they don’t need us.”
In her new position, Kohlbrand continues to serve her community using the skills she’s acquired throughout her healthcare journey. Kohlbrand shared, “Being able to combine the emergency preparedness and disaster response with the healthcare side, I now can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Whether there’s a need for long-term care, updated public health information, or maybe even a quick, emergency response, it’s safe to say that Weston County is in good hands.