When Kris Kist, RN, isnt helping to save patients lives in the SICU at South Miami Hospital, he might be catching a wave along Floridas coast. But more likely, hes working under the most Spartan of conditions to restore broken bodies among people who have no access to a hospital — or even a home.
For his volunteer work, his leadership among his peers and his education efforts, Kist was nominated for and won the Nurse Health Care Hero award from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. He was honored, along with finalists Nancy Auster, RN, CHPN, and Cindy Magnole, RN, BSN, at a luncheon May 22 at the Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom in Miami.
The award is given to a nurse who is dedicated to excellence and works beyond the scope of the job environment. Also, it emphasizes the ability to inspire others.
“Kist is the ultimate advocate, not just for the patients under his care but for the disenfranchised,” Sandra McLean, RN, CCRN, MS-HSA, director of nursing, critical care services at South Miami Hospital, a part of Baptist Health system, wrote in her nomination of Kist.
Kist deflects such praise and points to what he gains from giving. “No man or woman is an island,” he said. “Volunteering is, ultimately, taking part in and affecting peoples welfare and happiness. It provides a sense of energy and fulfillment that can lead to new perspectives. It has allowed me to simplify my own life and strengthen my spirituality.”
Every three months Kist travels to Haiti as part of Living Hope Haiti. The 20-member team of physicians, nurses and support staff provides free surgical services. They bring all the OR equipment, supplies and medications with them.
Kist said he is very proud of all the team members and also gives much credit to the success of Living Hope Haiti to nonmedical contributors, specifically mentioning Baptist Health South for financing travel expenses and equipment and praising their biomedical technician.Nancy Auster, RN
“It is during these trips that you realize our biomed tech is probably our MVP,” Kist said. “When things break in Haiti, there are no options, nobody to call. If our sterilizer breaks down, the entire operation ceases. We are blessed to have a talented man who can repair all our equipment and air conditioning, restore the water supply, and so on.”
The team works from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Usually when they arrive, about 100 people are sitting outside the clinic “hoping we call their name for an operation,” Kist said. “We are committed to doing as many procedures as possible, so when we leave we dont feel like we left behind patients that could have been treated.”
A nurse for more than 20 years, Kist has spent 15 of those years volunteering. He started with Habitat for Humanity, where he used his past experience as a construction laborer. He also has volunteered at the Miami Rescue Mission, cooking meals for homeless individuals and coordinating other volunteers. He also trains nurses for leadership roles and helps nursing students prepare for the NCLEX.
Kist said eating right, exercising and making time for himself gives him the energy to volunteer, but his view of lifes purpose actually may recharge him more than food, exercise or entertainment. “Carve your name on hearts,” he said. “Not on marble.”