Karlie Kohl and Patti Nicholls

KARLIE KOHL, a nurse at Kearney Regional Medical Center, tends to patient Patti Nicholls of Kearney. Nicholls said she “loves” Kearney’s newest hospital.

KEARNEY — Ask Bev Muller about her recent hip replacement surgery at Kearney Regional Medical Center, and she brightens like the sun.

“I can’t say enough,” she said.

“I know I’m not a number to them. I’m a person. They trust me and treated me with quality. They go the second or third mile in all they do. I did not find a single solitary person on the staff that did not fit that description. Whatever they do in their training program is above and beyond the call.”

Muller, who lives at the Northridge retirement community, said she never had to push a bell for service. “Before I could blink, someone was there to take care of any needs I had,” she said.

She also was thrilled when CEO Bill Calhoun stopped in unexpectedly to say hello after he’d heard how pleased she was with her KRMC experience.

“That doesn’t happen every place,” said Muller, 82. “I’m beaming with happiness at what happened.”

Stories like that make Scott Smith smile.

He believes that, as one of the 40 proponents of a new hospital here, he helped bring a “community feel” back to health care in Kearney.

Smith, as an internal medicine physician and director of medical affairs at KRMC, serves as a liaison between the administration and the medical staff.

“People want to work here. They are happy working here. This translates into high patient satisfaction. I am constantly amazed at how many patients come back and take time to talk about how good it was here,” he said. “We all realize we’re only as good as the people who take care of the patients, and that’s been incredibly rewarding.”

Ten years ago, when the idea for a new Kearney hospital sprouted, Smith wasn’t sure it would succeed.

“None of us knew what we were doing. I don’t think any of us could have anticipated the growth, the success, expansion and the size. None of us had ever built a hospital. We just had a vision, and to have it turn out this way has been very professionally gratifying,” he said.

Smith appreciates the fact that physicians have a voice at the leadership level. “If we identify patient care issues here at Kearney Regional, we can get decision-makers in a room, make changes quickly and effectively,” he said.

He also points to other measures of success, like the four-star rating from the American College of Cardiology and the Level II rating for trauma care.

A former chief of staff at what is now CHI Health Good Samaritan, Smith has been in medicine and medical leadership his whole life. A Kearney native, he has practiced here since 1995. His father, Dr. L.R. Smith, did family practice at Kearney Clinic.

“I can’t predict the next 10 years at Kearney Regional, but the trajectory keeps going up. I think the growth will continue, maybe not as rapidly as the first five years, but we’ll continue to adapt to whatever the community needs. That’s the driving force.”

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