Posted 12/29/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Corinne Coughlin, a physician’s assistant at Tioga Medical Center, is retiring after a 44-year career at the hospital.
December 16 was Coughlin’s last day on the job.
Ryan Mickelsen, CFO of the hospital, said the staff and patients will miss her.
“That is a significant loss for Tioga Medical Center when you have 44 years of experience walk out the door,” Mickelsen said. “Think of all the lives she’s touched.”
Coughlin said the lives have touched her as well. She spoke about watching her patients working towards their recovery and what it meant to her to witness that strength they had.
“I just loved that part of my job,” she said.
Shortly after returning from service in World War II, Corinne Coughlin’s dad married her mother and began their life together.
They lived east of Williston in a house made out of a railroad car, which Corinne said wasn’t uncommon in those days. They transported the house to their land on the back of a pickup.
It had a stove at the center and they placed bus seats in front of a cafeteria table for a dining room. She didn’t have indoor plumbing until she was in the first grade.
Her father worked three jobs to make ends meet. She said that while their living standards were far below what most kids grow up in today, she never went hungry.
“It was not a childhood of privilege, but I was always provided for. It was the generation that built America,” she said.
The home grew over the years, and the boxcar remained. They just built rooms around it.
After graduating from Williston High in 1969, she did missionary work in Central America for three months. After she returned, she got engaged to her husband, Timothy. She studied at the Trinity Health School for Nursing in Minot.
Though the private nursing school is no longer around, in 1988 she attended the final reunion before the building was razed to make a parking lot.
“It was a superior nursing program,” she said.
She married her freshman year of college in 1970.
She said at the time there weren’t the kinds of loans and grants college students have today. She paid for her education almost entirely out of her own pocket.
She recalled the American Legion provided her with a $250 scholarship, which seemed like a lot of help at the time.
“We thought we were rich,” Coughlin said.
She and her husband started their family in Minot, and then moved to Tioga when Timothy got a job in a lumber yard.
Shortly after, Coughlin began working part-time at the hospital while she was still raising her children. She did work part-time as needed in Stanley.
“They lent me out,” she said.
She spent the next 22 years as a registered nurse. During that time, she built the hospital’s patient education program. It provides patients with the knowledge they need to pursue their care. This can be everything from pre-operation care to information for diabetics and cardiac patients.
The program is still in place today.
After that time, she was offered the opportunity to pursue medical school, where she got her physician’s assistant degree. She would serve as a PA for the next 22 years until the present day.
Family will be a big part of her time in her retirement. Coughlin has four grown children and eight grandchildren, some of which are in college.
They all live in North Dakota.
“We’re very proud of that,” she said.
In addition to spending more time with them, she will be caring for her father and step-mother who live in the nursing home and independent living, respectively, at the hospital.
She’ll be “just stopping by every day and seeing them, which you wouldn’t do if you had a full-time career.”
Additionally, she’ll have time for her Juneberry orchard she and her husband built. They have over 1000 bushes on their property.
“We work on them from April until the frost in the fall,” she said.
They had their first crop last year.
“There’s lots of things to do,” she said.