Mother's Sacrifice

Mother's Sacrifice

One little mentioned benefit of working for VITAS is that, even without traveling, the world comes to you!  Drop into any IDT or any office and witness tremendous diversity, global representation.  In celebration of the compassion and nurture of both mothers and nurses, their team chaplain had the privilege of sitting down with Sharon Tindoy and Corazon “Cory” Fung, who are from a very well-represented country, here at VITAS—the Philippines. Each were given reflection questions two weeks prior to this interview. The following is an abridged version of our 45-minute conversation.


This summer, I had the opportunity of a lifetime, to attend my childhood mates wedding in a rugged barn in a beautiful, pastoral setting near the English Channel.  Our own England-native, Ana Kirkpatrick, excitedly warned me that World Cup Fever was sweeping the UK!  Oh my, wasn't she right.  Association Football as it is known outside of the USA and Canada, with over 4 billion viewers, is by far the most watched and played sport in the world.  Ironically, in American Football, players put foot to ball when there are no other options.  However, in Association Futbol, it is the only option, next to the header. The game of Futbol shares many parallels with life, work and hospice because teams fuel our work and clearly, patients get better care when we all work together.

The World Cup is worth watching if only to notice the world generally getting along--at least at peace in the field.  But also, to observe those magical moments when the team is so engaged and goal so beautifully scored--a couple billion erupt in celebration. VITAS Healthcare only operates in USA.  Yet, the cultural backgrounds of our staff, their families and volunteer are global in scope.  We are globally representative program and company.  Goals do not come naturally, neither do patients and compassionate care.  Exactly how do we get patients?  Let's imagine a Futbol game.  Forwards and strikers are offensive players who aim to score goals.  Forwards push the ball up field and create scoring opportunities for strikers, who are the best scorers.

Our sales and marketing team, led by Alex Panzardi, pushes us forward by reaching out to all of our partners to promote our care and develop working partnerships.  His team of representatives are experts at building relationships and getting referrals.  Forwards are skilled at shaping their passes to the correct spot where the striker can score.  Getting patients on service is well...complicated.  But our admissions team, lead by Jill Heifetz, makes it happen.  The sheer number of data points gathered and synthesized by this expert squad while, maintaining a compassion demeanor, is mind boggling.  In this sense, our sales and admission team strike first and get us on the scoreboard.

Midfielders are the glue in Futbol.  They are brilliant passers who can both defend and push the ball to the forwards and strikers.  Among many other staff, our clinical staff fit here.  Most of the players in Futbol are in the middle of the field.  Likewise our clinical staff, led by Sue Jarvis, makes up the majority of our staff.  HHAs and RNs are our largest groups of disciplines.  They are followed by our psychosocial-spiritual team with social workers, chaplains, music therapists, art therapists, volunteers and all other complimentary services.  Certainly, it is important to score with the community, admit patients, and get paid for our work.  However, what happens when clients need to call us or there is a problem?  No point in trying to score, if we don't defend.  In come our defenders and goalies!  These are the folks who help us ensure continued operations, quality and compliance - all of our amazing administrative and operations staff, including our HME team.  Defending includes advocacy for patients, families and those with whom we serve shoulder-to-shoulder.

The goalie is the most important defender on a team.  Everyone on Roz Stenson's team provides this important role.  All of us are little defenders by following VITAS standards.  By making sure all of our details are in place, Roz' team does an excellent job of ensuring our Medicare and HR compliance.  We also acknowledge that there are important defenders like Charity, Cynthia, and many more.  Of course, the analogy must give way to the reality that all of us give our best to patients and families within our scope of care.  Our hospice physicians led by Dr. Christine Koniaris have spent years honing the craft of palliative medicine.  Their diverse roles require them to play many positions: carry the burden of our care under their licenses, listen through every patient detail in IDT, take calls through the night to provide excellent, palliative care to all our patients and families.  Notice how every team, every discipline is essential, we are compassionate equals.

There is no game without coaches.  The best kind of managers are great coaches.  We have had and continue to have excellent coaches who care about patients and families…AND staff.  That is rare in today’s world of work.  They call you to your best, encourage you and provide, when necessary, constructive criticism.  They celebrate our wins and lessons learned.  We have great managers in our program who value our culture of equality and empowerment.  All of our managers are also player-coaches.  In the early years of sport in America, there were many player-coaches.  Our managers also get their hands dirty when necessary providing care and services in their scope of practice.  We also acknowledge valuable coaches like our General Manager, Katie, and Regional Director of Operations, Belinda, who guide our program operations and growth.

To wrap up, let's rewind and get our player-coaches on the field and see what happens.  A shot on our goal! Roz dives and punches it to Christine defending right.  With a strong right-footer, Christine bends it to left midfielder, Sue.  Sue dribbles down left sideline and then chips it, over two defenders, high to left forward, Alex, who bicycle-kicks it hard right on to striker Jill who dives head-long putting it in right top corner for a...GOOOAAALLL!!!  As in life, victory comes after great exertion, perspiration with no apparent progress even when it is still 0-0. There are setbacks in life and in hospice, the ball finds the back of your own net sometimes.  Then moments of victory and great celebration!  In Futbol, scoring is rare.  Your team rallies and finally sees a ball go in the net, and goes bananas in celebration!  In hospice, we celebrate victories and wins due to the loss orientation of hospice care.  Those celebrations, large or small, engender re-creation and renewal which is vital to avoid burnout and sustain a hospice program and staff.  Cheering each other on helps us when the going gets tough.  Being a team chaplain, it is my job and privilege to care for my team but they also care for me...being on a team, in my view, is the best part being a VITAS professional.

When your team has a great care conference as the family went from being angrily suspicious to gratefully trusting—celebrate 

When you take a call from a frustrated loved one, who is grieving, and you were able to validate, listen with your heart and they calm down and say thank you…celebrate!

When you get great feedback, make all of the team members involved feel appreciated--celebrate!

When you hold someone's hand while they tearfully remember how much their loved one as meant to them--take time to celebrate!!  You have made a difference in the lives of so many patients, families and partners.


Jason Hotchkiss

Team 252