Bruce Carlson is a pioneer for JourneyCare, helping found its legacy organization more than 35 years ago with a small group of volunteer healthcare providers and concerned friends, who all wanted to find a more compassionate way to help those facing the end of life. Today, Carlson serves as President of the Board of Trustees for the integrated JourneyCare, now celebrating its first year as a new agency. Read on to learn his thoughts on the organization’s progress, and what lies ahead.
Q. What progress have you seen since three agencies came together to form JourneyCare last June?
A. When Horizon, JourneyCare and Midwest CareCenter first announced their merger, I think everyone was concerned about stumbling blocks and cultural changes. That is understandable whenever any organization experiences a major change. What was important, however, is that we all had the same set of values and a core interest in our patients and their families that has made this work. And while there have been some changes behind the scenes in the administrative departments or in technology systems, the core of what our clinicians do – and what our patients experience – remains the same and remains strong.
Q. Can you discuss some successes you have seen so far?
A. From a Board perspective, I am impressed with how people have come together. We have brought a talented and caring group of individuals to our Board of Trustees and Board of Directors – three from each legacy agency. Even before we had our first formal meetings, some of us were meeting for breakfast or lunch just to get to know each other and understand how each person got involved in hospice, their personal story, and what mattered to them regarding end-of-life and palliative care going forward. That helps us now as we learn how to compromise and understand where our peers are coming from, so we can all make the best decisions for JourneyCare.
Q. Now that JourneyCare is a fully integrated agency, what is the biggest challenge in its second year?
A. There are still challenges ahead, especially since we are adapting to changes in the healthcare industry and how hospice and palliative care are funded by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. I also believe that we must work hard to reach out especially to our Chicago stakeholders and residents at large. There is a huge population in need of our services, and it’s critical to get the word out so those who need it know how to better access our care. But I think we have also overcome many challenges in this past year, too. I believe that the JourneyCare staff has adapted well to the integration, and we have extremely strong leadership. So we are on the right track.
Q. What is JourneyCare’s biggest strength?
A. The clear answer is, of course, the staff. They are the individuals providing the care that is at the core of what we do. But I also believe we have outstanding leadership, especially in President and CEO Sarah Bealles. She is very forward-thinking and understands what we do well, and where we need to grow. That kind of leadership is a gift and we are very, very lucky. Finally, the JourneyCare Foundation is also a critical part of our organization, because it is important for people to know that no one has ever been turned away for care due to an inability to pay. That is where the Foundation steps in and we work to fill that void for anyone in need.