Arbor Hospice: Gloria D. Brooks, CEO

by HCE Exchange on August 19, 2010

Between in-home care, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and a 26-bed inpatient unit, Arbor Hospice provides hospice care to terminally ill patients of all ages throughout southeastern Michigan. Currently serving more than 7,000 patients and family members annually, the Ann Arbor based non-profit spans a seven-county region, with more than 200 employees, ranging from physicians and nurses to pain management specialists, spiritual care and grief support counselors.

Motivated by a Singular Mission

Dignity, comfort and peace- three words that define Arbor Hospice’s mission and for the last quarter century, the organization has been singularly focused on providing this level of care to patients. “The hospice industry has changed significantly in the last 25 years,” explains CEO Gloria Danna Brooks. “It began as a volunteer grass roots movement and has grown to what it is today with more than 4,500 hospice providers in the country.” Brooks says that she is particularly proud of Arbor Hospice’s focus on caring that began at the start of the movement. “We are all very proud of what we do with patients and families, and the comprehensive services we provide including education and outreach programs.”

But Brooks says this consistency is often a rarity in the non-profit sector. “Working within non-profits for my entire career, I know that many organizations tend to tinker with their mission every few years.  However, this agency has been spot on with its focus on end of life care throughout its history, and that translates to the Board of Directors and our 200 employees.” Brooks has been president and CEO since 2007.  Prior to Arbor Hospice, she was the COO for the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan.  She brought with her two decades of experience in the non-profit sector. “Our mission has not changed in more than 25 years to provide comfort, assurance and care for patients and families with life-limiting illness and provide education and support for the community related to end of life care.”

Leadership as a Team Concept

I have so enjoyed working with the staff and management at Arbor Hospice,” says Brooks. “Everyone is very focused on providing dignity, peace and comfort at end of life.  Our clinical team is mission-focused and they live the mission everyday.” Brooks says that her approach to leadership is a collaborative effort that brings together ideas from the entire management team as well as clinicians on the frontline. “We have employees who have been here 25 years and those that are newer like myself, but we all come into this environment where we respect the patients and each other alike. Those values are palpable, and since this team walks the talk, they make my job easy.” Brooks adds that decision-making doesn’t work in a vacuum, so there is great effort to utilize the leadership team as much as possible.  “I’m a Jim Collins Good to Great devotee.  I have utilized his concepts in many settings and it reminds us why we are doing what we are doing.  It provides structure for management and shows us the importance of tackling tough issues.”

Merging Hospice Care with 21st Century Technology

Hospice organizations might not seem like they require a huge investment in technology, but at Arbor Hospice, an investment in IT meant better patient care and better fundraising for the non-profit.  Electronic medical records were implemented and the hospice has actually been asked to present best practice seminars because of their cutting edge implementation of technology. “We were behind the curve when I arrived here and we have made great strides in the last two years responding to clinicians’ and patients’ needs.” Arbor Hospice uses Suncoast Solutions, an integrated software provider that specializes in working with hospice centers.

Aside from patient software, Brooks also spearheaded the addition of a fundraising database which would help to keep track of donors and improve donation rates. Arbor Hospice chose to use Raiser’s Edge, one of the leading non-profit donor databases. With the 25th anniversary of the group and all the festivities that surrounded the milestone, the addition of the donor software couldn’t have been at a better time. “Patient software was very important, but as a non-profit the fundraising software was also critical.”

Looking Ahead, Educating the Next Generation

As Brooks has said, hospice care has certainly evolved over the past several decades. Many people who 20 years ago knew nothing about the care option are now making the choice to utilize it. But Brooks insists that their education and outreach job is not done. “I hear so many times patient families saying, ‘I wish I would have known about hospice sooner’.  We have been focusing on education in the sandwich generation, those people who are taking care of their own kids but making decisions about their parents’ health. These adult children are the people who need to know that they can make plans for themselves and their parents.  We stress that you don’t want to wait for a crisis to have the conversation about how you want to be cared for.”

Dignity, comfort and peace- three words that define Arbor Hospice

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