Make an effort to care for people — If we take the approach that we are all in this together and that we all have the want and desire for things to be better, it will allow us to better to support those who need it most. At Mission Healthcare we changed our mission statement a year ago to ensure it was a statement we all could live by each day and I believe it resonates more today than ever, “We take care of people”.
As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Paul VerHoeve.
Paul VerHoeve is the CEO for Mission Health Care, one of California’s largest privately-owned providers of home health and hospice services and is a member of its Board of Directors.
Paul brings over 20 years of healthcare leadership experience to Mission. Prior to his appointment as CEO at Mission Healthcare, Paul was President of the West Region with Louisville, Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare, one of the largest post-acute care systems in the country. In his role with Kindred Healthcare, he was responsible for 120 locations across 10 states with 500M in annual revenues. Before joining Kindred HealthCare, Paul served in several leadership positions, with Gentiva Health Care, Haven Health Care and Vitas Health Care.
Throughout his career Paul has been recognized as being a driver of healthy workplace culture. His passion for creating environments that foster the “team” concept aims to ensure quality care at the bedside. He believes that “if you take care of your employees they will provide amazing care for your patients.”
Paul has a bachelor’s in business and lives in San Diego, CA with his three children Bailey, Tyler, and Riley.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?
I grew up in a medical family with a father who was a physician and a mother who was a nurse. I feel like I have been in healthcare since inception. As a kid, I always wanted to be a doctor and started college as a pre-med major. While going to school, I had some opportunities to work in home health and realized that I loved the administration part of healthcare and quickly changed to a business major. I had great opportunities as a young professional to work for some well-recognized national healthcare providers that really helped me as I got started.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I am not sure this is the most interesting thing, but it is something I often think about and tell. For a large part of my career, I spent a lot of time on airplanes and was always intrigued by the different types of people you meet when traveling. You often learn about all different types of industries, experiences, and stories. Early in my career, I was sitting next to an older gentleman who had a strong southern accent who was wearing some warn blue jeans and some broken in boots. I came to a quick conclusion about who this individual was or what he did for a living. After spending thirty minutes chatting with this man, I realized that my first impression was way off. I was sitting next to one of the wealthiest cattle ranchers in the south. He shared some wisdom after he saw my shock and he said never change who you are or how you treat people because of your failures or successes. To this day, this story lives with me.
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
I remember early on when I first started traveling for work, I had a trip back east for an important meeting. When I got the hotel, it was about 11 pm and decided to iron my white dress shirt so it was ready to go for my 8 am meeting the next day. After the iron heated up, I put it down on my shirt and it left a huge black stain on the front of the shirt. I panicked and realized I had no other dress shirts and didn’t have time to find a shirt before my meeting the next day. All I had was a polo shirt I had worn while on the plane all day. The next morning everyone was dressed up in business suits and I was the one wearing a day-old polo shirt trying to explain the situation. The lesson was always be prepared for what could happen. Since then, I have always traveled with an extra shirt in my suitcase.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At Mission Healthcare, we continue to look at ways to better serve the patient population. From a patient perspective, we continually find new programs to meet unmet needs within the healthcare system. Over the last 5 years, we have seen a large push of more care being provided in the home and has been amplified by the pandemic. One of the new projects we are working on is finding ways to provide options for patients who fall between the cracks. One of these areas is palliative care. Many Americans are suffering from debilitating/terminal diseases that will not get better over time and in many cases have access to limited services. We have recently launched a palliative care program that has seen great success in helping this population that in many cases would not have accessed services or would have suffered with debilitating pain. This patient population is more isolated than most due to the disease process they have coupled with limited social interactions outside of the home. One of the core tenants of this program outside of clinical interventions is social services. Ensuring the right resources and support are available are critical to this patient population. This program has helped hundreds of patients and Mission Healthcare aims to serve thousands as we expand the program.
Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?
At Mission, I work with over 300 clinicians who provide care to over 2,000 patients every day. A good majority of these patients are seniors who are receiving care in the home. Normally this population is one of the highest risk groups for depression and loneliness due to isolation. In the senior population 1 in 4 lives alone. The pandemic has magnified the risk factors for this high-risk population as they have become even more isolated from outside contact and interactions. We also are witnessing the impact the pandemic is having on our frontline clinicians as they continue to care for high-risk patients in a COVID world without the regular face to face interactions with managers and peer groups.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?
There are so many reasons that loneliness can lead to health problems. Though every individual has different wants and likes around the amount of social interaction they need to feel satisfied, it is something that all of us require as a part of our general health. In the population we serve, we see things like depression as one of the largest impacts of loneliness. We also see increased levels of stress and worry. We see folks becoming less mobile and more sedentary. All three of these can lead to many side effects that can negatively impact an individual’s mental health.
On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?
The word that comes to mind is hope. From a young child to a senior we all have a need to have things to look forward to or things that we can be excited about. For a child it may be looking forward to a birthday party, seeing friends at school, visiting with family, or playing in a sporting event. For a senior it may be visiting family, holding a new grandchild, or going on vacation. As many of these things have been taken away or altered significantly over the last year with the pandemic, we can feel hopeless leading us to loneliness or depression. We tend to lose hope when we cannot see a pathway to our future. At a time like this, it’s important to remain hopeful.
The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.
Today is a far cry from what we hoped for and expected from 2020. Though social media, facetime, and Zoom meetings can replace some of the missing pieces of social interaction, it can never fully replace the impact of human connection.
- Lack of connectivity with friends/family — The pandemic is changing the way people celebrate major events and holidays. This new threat challenges us to be creative in how we maintain our social connections and manage our mental and physical health. Normally we would take a family member or friend out to dinner for a birthday celebration. This is now been replaced with a short face time phone call or a text message.
- Lack of connectivity in general activities — Human connection is now more important than ever. I was at a grocery store a few weeks back and had an elderly gentleman standing 6 feet in front of me and you could see that he wanted to chat. For many folks the conversations in a grocery store line, or while waiting for a coffee order, or speaking with parents while waiting for children to get out of school are the moments that have been massively altered over the past year.
- Physical Activity — I think it fair to say most of us have watched more Netflix, have spent less time exercising and less time doing physical activity since the pandemic started. The adage that motion creates emotion is real and can be a big generator of happiness.
Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.
- Make an effort to care for people — If we take the approach that we are all in this together and that we all have the want and desire for things to be better, it will allow us to better to support those who need it most. At Mission Healthcare we changed our mission statement a year ago to ensure it was a statement we all could live by each day and I believe it resonates more today than ever, “We take care of people”.
- Be understanding — The pandemic has affected all of us differently and we all have unique support systems. Try and find simple ways to impact someone else.
- Stay Active — We are running out of new shows to watch, get out and move around. As mentioned before motion creates emotion and releases all kinds of endorphins that can impact positivity.
- Make plans for a post-vaccine world — I mentioned before that hope is important and we all need something to look forward to. Make a plan for next year’s birthday celebration, a vacation, a family visit. The ability to have these things to look forward to will change our perspective.
- Find your silver lining — At Mission, we recently held an essay contest about finding your silver lining during the pandemic. Reading the heartfelt stories of Mission team members and what they each have endured during the pandemic gave me a perspective I did not have before. We had an employee who shared a story about pregnancy through the pandemic who had serious complications and had to deliver twins prematurely, have them in NICU for a month and all while having an active toddler at home with her husband that she couldn’t be with. She now has 3 healthy beautiful girls and her silver lining was family. To quote her, “she got her rainbow after the rain”.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It is important to keep it simple and not over complicate it. I have the pleasure of seeing this in the work we do at Mission Healthcare each and every day. It is the “taking care of people” movement. My team at Mission Healthcare takes priority. The great thing about taking care of people is that it does not require a title or money, it’s something we can all do to have a positive impact in our communities.
What this means at the most practical level is simple: Put the team first because if you take care of your team, they’ll take care of you. Taking care of people is one of the fundamental responsibilities of leadership. It requires thoughtful and purposeful effort, but the return on investment of time in taking care of people is very high.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Bill Gates has always been on my list for two reasons. I would love to understand his thought process as he built one of the biggest and most innovative companies in the world. The second reason is to understand how he chose the philanthropic initiatives he has been a part of.