Tara S


I finally met up with Susan from Hospice on Friday morning. She has been the innovator behind this whole outreach project. We met up in the Carlisle office, and I brought all the school contact information with me. Together, we sat down and composed a letter to the school districts describing our efforts and the services that Hopsice could offer. It’s always difficult to reach the exact wording, but the letter turned out well. It briefly stated Hospice’s purpose in contacting them (to provide grief and loss information) that the United Way of Carlisle generously provided the funding for this project. We emphasized their role as educators and primary figures in the lives of children who are experiencing a loss. Concluding, the letter offered in-service training for faculty, parent information programs, and student classroom presentations. Susan hopes that some schools may choose to utilize several of these services, as she knows that not all counselors or administration are properly trained to handle grief counseling. I was also able to look at the materials we would be packaging and sending with the letters to each school. I was amazed at how imformative and age-appropriate the materials were. After we composed a rough draft of the letter, I formally typed it up to keep on file. I plan to meet with Diana this coming week to obtain formal Hospice letter-head paper to print out all of the letters. Additionally, Susan and I spoke and decided to use Diana’s suggestion of sending the letter to several individuals within one school. Originally, I was going to contact each school to find out whom to direct the letter (either principal or school counselor). Everyone agreed that sending the letter to the principle, school counselors, and the school nurse would place all of them on the same page so that hopefully they will collaborate and discuss the letter. Ultimately, we hope that at least one individual in the school will request for more information or call to inquire about other services that Hospice could offer. The issues of grief and loss are important and highly impact a child’s life, and Susan and I hope that our efforts through this new project will increase the awareness of these issues in schools.

After viewing the materials we would be sending to the schools, I really became more of an advocate for this project. At first, I thought this was a good idea but assumed that many school counselors would be equipped or properly trained to handle grief issues. Having a loved one that recently passed away, I understand the trama that families can go through. Not only did we lose my grandmother, but our whole family dynamic shifted as we had to take on the responsibilities of caring for the individuals that she previously had. My younger sister is thirteen, and I could not imagine trying to accept and come to peace with this situation at her age. Paging through the materials actually gave me hope that, even if someone like her didn’t feel comfortable talking to family members about their emotions, that they would have somewhere to turn. Many of the booklets were set up in journal format so that students could discuss different topics about the loss in a private place. The kindergarten material also made this sensitive issue understandable to younger kids. Mostly, it provides an outlet or pathway for communication. I know that in many school districts, counselors are either not prepared to manage grief counseling or the student does not know where to turn. Involving the school nurses is an excellent way to make connections between counselors and staff when children may repeatedly arrive at the nurses office because of emotional issues. Nurses would also be able to recognize this and be able to provide some help. I really hope that many schools will choose to access the services that Hospice can provide. They have many trained grief counselors who could do wonderful in-service day sessions or parent information sessions. For many people, death and grief are some of the most difficult topics to discuss. Through this project, Hospice is providing an opening for communication and could teach invaluable information to staff, teachers, parents, and students. I am disappointed that I will not be present to see the development or outcomes of the project. I feel and can see that Hospice really cares and has a passion for the types of services they provide. They take care of individuals in their last days, like my grandmother, but they also can provide a tremendous amount of support for the families that are still living.

On the current topic of financial management and budgeting being discussed in class, I was able to access Hospice of Central Pennsylvania’s annual report of 2004. Their income statement and balance sheet are very straight-forward and easy to comprehend. The largest portion of their revenue is donated by Medicare. This makes sense since Hospice coordinates with Medicare to cover the costs of patient care. After this, the majority of contributions for the year came from public donations. However, several individuals on the fundraising and other committees are seeing a decrease in funeral donations. In other words, there has been a decrease in the amount of families whose loved one has passed away under Hospice care and will request in the obituary and funeral arrangements that monetary donations can be sent to Hospice. Their least amount of revenue is generated by foundations. Under revenue they have listed investment income and unrealized loss on investments. This line is slightly confusing because I would expect it to be under expenses since it is a loss on investments. Overall, Hospice for this year exhibits revenue over expenses which produces a profit for their organization.
Continuing through the balance sheet, I felt that it was comprehensible, but it did raise some questions for me that I would like to discuss with Diana. For example, what does it mean when they just list depreciation as a line itself? Also, I expected assests and liabilities to be listed separately. They were, but included with liabilities was fund balances. In this way, the assests and the liabilities and fund balances match up. Is this just a way of showing that no money was lost on liabilities? Looking through the reading, it seems that fund balances would be the same as equity or reserve, becoming more clear that assests=liability + equity. As Perry Heath mentioned in his presentation, it is important to budget for revenue over expenses. I wonder if Hospice planned the budget in this way or not? Additionally, I wonder if they have the budget audited or if they simply seek a financial review. It seems as though Hospice of Central Pennsylvania is very organized and would seek auditing, especially having the United Way, Medicare, and other organizations involved in their cause.
Lastly, looking at the annual report made me realize how important it is for this Hospice to raise adequate funds. Some Hospices, as I believe I mentioned before, are for-profit organizations. Hospice of Central Pennsylvania is a nonprofit organization, and they do not turn any individual away that needs care. As a result, there are some expenses that Medicare will not provide for. Instead of denying services or items to a patient, Hospice covers the cost themselves in order to carry out their mission. In 2004, Hospice spent over $800,000 alone on patient care. Clearly, donations and funding are important for them to recieve in order to continue administering care to patients who would not otherwise recieve any help at all.

Thursday, March 30, Diana and I met at the Carlisle office. My plan for the afternoon was to make phone calls to the school districts I gathered contact information for the previous week. Susan, who is coordinating this project, wanted me to find out what faculty member at the school would be the main person to address a letter. I had the names and contacts of the school principles and school counselors, but we needed to know who to address in the letter. Diana suggested that I make multiple contacts with the staff at the school in order to get the most information circulated. She thought maybe Susan and I should send letters not to just one individual, but to the counselors, principle, and even school nurses to hopefully develop a positive contact somewhere in the building. Also, doing that would open the door for the faculty to develop a dialogue about this new idea of grief services.
I called the first school on my list and an answering system picked up. I looked at my watch. 4:15. No one would still be in the office for me to speak with someone directly-an aspect I had not taken into consideration. Diana just gave a chuckle and decided to recruit me to help her work on a “save the date” card for an event hospice was planning. Hospice of central Pennsylvania conducts an annual banquet each year for its employees, board members, donors, and others to show appreciation and celebrate their years of service to the community. The “save the date” card would appear at the place settings of this year’s banquet announcing a popular speaker for next year’s event. The speaker’s name is Mitch Albom, author of many popular books including “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” and “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Albom also has made many appearances on ESPN sports network and has his own radio program, making his personality appealing to many. Diana found out that a Hospice in Scranton had Albom as a speaker, and the turn-out was amazing. It became a great fundraiser for the Scranton Hospice, so Diana wanted to start letting individuals know early that Albom will be at next year’s banquet.
Diana and I spent a long time trying to configure all the information on the “save the date” card. We are not very computer-minded people! We were able, however, to complete the task and produce a card to use at the banquet this year. I could tell Diana was excited and hopeful that this speaker would be a great fundraiser.

My main feeling for this service time was frustration. When I was not able to contact the schools I wanted, I felt a sense of frustration at my timing. I realize that not all offices are open for my convenience, but I knew that I should have been better prepared to complete my task for the day. Even though that task did not go well, it gave me the chance to assist Diana with the “save the date” cards. Again, more frustration. Her superior, she informed me, is very particular about certain things. This card had to be “perfect.” Having not used some of the functions for making fancy wording on an announcement had both of us spending more time than was needed. In short, it would have been better if we had taken the information to a printer and had him design and layout the announcement for us. But, Diana and others knew it would save money if she printed the announcements. Even with all the frustration, though, Diana is a dynamic and entertaining individual to work with. She is quite easy-going and very easy to connect to. As a result, I am able to ask a lot of questions and it makes me feel informed and concerned for the organization. I also got excited at the prospect of a huge fundraiser for Hospice, knowing they are in constant need of financial support. I did have a laugh as I realized I could connect this with the marketing piece we just began to learn in class.

I wasn’t sure how marketing would factor into my Hospice experience. When I previously thought about marketing, I thought about selling a specific product. Hospice does not really market a specific product, but services. Through our readings, the class discussed the reasons for marketing. Organizations participate in marketing for several reasons. Sometimes it’s for risk management, leveraging resources, or to promote a new/improved product. Some organizations, however, market simply to spread their name and gain more recognition within the community. The outreach project I am working on is simply this. The primary goal for Susan and I right now is to make contacts at the schools and disperse grief counseling information to them. We are not asking that they utilize Hospice for grief services but that they look at the grief counseling available to students and see if it can be improved. Maybe there is information Hospice could provide the counselors or nurses about grief counseling that could improve their own services. At the same time, this connection promotes Hospice’s name and establishes awareness about our organization. Possibly, some schools may decide that they are not equipped to properly provide grief counseling to its student body and look to connect with Hospice for that extra support.
In terms of the fundraiser with Mitch Albom, I believe this also fits into the marketing techniques. Marketing efforts can fail if the cost is too high, the staff has other obligations, or simply because it is a mission-driven product that is not easy to sell. I could easily see marketing efforts by Hospice failing. They have a decent volunteer base, but many people are over-extended, and it would be difficult to properly put together a stable marketing plan. Making the “save the date” cards was a positive step toward successful marketing. Applying it to the four P’s (products, promotion, placement, and pricing), this fundraiser seems like it will be successful. The product they are selling would technically be Mitch Albom I guess. He will be the catalyst for individuals purchasing tickets to the event and thus driving profit. The reputation and pretige of the product is a major factor in its marketing success. Mitch is not only well-known, but he is popular among various crowds of people. As Diana put it, “I may want to go because I enjoyed one of the books he wrote. My husband will want to go because he’s seen him on ESPN.” As a diverse individual, Mitch is a much desired speaker at an event. The second P, promotion, is also on track so far. Distributing the “save the date” cards a year in advance (with follow-up promotion) will ensure that individuals are available that day. Planning ahead through announcements and other forms of promotion like signage and word of mouth will provide the best turn-out for the occassion. As for placement, the location of the event has already been secured and will be accessible to all. I do not believe this “P” applies as much in this situation. The last “P” has yet to be decided. Pricing presents a big issue, and the organization will want to keep the price below customer value but enough that they will make a profit. I think this Hospice should connect more with the Hospice in Scranton to find out how much they charged for tickets to their event with Albom. Even though the speaker may pique interest in a lot of donors or employees, if the pricing is not on target, many individuals will choose not to attend.
I am curious how both of these projects will develop. Unfortunately, my time with Hospice will be complete before I could even glimpse the finished products. I have positive feeling about both, and I am excited that organiztions like Hospice continue to promote themselves and reach out to the local community. Even though they are a popular organization, Hospice is not known to everyone in the community. The marketing efforts of the school project will create awareness while the Albom fundraiser will drive more profit to keep the organization running.

Today I began background work at the Hospice office in Carlisle. Prior to my meeting with Susan, who will be the coordinator of this project, I decided that I should compile the contact information for all of the schools we will be conducting outreach efforts. It was determined that Hospice would try to provide information and any outside grief services to the Carlisle School District, the South Middleton School District, and the Big Spring School District. I assumed that this information would be simple and quick to find and decided to record all of the schools addresses, phone numbers, principles names and phone numbers, and the school counselors names and phone numbers for all these school districts.
The districts comprise twenty-one schools total with most of the contacts being very difficult to locate. Many schools had a website but did not contain school counselor’s contact information. Many of the websites were virtually useless in the information they provided. The South Middleton School District has a district office number, which is listed as the number for every school in their district. With more searching I was able to find the specific numbers for each school, as well as the principles and school counselors. The computer work was a slow process also because the company internet program runs extremely slow and crashes without notice. This not only disconnects the internet but also any other programs that are running, including windows. Sometimes, Diana informed me, the program will lock you out for long periods of time if it is too busy so that the staff cannot access any of the programs on the system. Additionally, there have been occurrances where all of their nursing staff is online at the same time and several are kicked off because of traffic. Still, I managed to complete my task and compiled a list of contacts for all schools in the three districts.

I enjoy working with Diana, and I’m anxious to begin to work with Susan. I am excited to get this project off the ground and running, but just completing the background work makes me realize how difficult it is to start a project. The facilities they own are not very impressive, and they clearly work with what they have. I was very frustrated just attempting to find information since their computer programs are not conducive to working on for long lengths of time. When their system freezes, it locks anyone out from all programs making it entirely inefficient. Also, the Carlisle office is just an open space that does not provide much privacy for counseling sessions or personal office use. Knowing the type of work that Hospice seeks to do, it saddens me to think they do not have the proper resources to execute their objectives.

Having encountered a setback to my work today, I decided to apply the strengths,weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (or SWOT) model to the Hospice organization. Their strengths include their connections with medicare to provide services, dedicated staff, strong mission, and resource allocation. Their weaknesses are fundraising, technology and space limitations, and location conflicts. Since all of their staff are based in the Enola office, the Carlisle office is barely used and/or staffed. It seems that their location limits the services they are able to provide to patients in different areas. Additionally, as I mentioned previously, their computer programs prevent all the staff from accessing vital information. Hospice has opportunities to expand their services further in their present areas. They could staff the Carlisle office more frequently to bring in more clients. Also, the outreach efforts to schools that Susan and I will be initiating will provide further services to the community and new populations. Their threats, uniquely, are other Hospice organizations that are for profit. For profit Hospices have better means to provide services to patients while their organization must still rely on donors and sometimes even have to foot the bill themselves. With these things in mind, I would like to see how Hospice could further their opportunities while eliminating some of their weaknesses.

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