I spent the first five weeks of my internship working with home care services for Roper St. Francis (RSF), a four-hospital healthcare system with more than 110 Physician Partner sites throughout South Carolina’s coastal communities.
Each year, U.S. hospitals treat and release millions of elderly patients. Some patients have caregivers to help them transition back to their homes, while others are left to manage their health on their own and often need extra assistance.
“Going to the hospital is not your favorite thing,” says Kay Weeks, whose husband, Duncan, is among the RSF patients I met during my internship. “When you don’t feel good, you really want to go home.”
Throughout their more than 60 years of marriage, Mrs. Weeks has been by her husband’s side for adventures such as hiking through mountains, riding on small charter airplanes and performing on singing tours. Now they are facing a new journey as Mr. Weeks recovers from a disease that sent him to the hospital multiple times in a year. It’s a difficult journey, but Mr. Weeks is very fortunate to have his wife by his side – an advantage many patients do not have when leaving the hospital.
The project I completed during the first half of my internship centers on the very issue that the Weeks deal with on a day-to-day basis: transitioning home from the hospital. RSF has taken a proactive approach to this problem by offering home care services, as well as the Care Transitions Program, which empowers patients to safely return home by giving them the skills and confidence to manage their health.
I was tasked with conducting research and providing recommendations on how to provide patients with access to the Care Transitions Program resources that best meet their needs. I examined the practices and protocols used to refer patients to the proper program resources and made recommendations on how to reorganize the process to be more efficient. I also mapped out the financial investment needed to make these improvements and created a two-year implementation plan to position the RSF system for success in the future healthcare landscape, which is changing rapidly because of the Affordable Care Act
The background information and industry knowledge I gained in my healthcare courses at UNC Kenan-Flagler – such as “The Challenge of Healthcare,” “Design and Delivery of Healthcare Systems” and “Financial Management of Healthcare Providers” – allowed me to dive into the project from day one.
I used the FOCUS method to develop my recommendations. I’d learned about the process – developed by UNC Kenan-Flagler professor Paul Friga – during my Global Business Project experience and followed the same exact method for my RSF project. This approach divides the phases of a project into five stages – frame, organize, collect, understand and synthesize – which helped me to quickly learn about a topic I wasn’t as familiar with and provided a roadmap as I developed possible solutions.
I applied many of the skills and processes I’d learned in business school to address a real-world problem, from applying my statistics knowledge to analyze patient data – including re-admission rates and cost-of-care – to using the presentation skills I honed in management communications class.
I also drew on lessons learned in “Leading & Managing” class as I thought about how to initiate the changes my recommendations would require. Connecting with RSF’s high-level leadership allowed me to garner their perspective on the issue, which gave me a greater understanding on the interconnectedness of different departments and the important protocols that must be followed during patient care – especially when transitioning patients through different settings and programs. It is satisfying to know that my work will help people like Mr. and Mrs. Weeks. This is why I aspire to work in healthcare: to serve patients.
I came to UNC Kenan-Flagler because I want to transition to a career in the healthcare industry. Having a non-traditional background as a teacher and youth minister essentially required finding an opportunity to gain the hands-on experience I’d need to make the leap into healthcare.
That’s exactly what my internship provides. Thanks to RSF, I have the opportunity to gain real-world experience in the industry. And funding provided by the UNC Kenan-Flagler Social Impact Summer Grants (SISG) program – an initiative launched by the 2014-15 Net Impact Club, in partnership with the full-time MBA program and Center for Sustainable Enterprise – made it possible for me to accept the internship, an unpaid position.
Without support from these two great organizations, it would have been difficult to achieve my career goals while also being able to take care of my family’s financial needs. The financial assistance provided by SISG has been extremely crucial as I have undergone a transition of my own this summer: welcoming my son into the world. In fact, he was born at one of RSF’s hospitals!
As I complete this project and begin the second half of my internship, I will keep Mr. and Mrs. Weeks in mind. Their story reminds me that healthcare is truly about serving patients and keeping them healthy. As Mrs. Weeks so accurately points out, “If you can keep the sick at home, they’re happier, more content.”
With support and high-quality care from Roper St. Francis, I hope Mr. and Mrs. Weeks will begin a new adventure soon.
By Justin Reyes (MBA ’16)