St. Joseph Medical Center continues a tradition of caring for the community despite staffing shortages
By Colette Panchot
Attracting and retaining qualified healthcare workers is a challenge for healthcare organizations around the country, and Chief Executive Officer Jodi Fincher calls 2022 “a rebuilding year” for St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
She says the staffing shortage was aggravated during the pandemic when healthcare workers began leaving the hospital setting to work in less acute-care settings. In addition, she believes media coverage of overworked, masked healthcare workers providing complicated care for struggling or dying patients may have discouraged new people from entering the field.
“We need to change that image,” she says. Some recruitment strategies she and her colleagues are using include visiting high school classes to discuss healthcare careers, allowing collegiate students to shadow hospital employees, and housing the Concorde Career College on the St. Joseph Medical Center campus.
She says St. Joseph Medical Center has been successful in retaining nurses who were formerly traveling nurses, as well as recruiting nursing students to join the staff.
Fincher, who also maintains her license as a critical care nurse, believes her clinical experience is a plus in running a large, urban medical center.
She recalls caring for patients with AIDS as a nurse in the late 1980s. She says that the tragic and massive loss of young lives, as well as its toll on the patients’ families and healthcare workers, is reminiscent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Truly, given what we have just been through with this pandemic, now turned endemic, there is no one individual or group in the hospital that can be singled out,” she says. “My motto is no matter what the job description, we all have one goal, to save and improve the lives of those we serve.”
St. Joseph Medical Center has continuously served the area’s medical needs for 148 years. Located at 1000 Carondelet Drive near I-435 and State Line Road since 1977, it was formerly located at various locations in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Prime Healthcare, a system of 45 community hospitals in 14 states, purchased the licensed 310-bed acute care facility in 2015. Since then, they have lived up to their motto: “Saving hospitals, saving jobs, saving lives” by investing in extensive improvements to the physical plant and new equipment, adding more physician specialists, and offering more competitive salaries.
CEO Fincher, RN, BSN, MBA, CCRN-K, FABC, also credits loyal clients and physicians, as well as dedicated hospital employees and volunteers for the continued success of the well-established community hospital. She works closely with Dr. Kirk Sloan, the Chief Medical Officer.
Fincher speaks with conviction about continuing the legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who founded the hospital in 1874. Today, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is the organization’s Catholic sponsor.
“We have not stepped away from our commitment and the Sisters’ commitment to taking great care of all who seek us, the poor, the vulnerable, and the homeless,” says Fincher.
This commitment is part of what she calls a “joyful care culture.”
“In one shift, you can go from the saddest emotions to the most amazing emotions. We can get so caught up in the details of being at the bedside and running a business that we may forget to see the miracles that happen in our hospital every day.”
She recounts the commonplace miracle of a patient who comes in with a heart attack and has their heart arteries re-opened and goes on to live a productive life. Or the miracle of orthopedic surgeons using GPS-guided robotic equipment that allows a patient to have both knees replaced during one surgery and are walking the next day.
“I am a nurse by background, so I remember the days when you got one knee done and you packed a suitcase to go to the hospital. Getting both knees done at once is really amazing.”
The hospital earned the highest 5-star rating available from The Centers for Medicare & Medicare (CMS) for the past two years. Fincher says this rating was given only to a few metro area hospitals during this time.
The medical center serves those from nearby urban, suburban, and rural areas, including patients who come for its comprehensive cardiology services, pulmonary rehabilitation, and state-of-the-art spinal surgery services.
Fincher says that St. Joseph Medical Center was the first hospital in the Kansas City region to deploy the ground-breaking 7D FLASH Navigation System technology. This more accurate and radiation-free tool has been shown to decrease both surgical time and recovery time for spinal patients.
Other medical services that are offered at St. Joseph Medical Center that are not common elsewhere include a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for outpatient wound care, as well as an electrophysiology lab that allows cardiologists to ablate abnormal heart tissue for patients with abnormal heart rhythms. Those who have suffered a stroke come to the hospital’s Level II Primary Stroke Center, which provides a rapid response to reduce the effects of a stroke. The hospital also seeks to provide quality care for people of all ages in its Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit, based on additional training provided to its employees.
Their interdisciplinary approach includes outpatient therapy clinics, which offer physical, occupational, and speech therapy, as well as aquatic, lymphedema, and pulmonary therapies. Classes are offered at the Community Center for Health and Education to help people learn new ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The green-roofed Medical Mall houses the offices of orthopedic and cardiac surgeons, primary care and pediatric physicians, cancer specialists, ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists, ophthalmologists, radiologists, as well as a pharmacy, a sleep center, a senior care clinic, and an award-winning breast center. For those who suffer from chronic pain, there is an on-site pain management clinic. The café and gift shop are favorite stops for patients, families, and hospital employees. More information can be found at www.stjosephkc.com.