A Torch of Honor

I recently read Gallup research published in the Washington Post indicating that only 13 percent of people worldwide actually like going to work. I consider myself among that fortunate 13 percent. In some measure, my job satisfaction is due to what I do and who I work with.  A large part of my enthusiasm for my job, however, is due to the honor of the organization I am a part of.

When I came to Allegan in 2007, I wanted to serve as a chaplain with a hospice that was ethical in its dealings with the community and with its staff. In the following years I have volunteered, worked part time and now full time with Wings of Hope. I have been more than satisfied with the honorable principles and practices carried out by this great organization.  This is one of the primary reasons I enjoy coming to work each morning.

The Honor of Leadership

Our leaders personally exemplify ethical conduct in all aspects of our agency. During ten years of association with this group, I’ve never once seen even a hint of ethical indiscretion. That example is influential in our entire corporate culture. The deception present in so many businesses is not present here. There is a commitment among all of us to serve with integrity every time. That is true in the large and relatively small things, too. For example: Our director recently had us all put a card next to our telephones that urges us to seize each opportunity to serve. The card reads:


Responding quickly and positively to an identified need.

That positive attitude toward meeting needs has permeated our corporate culture.

Our leadership members are trustworthy. I trust their motives and hearts. Our leadership team gives frequent and regular evidence of complete compliance with the rules governing our agency even when considerable cost is necessary to comply. For example: Our Director of Clinical Services recently attended a week long regulatory boot camp in another state. A large portion of her responsibilities at Wings of Hope Hospice was to continually monitor changes in rules and regulations incumbent on our agency, educate our staff and continually assess compliance. This attention to detail consistently brings us outstanding assessments in routine state and federal audits.

I have also observed our leaders making tough human resource decisions in regard to staffing so that regulations and company policies can be fully honored.

The Honor of Rules

Rules reflect the character of the rule givers.  Our “Standards of Conduct/Ethical Behavior” policy communicates the integrity of our leaders and is a part of each new board member and employee’s orientation. In addition, the policy is regularly updated to address current issues. One example of this organization’s commitment to virtuous behavior in the community is that staff members are not allowed to receive gifts of greater than $25 from our patients or families. Even though patients and families often have enormous appreciation for our staff members, we know that patients may not be of sound mind.  Larger gifts given to Wings of Hope staff members may cause problems in in regard to family heirlooms and inheritances.

Our ethical policy addresses scores of areas from proper employee demeanor to confidentiality of patient information to the withholding and withdrawal of life support measures. These policies are being constantly updated by our Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI) Committee.

The Honor of Reputation

We receive regular coaching in staff meetings so that we accurately represent ourselves to our constituency. For example, we recently realized that we were mistakenly communicating that we could give our hospice patients a pain free experience during their last days. While that is true in many situations, it is not true with all patients. It is true, however, that we can minimize the pain of our patients. So our Executive Director reminded our staff of the importance in all our communications both verbal and written to communicate accurately: We can always reduce pain but not always eliminate it.

Part of an agency’s ethics is also seen in its competency in the delivery of services.  The phenomenal quality of care that our patients and families receive is indicated in assessment scores that exceed national benchmarks. The quarterly Hospice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Provider Survey regularly shows that we are delivering a quality service.

Wings of Hope enjoys a good name in the area communities. Our Wings of Hope reputation is seen in how donations are designated. Donations can be labeled for Wings of Hope Hospice or our Wings Home (separate legal entities). But most contributions are left to our discretion. Our constituency trusts our integrity in the application of funds in either designation.

Our reputation is also evidenced by our community’s trust and support through extraordinary financial giving and volunteer commitment. Our annual fundraising auction this year brought $190,000 in one event. Many other fundraising events throughout the year are generously supported. We have about 145 volunteers working with us.

These investments from the community are treated conscientiously. Our board, leadership and staff are mindful of donor’s confidence in our organization.  Together, we are frugal in our stewardship of every dollar and hour invested. Our annual external audit completed by a Certified Public Accountant bears witness to our financial trustworthiness.

The Honor of Respect

One of the reasons Wings of Hope is respected in the community is that it respects the community. Wings of Hope gives back in our civic area.  Not only do we strive for the delivery of excellent services from our own organization, but we are supportive of other worthy service and philanthropic organizations in the area.  We are also careful to thank each contributor to Wings of Hope on a timely basis with a personal note from our Executive Director.

One area of an organization that is perhaps the most revealing of its character is how it treats its employees.  I have seen respect and care communicated for Wings of Hope employees in the following examples:  1. Employees are urged to have withholding from paychecks in order to benefit from matching company contributions to an IRA; 2. Employees are required and financially enabled to benefit from ongoing education;    3. Our staff is creatively appreciated in a variety of ways throughout the year and especially during times of a high volume of business and accompanying stress; 4. Staff members are affirmed through financial bonuses; 5. Our leadership has led our staff in maximizing our own strengths as individuals through the Strengthsfinder program. Through regular coaching from that program, we are led to develop our strengths, respect the strengths of one another and capitalize on those strengths in our service to the community.

The Honor of Service

Has Wings of Hope reached the state of impeccable ethics?  I doubt that any organization will reach flawlessness in this imperfect world. Yet, Wings of Hope Hospice, its advanced illness management palliative program called Journeys, and the Wings Home stand together as a sterling torch in the community revealing what an agency of integrity looks like.

This integrity is based in the recognition of the high value of human life. The bottom line of this group of people is the delivery of quality service to each patient and family served, regardless of who they are or their ability to pay. The quality of care for the staff leads to quality of care for those in end-of-life scenarios.  That, I believe, is what sets us apart. And that is an organization I am proud to show up to work with.

Author: Greg Carson, Spiritual Care Coordinator


Photo credit: Craig Gardiner Photography

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