By Katy Stewart
Rockbridge Area Hospice will get a new executive director this month.
Teri Humphries, a 14-year hospice veteran, will fill the position. She currently serves as the clinical coordinator at Augusta Health in Fishersville.
Humphries “brings a wealth of knowledge in the hospice industry, and a passion for the mission,” the Rockbridge branch’s current executive director, Judy Mauck, said. Mauck is retiring after eight years as director.
Humphries worked at Augusta Health for 12 years in elderly care but her first job in hospice was in the Rockbridge office she will now lead.
“This is a coming-home for me,” she said.
She applied to Rockbridge Area Hospice, part of a national nonprofit organization that provides care for people at the end of their lives, to supplement her income while her daughter was in college. She applied for a weekend night nurse position but was turned down. She applied again, and was turned down again.
“I’m not one to give up,” she said.
When she finally got the job, she said, she loved the work because it was rewarding and different from the other kind of nursing she had done. Even in her other jobs, she was always drawn to patients at the end of their lives, she said.
“I just always felt like what you’re doing for those patients, you really are helping them,” she said.
At Augusta, Humphries said, she helped foster an atmosphere of fiscal responsibility by helping the staff evaluate spending and not be wasteful.
“There was never a dollar limit, but more of a philosophy, to think about things in that way,” she said.
She said that one of her main goals for her new position is to help the organization run efficiently and save money in the face of budget cuts to government-sponsored insurance programs, like Medicaid.
Hospice covers all costs related to a patient’s long-term diagnosis, including medication and equipment. The organization receives most of its funding from Medicare and Medicaid, but it never turns anyone away because of an inability to pay.
About 95 percent of Rockbridge Area Hospice’s patients are covered by some kind of insurance, said Mauck.
Rockbridge Area Hospice isn’t hurting for money right now. The organization, whose office is at 315 Myers St. in Lexington, received $1,415,849 in insurance payments for patient services in 2011, according to its IRS Form 990, a tax form required for all nonprofits. The organization also received $30,285 from donations.
The total income was $1,884,417 in 2011 and total expenses were $1,771,371.
Humphries said that hospice employees are keeping an eye on Congress’ actions as senators work to resolve the national budget. She said that, so far, hospice hasn’t been hit too badly. But she said she is preparing for changes
“Everyone constantly has to work harder, smarter and sharper,” Humphries said.
She says she’s glad that in Virginia, Medicaid benefits can still be used to pay for hospice care. It is no longer an accepted form of payment in some other states.
Humphries traveled to Richmond last month, with about 18 other hospice directors, to talk to state government leaders about hospice funding. She said their mission was to remind lawmakers, “Don’t forget about us. We appreciate you. We’re important, so please keep supporting us.”
Mauck said she hopes that Humphries will lead the organization in educating the community about the benefits of hospice, to help get patients into the service sooner. Many wait until the last minute to accept hospice services for family members with terminal diagnoses, Mauck said.
“They’re reluctant to give up and accept the fact that their loved ones are dying.”
The delay leaves staff with less time to help with the prognosis. Working with patients sooner gives the nurses “more time to help tie up life’s loose ends.”
Humphries hopes her leadership as the new executive director will help nurses to focus on the ultimate mission of the organization: quality end-of-life care.
“If I can enable caregivers and help make things easier for them, they can do a better job taking care of patients,” she said.
Rockbridge Area Hospice covers Rockbridge County, Lexington and Buena Vista, plus surrounding Botetourt, Augusta and Amherst counties. The organization employs about 30 patient-care staff members and about 100 volunteers.
Mauck will retire at the end of March. Humphries’ first day is March 25.