From clinics for the uninsured to hospitals to the system office, Sister Jennifer Gordon has served in different roles across the range of healthcare settings operated by SCL Health. Rather than a conscious decision on her part to pursue a ministry in healthcare, Sister Jennifer believes that the field and God’s promptings chose her. In response, she continues to choose and remain passionate about this ministry that she finds dynamic and fast-paced.
In June 2017, Sister Jennifer assumed the position of vice president, mission integration, at Saint Joseph Hospital, Denver. This is her first executive leadership role, and she admits to a steep learning curve. There’s no such thing as an average day, and that can prove both challenging and interesting.
Sister Jennifer says that a large part of her responsibility is getting to know and support the 2,200 staff members called “associates” by the health system, along with physicians, volunteers, patients and families. This happens in hallways, in department meetings, in patient rooms and at events. It also occurs in her role as the executive sponsor of a number of groups, including those dealing with history and heritage, environmental stewardship, staff and physician wellness, and community benefit.
In addition, the Ethics Committee and ethics consults come under the purview of mission integration as do community benefit, volunteer services and spiritual care. Sister Jennifer has direct reports who oversee the latter three functional areas. Saint Joseph Hospital has 380 volunteers who dedicated more than 19,000 hours of service in 2017. The hospital has four full-time chaplains and several others who are available as needed to ensure that spiritual care is available 24/7. In terms of direct contact with patients and families, Sister Jennifer and other hospital leaders do “rounding” with staff and with patients and their families. She adds that in the huge, complex new building that opened in December 2014, she also frequently interacts with visitors who need directions – and sometimes a listening ear.
Sister Jennifer remains in awe of the passion and dedication of staff at Saint Joseph Hospital. “The spirit and culture here are palpable,” she explains. “Our associates go out of their way to take care of patients, their families and one another.”
Through graduate medical education and programs for students in other health professions, the hospital also trains the next generation of caregivers. “We are able to introduce them to our mission and help them learn to live out that mission in all that they do,” she says.
While she wishes there were more SCLs in healthcare, Sister Jennifer credits Saint Joseph Hospital and SCL Health with helping ensure continuation of the spirit and the passion of the Sisters. She gratefully acknowledges those who have preceded her at the facility and the three SCLs who currently volunteer there.
“The people at Saint Joseph continue to love and respect the Sisters,” Sister Jennifer says. “This is heartening. Even more important is the reality that our staff, physicians and volunteers are prepared to carry on the mission and charism of the SCLs.”