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Reflections on 20 years of The Watershed Group

Today is the 20th anniversary of The Watershed Group. As I look back 20 years I am reminded of the fear and exhilaration I had when I stepped away from my conventional job as the executive director of the Hospice of North Central Florida (now Haven Hospice), to go out on my own.

I loved that job and I loved the people I worked with, but my soul was saying "there’s more to do!" and I could not shake that feeling. Have you ever felt so compelled to do something that you could not turn away from it?

When we begin to trust that our inner voice has wisdom and that wisdom is guided by the Divine, no matter how you define Divinity, stepping out into the unknown is less frightening.

My journey has been just that, jumping in with both feet no matter what I’m doing. From feeling overwhelmingly compelled to build the 18-bed hospice care center in Gainesville Florida and convincing the powers that be and donors that it was the right thing to do 25+ years ago. To feeling...

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Nurses Rock!

Nurses Rock!

It’s National Nurses Week! I say, let’s pause to offer up a “thank you” to a nurse who made a difference in our lives – like the night nurse in the ICU who cared for my father and took time out to call me when he took a turn for the worse; “I just wanted you to know”, she said.  Or the hospice nurse who was so kind and patient with my brother and me when we knew there was nothing more to do for Mom but be present in our love for her.  Nurses make a difference.

Did you know that nurses have been the most trusted professionals in America for 17 straight years? In the 2019 national Gallup poll, 82% of Americans rated nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as “high” or “very high.” Year after year, nurses are considered the most compassionate professionals over all other workers, even clergy and grade school teachers.


How can that be?  In a world where trust and truth-telling are on the...

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News From the Front

Last week I attended the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s annual springtime meeting in Washington DC, cherry blossoms and all!

It was a time to catch up on all the issues facing our hospice and palliative care movement, to reconnect with old friends...

Jeanne Dennis, Susan Bruno, Patti Moore and Andrew Reed

Pauline Taylor, Demetess Harrell, Patti and Larry Farrow

and to make new ones...

Dr. Angela Katz and Patti

Even though the name of the event has changed to the Leadership and Advocacy Conference, it was really a gathering of the Hospice Clan.

The opening plenary speaker stretched our capacity to think with our logical brains by entering the auditorium playing his electric violin. His music was simply stunning. A classically trained violinist, Kai Kight shared the inspiring story of how he chose to become an innovative composer in a field that values conformity.

Kai Kight opening plenary speaker at NHPCO 2019


Similarities between the music world and...

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The Heart of a Volunteer: Bettye Zowarka

It was 1985, I was the Executive Director of Hospice of North Central Florida, a tiny hospice program in Gainesville, FL. when I was approached by a woman who lived in a small rural town to offer our hospice services there. Bettye Zowarka was very active in her community and volunteered for many groups. She simply did what was needed to be done, regardless of what city/state or federal agency did or did not offer in her area where three counties merged to create one small town.

Bettye was determined to have hospice offered to the residents of Keystone Heights and Melrose, Florida. I was determined to put her off until she lost interest. I did not want to expand our small hospice into a new rural area that was far from our office with little opportunity for growth. I was persistent in my tardiness in getting back to Bettye…she was more persistent in calling me to begin care.

“Just come out and give us a volunteer training, then we will at least know how to care for our...

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Ask Not For Whom The Robot Cometh...

Did you see the story about the robot doctor that was sent to deliver bad news to a terminal patient? His daughter was with him when the telehealth machine rolled up to his bedside. On the flickering screen, a physician informed the patient that he was going to die, very soon – perhaps too soon to go home. Daughter Catherine was appalled at the coldness of what should have been a human interaction. So were a lot of other people; so was I.

The story went viral on social media, prompting somewhat clumsy efforts by Kaiser Permanente to tamp down the overwhelmingly negative response. But there no denying the pain this awful misstep had caused: "My dad's reaction was, well I guess I'm going to go quickly then and put his head down-- that was it," said daughter Catherine Quintana.

A prognosis that would have been difficult to accept under any circumstance, became even more painful for the Quintana family of Fremont when the doctor used a robot to deliver the bad news.”...

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What I Learned From A Buddhist Monk

My first real, significant job out of grad school was as the executive director of Hospice of North Central Florida, now known as Haven Hospice.  When I joined the team there were three staff members and double that number of volunteers. Yet, tiny as it was, our organization was part of a great social movement, one that we created with others across the country as we went along.  It was the early 1980’s, and we’d heard the call, coming from across the Atlantic from Dame Cicely Saunders and from Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross here in the US; people facing death deserved their dignity, and their voices heard. Our mission must be to ease their suffering and to heed their wishes, whether that meant an end to medical intervention, or treatment for as long as possible.

We put together a team of like-minded people who wanted to make a difference in society, one person and one family at a time. One day, after looking for months for the right person, our first full-time...

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Could You Survive A P.R. Shipwreck?

It seems like every day brings a new horror story in the news, around healthcare gone terribly wrong. A nursing home patient is abused by staff members who put videos of the abuse on the Internet. Hospice management is accused of fiscal misdoings, even outright fraud. A nurse administers the wrong medication with fatal results. These are the kinds of public relations nightmares that trouble the sleep of those of us in management. We’ve seen it happen to colleagues; we’ve seen respected and valued institutions run up on the rocks because of these kinds of unforced errors. And we know that no matter how tight a ship we run, it could happen to us.

Bad things will happen - even in the very best-run organizations. Other than being the most conscientious leader you can be, how can you protect your organization from the kind of damage incidents like this can cause?

1. Experts tell us the best way to handle a crisis is to be prepared for it – to plan  out a response...

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Are You The Leader Your Staff Needs?

As someone who’s been an executive, a management consultant, and a leadership coach, I know that there are all kinds of effective leaders out there.

Some styles are more effective in certain situations than another. Great leaders do share some important traits, and I talked about four of these in a recent post; resilience, ambition, openness to opposing ideas, and staying grounded by listening to “the common man/woman” for their point of view. To these I’d add a good dose of humility, and another of self-awareness, because without understanding your own strengths and prejudices, and your leadership style, you literally don’t know what you’re missing.

The same organization will need different kinds of leaders at different points in its development. A startup company needs a Risk Taker.  A leader whose tolerance for risk is sky-high; someone daring, confident, and decisive. But once success is achieved, this kind of personality can get bored...

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Four Secrets of Great Leadership


Are great leaders born or made? Does the man or woman make the times, or do the times make the man or woman? In uncertain times, understanding how leadership works (or doesn’t) is ever more imperative, and sometimes, it takes a historian’s perspective to unravel the present. Recently I listened to Doris Kearns Goodwin discuss her new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, in which she examines the careers of four U.S. presidents; Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.

Each of these very different men found himself at the epicenter of world-shaking crises, and brought the nation through it to safety. Fortunately, most of us will never be tasked with dealing with that level of upheaval and uncertainty – but as leaders in our own spheres, there’s plenty to learn from their experiences. As different as they were, these four presidents shared some very important traits, qualities of character which Goodwin suggests were...

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Remembering Mary Oliver

I was taking a news hiatus last week when a friend’s email came, telling me that my favorite poet, Mary Oliver, had died. What an important voice to be extinguished!

The first time I ever heard a poem by Mary Oliver was 1993 in a spiritual study group I was in, when one of the women shared the poem Wild Geese aloud. My dear brother Michael was very ill at the time, and hearing these lines –

“Tell me your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile, the world goes on…”

…struck me right in my heart. When someone you love is dying, it can feel as if the world stops turning, or that it should stop turning. But, as the poet goes on to say, with infinite gentleness and wisdom,

“Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how...

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