June 16, 2017
Moore Mission Moments - The Watershed Group

My Hospice Journey

by Patti Moore


The recent 50th anniversary of the founding of the modern hospice movement by Dame Cicely Saunders made me think about my own journey in hospice, and how it began.

Back in 1977 I attended a lecture by Dr Elizabeth Kubler Ross., who had come to Orlando to talk about her groundbreaking work. I was tremendously inspired by what I heard, and determined to become a part of the hospice movement. In 1983 I got my chance, becoming Executive Director of a tiny hospital-based hospice in Gainesville, Florida.


Our office was a remodeled elevator shaft, a windowless space with walls that were 2 feet thick. When I started, we had three staff members (two of whom were part time), fifteen volunteers, and five patients. We didn’t charge fees; it was a free service offered by our community hospital, Alachua General. It came about through a coalition of the communities, ministers, physicians, volunteers, hospital auxiliary ladies, and the CEO of the hospital who agreed to sponsor it.  Our annual budget was $40,000. We created the rules as we went along.


We cared for people as if they were our family members. We were on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We stood with people who were dying and were their advocates. We trained physicians to be brave enough to order narcotics in large doses to manage people’s pain. We developed the state association, Florida Hospices, Inc., through which we all shared policies and procedures and frameworks of how to provide loving hospice care.


I was the executive director for almost 16 years. By the time I left, we were caring for 270 patients a day across 11 counties in north central Florida. We had approximately 190 employees and 450 volunteers, and we had built an 18-bed hospice care center.


When I left, 18 years ago this past June 1st, it was to start The Watershed Group, a consulting business with a mission; to help hospice organizations to stay vital in their marketplace by focusing on Mission, Purpose, Margin and Vision. I have worked with executives all across the country to improve their hospice programs and create a culture of caring. And I have assisted in recruiting hospice leaders to positions of CEO, COO, VP, and more.  What an honor it has been to support these organizations and individuals as they do this sacred work, and to help grow this movement! 


I never forget that, even though I may be more than five degrees of separation from the patients, they are still who I work for, ever striving to improve the quality of life for people at the end of theirs. 


The Hospice of North Central Florida team in the late 1980's!



None of us are exempt from loss, illness, or death – and when doctors find themselves on the other side of the patient/physician divide, this new perspective can be revelatory, sobering and, sometimes, inspiring.


"Sometimes it feels like the great unspoken secret between doctors and nurses. The words that we dare not utter to patients and families. Perhaps it is our hope that we’re wrong. Perhaps we dread providing unwanted news. Perhaps we don’t want to face reality or extinguish our patients’ hope."


"In an extraordinary display of compassion, community caring and support, residents in a small Nebraska city recently banded together to fulfill a dying man’s wish to see his daughter get married and his son graduate from high school — two surprise ceremonies organized all within the span of a few hours.

It was simply their way of returning a favor to Dr. Dan Harrahill. Friends and neighbors said the much-loved doctor would drop whatever he was doing to help others over the course of his 18-year career as a family practice physician at Howard County Medical Clinic in St. Paul."


“In hospice, we frequently talk about a “good” death. Ultimately my father had one — free of pain and the torture of paranoia. But I feel we failed him on his journey to that death, we who care for the elderly. We withheld medicines and denied my family honest discussions about his wishes for the end of his life. Most distressing, I feel we robbed him of his dignity. “

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HopeWest volunteers make treasures out of discards: Charmed by Heirlooms takes the unusable donations given to their resale shop Heirlooms by Hospice, gives them new life and sells them to benefit HopeWest, the Grand Valley's Palliative and Hospice care.


Community Hospice & Palliative Care celebrates kids and families:“Children and families from Community PedsCare enjoyed a morning of games and a visit from PGA Tour players recently at TPC Sawgrass, as the PGA Tour Wives Association, the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation and THE PLAYERS Championship hosted them for the annual “These Kids Can Play” event.


This month I will be in Gainesville...GEORGIA which I find so funny, I leave Gainesville and arrive in Gainesville to work.  Then I'll be in San Diego attending a week long training on executive coaching.  Staying current on the most effective practices in the field.


Stay up late and enjoy the longest day of the year on June 21, Summer Solstice! 


Happy Summer!


Pause, take a breath, smile and enjoy the summer sky at our RiverCove Retreat Center
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