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2012 Health Care Heroes: Jessie A. Westlund, R.N.

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Health Care HeroesFINALIST: Non-Physician

Jessie A. Westlund, R.N.

Chief Integration Officer, Community Health Network; CEO, Community Home Health Services

 

When Jessie Westlund was four years old, her sister developed polio, and Westlund helped her mother care for her. “That was the beginning for me,” she said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”

Over the years Westlund, 63, discovered that the health-care provider role encompassed both treating illness and enhancing the quality of life for patients and their families. “My goal is to help people become well-informed and participate in their own care, and to have their families or support team come together to help one another,” she said. “Because the health care system isn’t going to be able to do this by themselves. We’re going to have to do this as families and communities.”
 

Westland_Jessie_NonPhys.jpg (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

That philosophy has served her well. Prior to joining Community Health Network in 1998, Westlund served as executive director for the Visiting Nurse Association of North Central Indiana. Under her leadership the association experienced 50-percent growth in less than two years.

At Community, Westlund has been instrumental in launching several successful programs. Life’s Journey teaches people with chronic diseases how to care for themselves so they can enjoy a higher quality of life. It also helps curtail health care costs. “When they know the red flags, they don’t get in crisis as often,” she said. “Patients don’t return to the hospital as often, or if they do, their length of stay is shortened.”

Other programs and services developed under Westlund’s leadership include the Hospice program; the Touchpoint program, which provides evaluations and services for seniors; and Telehealth services, which monitors the vital signs of at-home patients, transmitting them to a nursing call center. She was also involved in developing Community’s Interactive Voice Response Telephone System, which allows mobile patients to connect to the call center and respond to questions using a telephone.

Since the introduction of Telehealth, the hospital re-admission rate for at-home congestive heart failure patients has dropped from 10 percent to 3 percent.

This year Touchpoint will roll out attending physician services within extended-care facilities.

“Jessie does a masterful job of ensuring that we all consider a patient’s total experience, not just the experience within our walls,” said Bryan Mills, president and CEO, Community Health Network. “She looks at the impact on patients in their homes, their families, their communities, and how they deal with health issues through everything, not just when they need care from us.”

In 2006 Westlund received the Norah J. McFarland award from the Indiana Association for Home & Hospice Care Inc. for leadership, integrity and community service.

She’s accomplished all this despite having to overcome extreme shyness and dyslexia—two obstacles that caused her difficulty in school. “I think my biggest achievement was having the tenacity to become a nurse so I could help people with these programs,” she said.

Her personal mission statement is simple: “To seek to leave this place better than it was when I came to it, and to do that by developing and helping others be all that they can be.”

“Jessie’s nursing background, compassionate nature and leadership in bringing about change helps us take care of patients in all facets of life, in a way that is always looking to their needs and their families’ needs,” said Mike Blanchet, chief operations executive for Community Health Network. “She’s an incredible force within our organization.”

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