A president’s community roundtable conversation with three alumni nursing and public health leaders
EDITOR’S NOTE: As Goshen College prepares to expand its facilities for the nursing and public health programs by renovating the second and third floors of Westlawn Hall, President Rebecca Stoltzfus ’83 sat down at Goshen Health with a small group of alumni community healthcare leaders for a conversation about the urgent needs in the industry — particularly in relation to nursing and public health. She spoke with Jewel Yoder ’99, ’20 (DNP) who is the college’s nursing department chair; Julie Crossley ’06, who is Goshen Health’s chief nursing officer; and Paul Shetler Fast ’08, who is the new executive director of Maple City Health Care Center in Goshen and a member of the Elkhart County Board of Health, as well as an instructor at the college in the public health and the Doctor of Nursing programs. This conversation was edited for length and clarity.
PRESIDENT STOLTZFUS: You come from clinical nursing, nursing education, public health and global health. What is healthcare and how do you think about it?
JEWEL: What I’ve learned with having a public health program at Goshen College is the amount of overlap between our two disciplines. Nursing has the hospital/clinical component to it. But we don’t want people to be sick and be in the hospital, so we want to have community health nurses and public health people that are really meeting the needs of our community.
JULIE: In the simplest terms, it’s all of us taking care of our community. It takes all of us. Nursing is the largest discipline within the healthcare setting and it has evolved to be part of every facet of that system, but we all have a place.
PAUL: We saw during COVID that it is all interconnected. And you pull on one thread and you can have a real mess, or things can really move positively in the other direction. Clinical care, healthcare and public health are expanding circles of what counts and are all deeply interconnected.
Q: We are in the midst of a crisis in terms of a shortage of healthcare professionals. How are you seeing and experiencing that?
PAUL: It is a crisis and it exists on many levels. We have lost a lot of trust between communities and healthcare professionals. That’s going to be years, maybe decades, of earning that back.
AND we’ve also lost the trust of our staff, in many cases, because we’ve burned people out. The economics of healthcare, compounded by a crisis, ground people down. So, for example, in Elkhart County right now, there are three dental clinics focused on marginalized populations and none of us can find a dentist to hire. So we have the poorest, most vulnerable members of our community without access to dental care. That’s just one example. There are also nursing and physician shortages. When we have created systems that have such high pressure and demands, money alone isn’t going to be enough to get you out of that. You have to treat people fairly, give them autonomy, trust them, respect them AND compensate them well. Those all have to go together.
JULIE: There’s been no greater disruptor to the workplace than what we’ve experienced with COVID across every entity in healthcare. Where we are today is a rebuild. The future is our motivation and we have to do things differently.
The beauty of the healthcare profession is that no other profession has the opportunity day in and day out to routinely and profoundly impact the lives of others. And so we need to help everyone again see that this is the greatest profession.
Q: So what is that future we want to rebuild together, and what are the steps we need to take to get there?
JEWEL: Our opportunity lies within our community partnerships. We work well together and we see the needs that people have. We’re also so lucky to have Goshen College as part of our community to provide education to people right here. And then for them to literally be able to walk right across the street and make it to a healthcare institution where they can have that immediate positive impact.
We can see the need that is out there, so it is getting people to find this calling, that they want to come to healthcare, that they know they will be taken care of, that there’s a spot for them and that we really need them in this helping profession.
PAUL: The first thing is that we put the values and the ethics first as much as possible, and the market pressures second, so that we are collaborating for the benefit of our community.
The second thing is the issue that healthcare is a sector that can’t stop and rebuild. It’s what makes it fun to be a leader in this sector because every single day there are patients coming through that door that you have to take care of, and they have to get the best quality care. And so you can’t pause for six months, rethink and have a grand new strategy because you are building as you go. How do you work with staff to find that joy, to find that passion, to connect to their mission AS they are continuing to do their job? How do you partner in a way that is not disruptive? That is a challenge that requires a type of leadership that is rare. I think that Goshen College and our community have a culture of leaning into that, so it’s a great fit.
Q: At Goshen College, we are focusing so much on facilities, because they have been such a bottleneck for us. AND we know that facilities alone don’t create healthcare workers. What do you see as our next steps?
JULIE: The exciting piece is that when I think about what Goshen College is doing, having the state-of-the-art facilities just brings it up to the level of excellence that your programs have always been known for. It’s exciting and daunting at the same time. How do we find the nurses to help support that? We have an obligation to grow the profession.
PAUL: One thing that is really exciting about the growth that Goshen College has already been doing and is projected to do is the integration of public health, which is so important. It’s not only the technical skills and the connection to the hospital setting, but it’s also the broadening of what the students are even thinking of as health and the nursing profession. We need all of them.
Q: I’d love for you to each share what your advice is for us at Goshen College and what you’d want us to remember from this conversation as we move forward.
PAUL: My one summary is that the community needs Goshen College and this expansion to serve its needs for the next generation. And Goshen College needs the community. That link has to be strong, and my hope is that students come out of it feeling not only like they are Goshen College graduates, but that they are part of the Goshen health community.
JULIE: We are at a crossroads, and it is so exciting to be part of that, to mold the future, to change the way we are delivering care and provide access to more within our community. So I see it as developing individuals in our community who maybe did not have opportunity before who are hopefully going to stay within the community because of the strong commitment they feel. At the same time, we are partnering to transform how we deliver care to the community and how we creatively develop the healthcare professionals of tomorrow.
JEWEL: Something that I’m proud to be part of is the changing demographics of our students. The melting pot that we are seeing within our nursing department does me proud. And I want to continue to nurture that. I need those students to go out into our community, take care of the people in our community and then come back. I need them to see themselves in the classroom and represented, so that we continue to have this pipeline. To say that there is a place for you in our health community no matter your race, your economic status, your sexual orientation or anything else about you. That’s my vision and we need to keep living into it.
PRESIDENT STOLTZFUS: To be part of a Goshen College community where alumni stay connected and want to keep building and giving back through creating pathways, through creating partnerships, through just having each other’s backs as leaders is just a tremendous gift, so I just thank you all for this conversation and for who you are.