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“Big Changes for a Small Hospital”

As F. Nicholas Jacobs toured the Windber Medical Center facility, he was dismayed by the industrial pink painted walls, the circa 1970 furniture, and the snow leaking through the windows of the conference room. Employees earned 30 percent less than their counterparts in the area, and turnover was steep. As Windber’s newest president, Jacobs knew he was the facility’s last hope—if he couldn’t successfully turn around the aging facility, it would mean closing the doors forever.

Coming to Windber Medical Center in 1997, Jacobs was keenly aware that the hospital could be the next in a series of small hospitals that had fallen victim to a struggling economy. Determined to see that not happen, he began by making connections with the employees of the hospital and the community at large. Jacobs’s first step was to interview each of the employees to find out firsthand what they wanted for the Windber com- munity and the medical center. He also looked to members of local com- munity groups like the local library, the Agency on Aging, and local politicians and asked these groups what they wanted from their local medical facility. When Jacobs realized that octogenarians made up a larger percent of the population in Windber, Pennsylvania, than in all of Dade County, Florida, he made it a priority to provide more options to seniors for improving their health and quality of life. He set forth a vision of a medical center that was more of a community center—a center that would allow members of the community to exercise in a state-of-the-art facility while having access to professionals to answer health-related questions. Jacobs realized that keeping people in the community both physically and mentally healthy also meant keeping the hospital financially healthy. He made the center’s new preventative-care philosophy clear to the public: “Work out at our hospital so you can stay out of our hospital.”

Jacobs’s efforts have paid off—in an era when small hospitals are closing left and right, Windber Medical Center is thriving. Under Jacobs’s leader- ship Windber has established an affiliation with the Planetree treatment system, which integrates meditation, massage, music, and other holistic methods into traditional health care. Windber’s wellness center, which offers fitness training, yoga, and acupuncture, among other treatments, opened in January 2000 and now generates over $500,000 annually. Gone are the pink walls and dated furniture—replaced with fountains, plants, and modern art- work. Jacobs recruited a former hotel manager to oversee food service. And, despite the dismissal of about 32 employees (those used to a more tradi- tional hospital setting had a tough time in the new environment), the staff has nearly doubled to 450 employees, and pay has improved. Windber has raised more than $50 million in public and private funding and has forged research partnerships with the Walter Reed Army Health System and the University of Pittsburgh, among others. The Windber Research Institute, Windber’s heart-disease-reversal program, has treated about 250 patients.

1. Consider the factors from the situational leadership theory outlined in Figure 12.4. Apply these factors to Jacobs and Windber.

2. How do you think Jacobs would score on the least-preferred-co-worker (LPC) scale? Why?

3. Based on the success of Windber, in what range would you guess the overall situational favorability might fall for Jacobs on the continuum illustrated in Figure 12.6?

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