From establishing a Family Caregivers Support Network (offering programs including "Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul") to implementing many other innovative ideas, Barbara Katz, R.N., MSN, is seen as a visionary in her field.
The Branford resident is director of clinical programs at VNA Community Healthcare of Guilford and Hamden. Recently, she was awarded the 2013 Hriceniak Award by the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home (CAHH).
As described by CAHH, Barbara has been recognized as "an individual who serves as a visionary in the development and implementation of innovative projects positively affecting the ever-changing home healthcare environment."
The annual leadership award also recognizes a professional who inspires others by creating an environment fostering staff development and lifelong learning with creativity and a high level of energy. In addition, "the recipient has found ways to incorporate changing technology into the practice of nursing [and] in patient education and achieves a high level of clinical expertise [and] must be interested and able to collaborate and communicate with groups or individuals within the agency and throughout the community."
Every aspect of the award typifies the work Barbara does on behalf of VNA Community Healthcare, says Janine Fay, president and CEO of VNA Community Healthcare. She says Barbara has a unique combination of creativity and execution that ensures good ideas "actually turn into tangible results.
"Barbara has amazing energy and creativity; to list all her accomplishments is impossible," says Fay. "She remains a leader in the implementation of our Integrated Chronic Care Model and hospitalization reduction strategies, developed community-based population health programs targeting fall risk and heart disease, and is currently leading a group of local health and social service providers in a community-based health literacy campaign."
Barbara and her husband, Jerry, raised their three children in Branford, where they've resided for 32 years. In her 15 years with VNA Community Healthcare, Barbara has organized hundreds of professional and public education programs. Eleven years ago, as a result of a focus group, she developed the Family Caregiver Support Network, which has gone on to support thousands of family caregivers and continues growing to this day.
For her part, Barbara says VNA Community Healthcare allowed her to make progress.
"It's an innovative organization that really allows us to experiment with new ways of helping people, so we have a lot of latitude to try things. We're really trying to find out what the community wants and where they want us to go, because we're a non-profit and we're owned by the community."
Barbara's impact on the agency and community extends to daily programs including outreach at senior centers, skilled nursing facilities, and hospitals as well as helping VNA Community Healthcare to advance and become a key partner in local home healthcare issues.
Asked to describe just one innovative agency program, Barbara answers, "One of the areas that I feel we're very good at, and is important to me, is our chronic disease management. We use an approach called integrated chronic care. Instead of telling people what to do, we've trained our nurses to try to find out what the patients' goals are, to help people find their own motivation to change. It's not the nurse telling people what to do; it's the nurse being a collaborator with the patient to help them achieve their goals."
Barbara also taught one of the first courses for the Chronic Care Model program.
In another nod to being recognized as a leader in her field, Barbara was recently invited to join the board of the new Connecticut Foundation for Better Health created by the New Haven Community Medical Group.
"We're funding small-scale health improvement projects. The goal is to encourage innovation," says Barbara.
As for creating community services, outreach, and education programs for the 33-town region served by VNA Community Healthcare, Barbara hopes to continue to respond to needs with innovative programs and to build awareness of the assistance that's available.
"If you need us, we're there," she says. "Even if you're not sure what you need, but it's a health- or eldercare-related question, give us a call. And if we don't do it, we'll find someone who can."
For more information on VNA Community Healthcare programs, events, and resources, visit www.connecticuthomecare.org or call the Guilford office at 203-458-4200. The agency services the Connecticut shoreline, Hamden, and North Haven.