Cathy Cullen ‘17
Director of Rehabilitation Services, Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire
Cathy Cullen is a physical therapist by training, but as director of rehabilitation services for Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire (VNH), her roles are diverse. She manages 35 staff members that travel throughout a 4,000-square-mile area; oversees an orientation team that trains new employees before going out in the field; and serves on a strategic planning committee that guides the agency’s strategy over the next five years. In all of her roles, her mission is to help the agency develop more efficient processes in a quickly changing health care system.
“Every organization has problems with efficiency, development, and implementing processes correctly,” says Cullen. “We know we have those issues here. We just haven’t known how to fix them properly.” Now, as Medicare, the agency’s biggest payer, reduces reimbursement, it’s even more critical that the VNH works smarter to deliver high-quality care on a tighter budget, says Cullen.
“As we started talking about adopting new care delivery models such as accountable care organizations, medical homes, and population health, it became apparent that I needed new skills and knowledge and that led me to apply to the MHCDS program,” says Cullen. “I thought this would be a way for me to gain a broader perspective on health care—what’s happening in other parts of care delivery—and then figure out how we can move our agency to work better with the delivery system to serve patients and our other stakeholders.” For Cullen, that means learning not only about new ideas in health care but also about leadership, process management, and how to effectively use data to make decisions.
“The professional leadership development has really helped me a lot,” says Cullen. “And it’s in more than one course, not just in the leadership course. Each class builds upon the previous ones…Once you gather all of this information, you begin to think differently when considering which move to make in current situations, whether it is in day-to-day management or in longer-term strategy.”
For Cullen, whose husband has affectionately nicknamed her “laptop” for her driving work ethic, the program’s structure also works well with her own schedule. “It’s flexible and you have breaks,” says Cullen, who lives in nearby Vermont and still makes time to ski, hike, golf, and garden. “You find a way to fit it into your life.”