M. Kate Rolf – Keeping the Heart in the Home

By: Abbey Adams
Photography: Luciano Miceli

Walking around Nascentia, you immediately feel a sense of comfort. As you pass along all the file cabinets, cubicles, papers, and long narrow hallways, you see a smile around every corner. During my tour around the facility, an employee stops and says, “Oh, look at you two in matching jean shirts! Cute!” That seems to be the theme around Nascentia; heartwarming people with friendly faces.

Nascentia Health was envisioned as a way to bring all the programs and services provided by Visiting Nurse Association of Central New York, Inc., CCH Home Care & Palliative Services, Inc. and Independent Health Care Services, Inc. together under one umbrella. Their main office is in Syracuse, while they hold three other offices in Albany, Rome, and Batavia. Spanning 48 counties, they care for over 6,500 patients every day and currently have contracts with over 1200 provider organizations. This system continues to embrace every opportunity to meet the changing medical and non-medical needs of those throughout the region. It is the mission of Nascentia Health to be the premier home and community-based care system for the regions they serve. Their goal is to maintain, restore and promote the health and independence of those they serve by utilizing their agency and community resources, by working collaboratively, and by providing the proper environment for the development and retention of caring, competent staff.

The face behind the progression is M.Kate Rolf, President and CEO. She was recruited by Nascentia to transform an under performing home and palliative care services organization and develop a successful growth strategy. She has redefined the 125-year-old organization as a leader in Upstate New York’s aging services. Kate accomplished this by leading a visionary re-branding campaign, restructuring nine entities under a 501c3 parent organization, creating an interdependent post-acute, long-term care health system, and integrating with another competing home-care organization.

Prior to joining Nascentia, Kate served in roles of increasing leadership and scope during her 10-year tenure with Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare. In her last role as Executive Director of Home and Community Services, she oversaw the Home and Palliative Care Agency, the Managed Long-Term Care Plan, and the Durable Medical Equipment and Home Infusion Company. As the Executive Director, she spearheaded the consolidation of the home and community-based post-acute agencies to operate as a service line, which improved care while simultaneously delivering substantial operational savings. While at Faxton, she also served as the Executive Director of the Visiting Nurses Association of Utica and Oneida County, and as the Chief Operating Officer for the Senior Health Network where she transitioned the organization from a demonstration program through the Department of Health to a permanent certified entity.

Rolf explained the importance of health care and how Nascentia is progressing in their services to continue catering to those in need, and what drew her to such an important role. Rolf grew up in Oneida, married in 1990, and lived in Rome, NY for twenty years. Upon moving to Syracuse she began her journey with Nascentia. Now with the company for six and a half years, there’s nothing she can’t do. She has 15+ years of achievements in the expansion, consolidation, integration, and diversification of home and community-based health services. “I was going to be an accountant. I didn’t finish college until my kids were in elementary school. I studied right beside them and worked at the dining room table. I was studying health care at the time and decided that’s what I wanted to do” says Rolf. “I’m blessed to have three beautiful daughters. As they saw me going through my education and career, I think it helped aspire them to be anything they want to be.”

With Bachelors in Business Management and Economics, Masters in Health Service Administration, and an MBA in Technology Management, Kate made her education a priority. The more she learned, the better her professional work would be. Health care has always been close to her heart, due to struggles she faced as a young woman “I lost my mom when I was 16; I was one of six kids. When my mom passed away it was tough because she had cancer, and it was a struggle. Not being able to be at home with the family really made me realize I wanted to do something with health care, I never knew what it would be. When I got into long-term care I started at a nursing home but when I had the opportunity to work and manage long-term care and home care it really became a passion of mine.” Taking on several responsibilities at a young age propelled Kate into the professional leader she is today with a can-do attitude and the will to make any situation better.

“When you talk to most people they would rather be at home”

“Kate is truly a dynamic leader, and her vision is responsible for making our system what it has evolved into today; innovative, progressive and truly committed to those we serve,” says Kimberly Graf, Vice President/ Public Relations & Corporate Communications at Nascentia.

Nascentia feels compelled to take care of their 620 employees just like they take care of their patients. They believe that having a healthy balance between work life and family/home life is important to one’s overall happiness. Rolf says, “We make sure our employees know that they come first. Health care is a complicated area when it comes to getting nurses, home aids, etc. We tried to establish an organization that puts our employees first.”

Health care is a common topic in today’s news. With Medicare and Medicaid cuts, home care isn’t always seen as a priority during budgeting time. Rolf stands firm with the future of home care saying, “When you talk to most people they would rather be at home than in a hospital or nursing home. As the baby boomers population gets older we are going to see a push for more home community-based services. We can do a lot more with technology to keep a lot of people at home and care for them even during some acute episodes.”

Many times people are in hospitals and nursing homes, where they can contract so many other diseases. However, if Nascentia can provide the care in the home and limit access to infection while they are in the healing process, that can help as well, not only physically but mentally as well. “Being in their home environment is familiar, comfortable, and not as stressed, which helps with their well being,” says Rolf.

Nascentia is currently in the construction process for their new building (which should be completed early this year). From the sneak peeks I saw outside; it looks modern and quite beautiful. They want the space to be bigger, more inviting, and to provide more opportunities for employees as well as patients. It is going to have updated and new technology and will be as green as possible. The goal was to make the new home a spacious and relaxing place for employees to be in; a sort of bistro/lounge feel.

This will include a gym, new wellness programs, an adult daycare program, community room for educational events/opportunities, training facilities for staff, and physical therapy appointments during the day. Staff members are overjoyed for the thought of having a new home to pass through and experience everyday.

Rolf makes it clear to me that she understands the importance of technology and how it can help elevate the business side of home care. “We started using a lot more telehealth and telemedicine connecting patients with doctors, so they don’t need to have people go into their homes or go into doctors’ offices as often.”

Their latest project is doing a telehealth for individuals who may not be able to get out to participate in social programs and who might need more social stimulation. “We’re starting to connect them to be a part of the community,” says Rolf. As you can tell, Nascentia has thought of it all. Not only do they provide care for the elderly, but also infants, and mothers (lactation skills); they take patients when they come out of the hospital after surgery, provide short term help, long term help, and set up any services they need to maintain at home. Kate says, “We really are all the way through a life cycle of a patient.”

The best part of her job? She says, “I love when we get some nice stories and different things from a patient calling, nice letters, etc. It’s such a great feeling to know that you’ve made someone realize how much they mean to you.”

Learn more and visit www.nascentiahealth.org