After a restructuring in July 2015, Concordia Visiting Nurses (CVN) now operates within a Concordia management company known as Concordia Community Support Services (CCSS), but the CEO of Concordia’s home healthcare division has been with the company since the beginning. Martin Trettel sat down to talk about his journey with CVN and how the company has adapted to its ever-changing environment.
Faith in Caring: What were your first impressions of Concordia?
Martin Trettel: When I arrived, I was intrigued by the mission and values instilled here. Since I was coming from a for-profit organization, I looked forward to helping with Concordia’s mission: “To serve our aging community with a continuum of high quality caregiving options, provided in a Christian environment, and to serve those with limited funds to the best of our ability.”
Faith in Caring: What was the beginning of CVN like?
Martin: I can still remember my first day at Concordia. Paul Brand, the Chief Financial Officer at the time, was at the copier with me, and he looked at me and said, “I’d hate to be in your shoes.” I said, “Why’s that?” And he said, “Because you have to start something from nothing.” I realized then what a big job I had ahead of me. Many people have been part of growing home healthcare at Concordia Visiting Nurses, and it’s been a tremendous blessing.
Faith in Caring: What were the expectations for CVN when it began?
Martin: I remember sitting down with Concordia’s President and CEO Keith Frndak, and Keith saying to me, “Martin, if we get to a census of about 100 patients, we’ll have a very nice-sized agency.” Today we have over 2,500 patients on any given day on our census.
Faith in Caring: How have our country’s politics played a role at CVN throughout the years?
Martin: Politics have actually played a part in home healthcare here at Concordia since our inception. In 1997, we applied to become a licensed, CMS-approved home health agency. However, then-president Bill Clinton had put a moratorium on new home health agencies because of rampant abuse and fraud in the industry. We had to wait until 1998 when that moratorium was lifted to apply for our licensure, which meant meeting new requirements and regulations. Over the years, politics have been involved in home health just like throughout all of healthcare, with new rules, regulations and reimbursement changes.
Faith in Caring: Are there any employees who started with you at CVN who are still here?
Martin: There are about 20 employees who started Concordia Visiting Nurses with me who still work for the organization. Many of them continue to serve clinically in the field or in the office in support/administrative roles. It’s very rewarding to have these people with me and as a part of the success of the agency.
Faith in Caring: Why did CVN partner with Butler Health System, Heritage Valley Health System, St. Clair Hospital and Washington Health System?
Martin: Our hospital partners all became members of CVN in 2015. They realized that healthcare delivery is changing, and they wanted to be part of that change – to be part of care in the community. This was a very exciting time, not just for the growth opportunity, but also for the collaboration – working with multiple health systems on their initiatives, outcomes, quality and needs to serve their communities.
Faith in Caring: What circumstances made you want to add hospice to CVN’s service lines?
Martin: Strategically, we always thought that Concordia should provide hospice services. In 2004 we had the opportunity to look at Good Samaritan Hospice and potentially embrace its mission at Concordia. With CVN offering palliative services to our patients, it was a natural link for Concordia to have a hospice agency. That’s why it was very important strategically for Concordia to engage in hospice services. Within the last year, we’ve also partnered with Washington Health System, creating a hospice called Concordia Hospice of Washington. This will enable us to bridge that gap from palliative services to hospice in Washington, Greene and part of Fayette Counties.
Faith in Caring: CVN started as a small part of Concordia Lutheran Ministries as a whole, but about what percentage of Concordia’s revenue today is from CVN?
Martin: It’s hard for me to fathom that on any given day, community-based services serve more individuals than Concordia serves in its buildings with retirement living, personal care and skilled nursing care. However, Concordia continues to grow, and at times the, what I call, “bricks & mortar” will serve more than home and community-based services, and then we seem to catch up.
Faith in Caring: To what do you attribute that growth?
Martin: Our employees are the foundation of our progress, especially the field staff who are out there every single day in homes serving people and representing us as an organization in expanding Concordia’s mission.
Faith in Caring: Why have you stayed with Concordia?
Martin: I’ve enjoyed working for Concordia for the last 21 years. Every day is a new challenge that’s full of exciting new opportunities. But ultimately, no matter what, the mission never changes.
Faith in Caring: What differentiates CVN from other like agencies?
Martin: CVN is different in many aspects, but two things come to mind. One is Concordia’s mission, and the other is our spiritual care program. It’s very exciting that we have the opportunity to have a pastor or deaconess go to an individual’s home to help him/her connect back to a church or community support program. Our spiritual care staff will be involved with individuals on a daily basis and help them with their spiritual walks. This kind of care helps tie in home healthcare, our palliative services and, of course, hospice care.
Faith in Caring: What are your plans for the future of CVN?
Martin: I’m really excited about the future of CVN and all of Concordia’s home and community services. I believe that Concordia will be offering these types of services not just here in western Pennsylvania, but in selected strategic areas here in the United States and maybe even beyond. I’m very hopeful that in the next 135 years those individuals who are tasked with continuing to carry on Concordia’s mission will look back at the inception of CVN and realize how powerful and important it was to be part of Concordia’s mission.
As we continue to look back on two decades of homecare at Concordia this year, keep an eye out for special events that CVN will hold to help celebrate this momentous anniversary. If you would like to know more about the high quality skilled nursing care and variety of therapy services CVN offers, call 1-877-352-6200 or visit www.ConcordiaVN.org.