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Never Give Up: A Mother’s Story of Perseverance and Hope

Never Give Up: A Mother’s Story of Perseverance and Hope

Kendra Hopson inspires her patients to never give up. For a person who lost her husband to a rare bone disease and is fighting to save two children burdened with the same disease, her attitude and determination are inspiring her Morrison colleagues around the country.   

Hopson, 35, is the patient service manager at Mayo Clinic Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Since joining Morrison in spring 2015, the single mother has steadily built her career following several tumultuous years caring for her family’s health. Her late husband and two of her three children have a rare disease which causes damaged soft tissue to regrow as tumors on top of existing bones. After many years of treatment, her husband passed away in 2009.

But Kendra has persevered. After her husband’s death, she vowed to find a career where she could help others. Her decision stems partly from a major national hospital’s decision not to treat her husband’s condition because of a lack of health insurance. Fortunately, she eventually found doctors at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York willing to perform surgery to remove a tumor and extend his life, all at no cost.

“I know what it’s like to be treated like a number,” she says. “When my husband passed away, I wanted to find a career where I could help people. This experience has taught me that you can make things better if you try.  It’s helped me find the good about people and things in a world that, sometimes, can be negative.”

After starting as an associate in the “Catering to You” group at Sparks Medical Center in Fort Smith, Ark., Hopson would often make the seven-hour drive to Shriner’s Hospital in St. Louis for her children to receive medical help. Her son, Nicholas, 18, and her daughter, Alyssa, 16, have had a combined 13 surgical operations to remove tumors. A third child, Lauren, 13, does not have the disease.

Her responsibilities as a single mother have provided an incentive to build a rewarding career. She was quickly promoted to patient services supervisor in March 2016, then moved to Fayetteville, Ark., later that year to become department supervisor at Vantage Point Behavioral Health Hospital. While she was soon promoted to assistant director of food and nutrition, her goal was to become a patient service manager. When the Mayo position opened, she accepted and made the 700-mile move from Arkansas to Wisconsin.

The company’s talent recruiters realize Kendra’s experience with her own family health issues is valuable in helping patients seeking comfort and care. “When I interviewed Kendra a couple of years ago, I was personally inspired by her story,” says Amanda Corrigan, dietitian talent acquisition manager for Compass North America.

“She has spent many long hours in a hospital worried about a loved one, so I knew from her unique experience she had the passion to drive patient satisfaction and results. In every job she’s held, Kendra has been able to provide leadership by understanding the patient’s perspective every step of the way.”

In her last job in Arkansas, approximately 85 percent of the patients were 17 years old or younger and beset with behavioral problems. Kendra was only allowed to spend 10 minutes with each one during each visit, but her desire to help them was evident. “Nobody wants to be at the hospital; it’s not their choice,” she says. “So, in the 10 minutes I had to interact with them about food, I want to make it the best 10 minutes of their day.”

In addition to her daily encounters with the patients, she also conducts 30-minute focus groups each week, asking them for recommendations about every aspect of food.

“Kendra held focus groups with kids to find out what they liked and disliked, and then she responded to their needs,” says Jeremy Martin, director at Vantage Point. “Once a month, she set up a waffle bar with all of the toppings.  When the kids see that, they know she cares about them.”

Her relentless concern for her patients is one reason the food service operation shines. The two Arkansas hospitals were recently audited by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the food service operation received a 99 percent patient satisfaction score, the highest score among all units in the hospital.  

Since joining Mayo, Kendra has brought her work ethic and passion for patients to a new level. She oversees 50 employees in a hospital that provides room service for each patient, which differs from Kendra’s previous experience where patients had set menus. Because patients can request food service 24/7 but must follow strict diets, more extensive staff training is required.

There wasn’t a patient services manager on board for about five months before Kendra arrived. She assessed the work environment and re-trained many employees to provide better, friendlier patient service. In the past several months, patient satisfaction scores have nearly doubled and hover between 75 and 80.

“Patients need to know that we care about them,” she says. “Greeting a patient by their name in a friendly manner and understanding their needs is the best way to do that. When I make my rounds, I don’t hear any negative feedback from the patients, so I know we’re headed in the right direction.”

Through all of these changes, Kendra’s children have adjusted to their new environment and continue to improve. They now make a 45-minute drive to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for specialized care. Because their bodies are nearly done growing, the surgeries are nearly complete. Alyssa will have one more surgery to remove bone from her wrist before both children only require annual check-ups.

In the meantime, both now have part-time jobs at a local grocery story – Nick is a checker and Alyssa is a baker’s assistant. Both as doing well in school and plan to attend college and study for careers in healthcare – Nick as a pharmacist and Alyssa as a nurse.

“Our difficult family experiences have helped my children understand a little bit about how the world works,” she says. “When we went to Shriner’s for surgery, my children would see other children that don’t have arms or legs, and they want to help. I couldn’t be prouder of them. I try to bring that attitude to my job as well, and with enough effort, our patients will feel that way, too.”

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Morrison is a Compass One Healthcare operating division within Compass Group and has more than 1,200 registered dietitians, 300 executive chefs, and 20,000 professional food service team members. Apply for team member or management positions in one of the best companies to work for today.


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