People First HR Services

Rosie Jacuzzi of Misericordia Health Centre on maintaining core values

People First

From the major construction work outside of Misericordia Health Centre, it is obvious that big changes are underway. Once renovated, the complex will house expanded community programs, including the four flagship programs not offered anywhere else in Manitoba: the Buhler Eye Care Centre, Provincial Health Contact Centre, Sleep Disorder Centre and Urgent Care Centre, plus the Ambulatory Diagnostic Centre and a new, one-stop health care centre for seniors called PRIME.

“This dynamic redevelopment project is designed with the future of care in mind,” says Rosie Jacuzzi, president & CEO of Misericordia Health Centre. “These specialized programs complement our vision and reflect a move toward community-based care.”

The towering cranes are only the latest sign of transformation in a long legacy of changes undertaken by the institution, which was originally run by the Misericordia Sisters as a home for unwed mothers before becoming a maternity and eventually, a surgical hospital.

“In 1998, we transitioned from a hospital to a health-care centre and I believe it demonstrates what Misericordia has always done well, which is to evolve to meet the changing needs of the community,” Jacuzzi says, citing the growing needs of the aging population as an example.

But despite the physical changes at Misericordia, one thing that has stayed constant is the organization’s adherence to the core values it was founded upon over a century ago.

“Our culture is based on the sisters’ legacy of ‘compassionate care for those in need’ and we hold our staff accountable for being able to work within those values. It’s important that we make them a priority to ensure they are not merely words on a page; we are each living examples of what those values look like.”

Q: How has moving from a hospital to a more specialized health centre been of benefit to your organization?

A: Our focus is very much on being community-based, and we are taking the types of services that don’t need to be inside an acute-care facility and bringing them into more of a community-type health-care setting. We are redeveloping centres for excellence in our specialty programs, including the Buhler Eye Care Centre of Excellence, the Sleep Disorder Centre and soon, the PRIME program for seniors. The Provincial Health Contact Centre, which has grown from 35,000 to over 500,000 calls per year, and the Urgent Care Centre were the first of their kind in Canada and since being implemented, other provinces have modelled similar programs after ours. These are all the result of community needs, and while necessity is the mother of invention, even we are amazed at how these programs have grown. The overall transition has been of benefit to all of us because we are now able to narrow in on what we’re going to do and then develop the expertise to do it better than anyone else.

Q: What qualities do you look for during the hiring process?

A: The ability to hire the right people is very important to Misericordia, to our board and to the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, which is part of our ownership group representing the sisters. As an extension of this, it is crucial that we continue to have control over who we hire into our organization so that we can be assured we are hiring people who have the capacity to live our mission, vision and core values of caring, respect and trust that we’ve adopted from the sisters’ legacy. Obviously, we’re also looking for experience, excellence and a passion for lifelong learning. Personally, I always work toward the goal of getting the most educated, most experienced individual I can afford for the position, but just as important as their qualifications is their ability to work within our values. We do hold our staff accountable, and living our values is part of their performance appraisal.

That being said, once you hire the right person, you must step back and allow them to do their job. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what (she) wants done, and self-restrain enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” As a leader, you can’t possibly do it all yourself; you can’t have every answer, you can’t have all the expertise to make every decision. That’s why you must choose the best people, put your team together wisely and then provide the resources and respect to get the best from them.

Q: Do you face any challenges in identifying and nurturing future leaders?

A: The average age of our employees is 47, so like many organizations, we are certainly challenged with making sure we have enough new leaders coming up through the ranks so that we do not lose out on any of the experience and emotional intelligence that have been so vital to our success. That said, I think that we are getting better at selecting future leaders who are the right fit for the organization. While I’ve always sought out the most educated and experienced individuals to fill roles, I think that it’s just as important to see if you can discern their ability to transfer the knowledge they possess to their staff. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are if you can’t work with other people and use that brilliance to effect change. In addition to experience and education, we are looking for leaders who are innovative. We want people who can think outside the box in terms of creativity but at the same time, are able to work within the box, meaning within the constraints of the health-care system.

Q: In a perfect world, what do you wish you had more of to give to your staff?

A: There’s never enough dollars or time to give our staff the orientation or ongoing education that we want to be delivering. We have had to be creative in finding suitable professional development opportunities, whether utilizing webinars or bringing trainers in to provide the type of learning and reinforcement that staff need. That’s another key thing — just because you’ve gone through the training once doesn’t mean people will retain it going forward. In many cases, you need to keep reinforcing aspects of the messaging. At Misericordia, we are proud of the fact that all full-time and part-time staff receives a two-day orientation. I start it off by talking about our mission, vision, values, strategic priorities and what it means to work in a Catholic faith-based organization. I’m followed by our spiritual-care director Father Vince Herner, who further defines the history of the Misericordia Sisters and how their legacy is reflected in day-to-day health-care practices thereby enriching the patient experience.

Q: What influence does being a faith-based organization have on your culture?

A: In terms of patient care, being faith-based brings a value-added benefit to the healing journey of our patients. We often hear back from families that we have helped them through their personal health-care experience in a guided and compassionate way, and that’s something we never take for granted.

For our staff, it’s just as important that we nurture the culture that being a faith-based organization creates. People are our strength, and we try to look after that valuable resource so that they in turn can look after our patients, our residents and each other. Often, we hear staff refer to being at Misericordia like being part of a family. We do journey with our staff members as part of that family; everyone has an important role to play in our success and we share the same highs and lows together. I think that our people can feel how much we care about them as individuals and we want to make their work life as positive as possible so they can provide the type of service that we expect.

Q: What leadership qualities do you admire and hope to incorporate into your own style?

A: I think that you learn something from every boss you’ve had; whether it’s a board or a previous CEO, there are strengths you’ve admired and wish to emulate. One quality that always stands out for me is the ability to influence people without lording authority over them. That’s very important and there’s a great example of that leadership style right in our community with the Chipman family. From the United Way to what they’ve done for Winnipeg’s development through True North, the Chipmans have managed to lead several huge changes in a quiet and unassuming manner. In many ways, it reminds me of the values of the Misericordia Sisters — that with humility, compassion and mutual respect, you can move mountains.

— With reporting by Barbara Chabai


Sue Kathler, BA, CHRP, is the vice-president, HR consulting for People First HR Services. She can be contacted at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 H1