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No Margin, No Mission: Flying Nuns and Sister Irene Kraus

Flying NunFlying Nuns Defined Mission; Sister Irene Defined Margin.

They wore winged habits that were the inspiration for the TV series “The Flying Nun”. They were known as the Daughters of Charity.  Founded in 1633, their mission was to care for the sick, aged, infirm and poor.  For more than four centuries, their mission remained essentially the same.  Then a spirited American girl came along to add something new.

It was called “Margin.”

No Margin, No Mission

The girl was Sister Irene Kraus, who is credited with giving healthcare the phrase “No Margin, No Mission.

Entering the order in her late teens during WWII, she was guided into nursing, earning an MBA while tending to the sick. She climbed the administrative ladder quickly, directing six Catholic hospitals before becoming the first president of the Daughters of Charity National Health System, which oversaw the more than 80 hospitals and health-related facilities then managed by the order in the U.S.  In a career that spanned more than a half century, Sister Irene was the first woman and member of a religious order to be chairman of the American Hospital Association’s board of trustees.

Strong Fiscal Management Is What Modern Hospitals Need to Fulfill Their Mission

Sister Irene believed that strong fiscal management, not just charity, is what modern healthcare organizations need to fulfill their mission.  Charity was not enough to sustain mission in the 20th Century, according to Sister Irene.  “In the United States in this day and age,” she would say, “the way to do it is to run institutions that are financially solid.”   She did that well enough to be inducted into the Healthcare Hall of Fame.

Expenses in the $221 billion hospital industry have risen at nearly twice the rate of inflation since 1984, while reimbursements from Medicaid, Medicare and private insurers have been drastically scaled back.  Yet,  The Daughters’ system is big business –  with 12,270 beds in service, it is bigger than the next two largest Catholic systems combined.

No margin, no mission.  No margin, no mission.  No margin, no mission.

YES! Sister Irene Krause, Daughters of Charity National Health Care System, is credited with bringing the No Margin, No Mission mantra to health care. She believed healthcare organizations could better fulfill their mission of providing needed healthcare services with potent fiscal management.  No margin, no mission – follow the money and the story will lead to the same conclusion every time.  If there is mission there must be a margin.  It makes perfect economic sense.

Although the solutions to healthcare’s financial woes are wide-ranging, we believe there are great opportunities on the operational side to optimize hospital resources – beds, treatment areas, staff, equipment.  In other words – to do more with less.

Fiscal responsibility doesn’t have to be achieved at the expense of quality patient care and access. In fact, better operational management supports those two goals. Shorter wait times, more access, faster care delivery, less waste, fewer hospital acquired infections – the list is broad and wide reaching.  And that’s where TeleTracking’s mission is firmly rooted:  to create and deliver solutions for hospitals that support their financial health so that they can maintain quality patient care and maximum access.

The question of whether it’s possible to maintain an ethical mission while in survival mode is asked over and over.

We maintain the answer is “Yes!

Tell us what you believe are the biggest challenges to the fiscal health of hospitals, and the opportunities, in the current political climate and beyond.

-Valerie Fritz

Categories: No Margin, No Mission