A passion for the cause
Christoffersen focuses on board effectiveness, the patient experience
While her children were growing up, Terri Christoffersen was often asked to raise money to support a variety of activities, such as the school band. But unlike many other parents, Christoffersen discovered that she loved it.
“My passion for fundraising is that I always believe in the cause I am fundraising for— always, always, always,” Christoffersen says.
Since that long-ago campaign to finance high school band uniforms, Christoffersen, 63, has raised money for myriad projects and served on dozens of not-for-profit boards.
Among those boards: St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Christoffersen joined the hospital’s board of trustees in 2000, chairing the board from 2005 to 2007 and the governance effectiveness committee from 2008 to 2010. Currently, she is chairwoman of St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation and a trustee of St. Luke’s parent, the Iowa Health System, Des Moines, where she chairs the quality committee. She also is an ex-officio trustee at St. Luke’s.
“One of the things I find remarkable about her is she just keeps going. She is always willing to put her shoulder to the wheel,” says Ted Townsend, president and CEO of St. Luke’s.
For her accomplishments, Christoffersen has been named the 2012 Trustee of the Year for large hospitals—those with 100 beds or more.
When looking back over her record as a trustee at St. Luke’s, Christoffersen is most proud of shepherding improvements in the governance structure, emphasizing board, committee and individual accountability for performance. This occurred while she was board chair.
The first step is a formal assessment process. Trustees answer seven open-ended questions about their own performance. They evaluate what they have accomplished, where they would like to improve, and what type of
training sessions would help them.
The governance committee also evaluates each board member, primarily by tracking attendance at meetings and educational events. As a group, the trustees also complete an assessment of how well the board performed.
The board and each committee then develop annual goals with metrics to measure the results of their efforts. Progress on each goal is detailed in written reports twice a year.
For example, the trustees in 2006 and 2007 wanted to keep abreast of efforts to improve patient satisfaction, so the board’s quality committee actively monitored scores from surveys, setting an expectation of continual improvement.
Patient satisfaction also has been an area of intense focus for the administration and board since 2005 because the hospital’s scores on surveys “weren’t as high as they needed to be,” Christoffersen recalls.
Christoffersen gained firsthand insight on what it was like to be a family member of a St. Luke’s patient while her late husband battled cancer during the second half of 2005. She shared her concerns about some aspects of her experience with Townsend, who recalls, “She was very insistent that we needed to improve. And she was right.”
Focused attention on patient satisfaction has led to better scores. St. Luke’s moved from the 75th percentile for inpatient care on Press Ganey rankings in 2004 to the 90th percentile in 2005. Scores have hovered at the 90th percentile since then.
“I knew we had an opportunity—and I always look at it as an opportunity—to make things better,” Christoffersen says.