Samaritan: When Caring & Compassion are your Calling


Physicians, nurses, social workers, and others who chose careers with Samaritan feel a calling to serve. They already know that they will be caring for the most vulnerable people in the community when they apply to join one of the largest providers of hospice and palliative care in the state.

“The care we provide calls a certain kind of person,” says Susan McCann, Samaritan’s Chief Operating Officer. “Not everyone who chooses a career in healthcare has a calling to provide care for people living with advanced illness or facing the end of life. Our staff is here for the right reasons. They want to make every day count for their patients.”

People’s personal and professional experiences often inspire their careers in hospice or palliative care, as they want to enhance the quality of life for people living with the effects of serious illness or aging, McCann adds.

“Samaritan has been providing care for over 40 years in South Jersey,” she says, noting that the not-for-profit provider was founded in Moorestown in 1980 as one of the country’s first hospices. It now provides an expanding range of life-enhancing services for nearly 11,000 patients and their families annually in 5 New Jersey counties.

“We’ve taken care of generations of South Jersey families,” McCann says. “Experiencing Samaritan’s services firsthand – our advanced clinical expertise and the care we provide to address emotional and spiritual needs – has inspired many of our staff to join the Samaritan team.”

What they feel – an embracing culture of caring, respect, teamwork and excellence – is what initially attracts care providers to Samaritan, and what keeps them here. “Ours is a very collaborative and supportive culture that emanates from Mary Ann Boccolini, our President and CEO, to our clinical providers and administrative staff as well,” McCann says.

Boccolini, who trained as an oncology nurse, joined Samaritan as director of clinical operations in 1997 and has been the organization’s president and CEO since 2000. She has led Samaritan and its 380-member workforce through unprecedented growth, including the opening of 2 in-patient hospice centers and the development of a comprehensive and growing family of life-enhancing services that include: primary care at home, palliative medicine, hospice care, grief support, education and advocacy. “Mary Ann is a most engaging and hands-on leader, encouraging relationship-building at all levels.” says McCann.

“All employees meet Mary Ann on their very first day of orientation when she personally reviews our mission, vision, values, and Samaritan Difference Commitments,’ says McCann. “Staff continue to hear from her when she reports on Samaritan’s impact and updates at quarterly meetings. She also leads Samaritan’s staff recognition events to show her personal appreciation for their years of service.”

Part of our Samaritan Difference is the extensive training, development, continuing education and support the company provides for all team members. And Samaritan has long stressed the importance of team members prioritizing their own health and well-being. They are encouraged to take advantage of Samaritan’s generous time-off benefits, health and wellness services, mindfulness, meditation and peer support programs.

“We encourage our people to take care of themselves and take the time to support one another as needed,” McCann says. “There can be particular patients or situations that are more emotionally challenging than others. We provide many ways to recognize and support our staff.”

Although the pandemic did not change the nature of Samaritan’s work, it did add stresses that have led to even more support initiatives. Among them, the Samaritan team developed extensive meditation and music therapy programs, creative ways to recognize staff accomplishments, and other ways to stay connected. The new Mount Laurel headquarters includes a dedicated “quiet room” providing a calming space and resources for meditation and stress reduction. A mother’s room offers privacy for nursing moms.

Staff were also trained last year on a technique called “Three Good Things,” an evidence-based program focused on the positive aspects of their work and personal lives. “We use this tool in staff meetings, and it’s so effective that many staff use this at home with their families,” McCann says.

Samaritan is also committed to removing barriers that would prevent people from being able to work. Because Samaritan is committed to its patients 24/7, staff schedules are flexible. Team members can request schedules that align with their personal responsibilities, taking into consideration things like child care, education or other commitments. Samaritan also encourages employees to take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs to grow their careers from within the organization.

Patricia Anthony joined Samaritan in 2015 with that in mind. Years before she started working at Samaritan as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Samaritan’s hospice care made a lasting impression on her.

“I used to be a home health aide. When one of my patients, who I was very close to, needed hospice, I was so impressed by the compassion that Samaritan gave to her,” she says.

“It’s compassion satisfaction – that driving motivation that sustains our work in healthcare. It’s the rewarding experience of feeling like we make a difference.”

The mother of 4 adult children, Anthony went back to school to become an LPN in 2012. Although she worked in other aspects of healthcare, she always knew she wanted to work for Samaritan and landed a part-time job with the organization in 2015.

“I started working every other weekend because it was the only job they had open at the time,” she recalls. “But I made myself available to take other shifts and, within 3 months, I had a full-time job.”

While she loved what she was doing as an LPN, Anthony says she knew she wanted to return to school to be a Registered Nurse, allowing her to do even more to help her patients. Going through school while working was hard, but worth it,” she says, noting that her co-workers threw a party and bought her a stethoscope when she finally finished her studies and became a hospice nurse.

“It’s a job that I love, but it’s hard,” says Anthony, who received her nursing license in April. “I get attached to my patients. I really, really love them. And I cry a lot when they pass.”

While still getting adjusted to her new responsibilities as an RN, Anthony says she feels confident that she can take care of her patients physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“Even when I’m in a patient’s home providing care, I know I can always call for support if I need it,” she says. “My manager or a teammate will literally come right over and help me, so I can give the best possible care to my patients.”

McCann says there is a name for that motivation that Samaritan staff have to give their all to patients. “It’s compassion satisfaction – that driving reward that sustains our work in healthcare,” she adds. “It’s the rewarding experience of feeling that we make a real difference in the lives of the people we serve.”


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