Katherine T. Jones of Arkansas Hospice (CFO of the Year Finalist, Nonprofit)

For Kathy Jones, the constant change in the health care industry both provides her greatest challenge and underlies her greatest accomplishment. Her embrace of change has helped Arkansas Hospice experience growth of 8.7 percent in the past three fiscal years, to a revenue total of $28.8 million in the most recent fiscal year.

Jones is proud that the nonprofit, which works in 34 counties and serves almost 500 terminally ill patients and their families, has grown while at the same time weathering financial audits with clean results.

She credited “a really strong team” and cited the nonprofit’s recent effort to bring payroll functions in-house. “All we’ve gotten — that we know of — are compliments from the staff. They have not seen any change from their perspective,” Jones said. Considering that Arkansas Hospice has 425 employees, “we thought that was a huge accomplishment.”

Jones, 50, was born and raised in Bloomfield, N.J., moving to Arkansas in 1980 with her family. She graduated from North Little Rock Northeast High School and went on to graduate from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Jones’ team, the operations sector, are the “background people.” Although this support team may not be caring for patients directly, it considers its duty to be to the patient. And it functions to ensure that “our frontline staff has everything they need to care for the patient,” Jones said.

That might entail negotiating “a contract to make sure that the patient can get into the right location or the right nursing home or the right level of care.” It might involve replacing a nurse’s broken computer. If a staff member has a payroll question, it’s up to Jones’ team to answer it. Caregivers “don’t need to worry about whether money is coming in the door,” she said.

“We take care of all the billing,” Jones said. “All of that stuff. I just want it to be seamless.”

Her management philosophy is straightforward: “Caring for our patients always comes first.”

Providing hospice care can be emotionally draining, Jones agreed. “It’s very hard. I’m not a good patient caregiver. I don’t do blood. I don’t do needles. I even get nervous when I get shots,” she said. What she does do is provide essential support to those who are working directly with patients and families.

Arkansas Hospice has regular leadership meetings during which managers share what the nonprofit calls “mission moments,” Jones said. Those stories from the front lines of hospice care bring home the importance of the work of Arkansas Hospice, she said.

“After a tough day, you go home and you’re thinking, ‘Why do I do this?’ and then you sit there and you think about all those stories and what these nurses and [certified nursing assistants] are doing every day. You remember why you’re there. I’ve been in health care 27 years, and I don’t know that I’ve ever felt as rewarded.”