To stay relevant for more than five decades, a Mended Hearts Chapter has to be willing to adapt to meet its members’ needs.
Mended Hearts Chapter 38, which serves Greater Houston through five satellites, recently shook up its speaker topics to keep members engaged and coming back.
At 55 years old, Chapter 38 is Mended Hearts’ second-oldest chapter. It serves a population nearing seven million.
To accommodate members who are spread across an area bigger than New Jersey, Chapter 38 established five satellites. Meetings at some of these satellites often attract as many as 40 people. Recently, however, hosts started noticing a drop-off. Was it time for a change?
Nadia Saiphoo and Donna McFadyen-Taylor, RN, both of Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, which hosts one of the satellites, decided to find out. After conducting a member survey as part of their involvement with Mended Hearts, Saiphoo and McFadyen-Taylor designed a program that would better educate newly diagnosed heart patients and families.
Members wanted more personal discussions. When will I get back to “normal?” How will my heart surgery impact my marriage? What do I do now that I’m out of the hospital? “They wanted to better understand the anatomy and physiology of heart disease and how to live a heart-healthy life,” says McFadyen-Taylor.
Chapter 38 answered the call with a four-part series designed by McFadyen-Taylor and Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center nursing staff. Titled “Rediscover Yourself—Reach for the Stars,” the 2016 series covered “soft topics”: the emotional aspects of recovery, the physical and social aspects of the disease, coping skills, and how to create a healthy lifestyle.
“We’ve had great feedback from those who attended,” says McFadyen-Taylor. “Members really appreciated the information about the emotional aspects of dealing with heart disease.”
Because of the positive feedback, the Memorial City Hospital satellite plans to launch a new series in early 2017.
Coordinating speakers is one of the many tasks satellite leaders face. Chapter 38 supports its satellite leaders through an open exchange of information and in-person support.
“We always invite the satellite leaders to our monthly board meeting,” says acting president and secretary Dave Westerhaus. “That helps everyone stay on the same page, whether it’s discussions about visiting patients or meeting topics. Currently three of our board members are leaders of their area satellite. Board members attend those satellite meetings, even though for some of us it’s a two-hour drive.”
Joe Rivera, Mended Hearts assistant southwest regional director, advises sponsoring Chapters to nurture satellites. “Remember that you are responsible for the satellites,” he says. “You can’t just organize and forget them.” That means making sure a Mended Heart representative conducts each meeting and filling in if a host can’t attend.
Houston’s Chapter 38 strives to create dynamic programming for its members, but also recognizes its visitor program is key to longevity. “The success of the Chapter begins with the visitor program,” says Westerhaus. “That peer-to-peer support is the heart of the Chapter. Our home in the Texas Medical Center, close to the pioneers of heart surgery, the developing technology, and the support of the hospital community all contribute to our continuing success.” — Heather R. Johnson