When one first visits the Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg, they naturally feel a sense of peace. It is truly hard not to, as the eleven-acre property is meticulously kept up and designed to be as pleasant as possible. A trip inside will reveal not a sterile medical facility, but a home. Quaint living rooms, beautiful gardens, and pleasant walking trails all tell the story of the Hospice House, a story in which the whole community has come to play a role.
Founded in 1982, the Williamsburg Hospice was created to support the needs of both those facing the last days of their life as well as their loved ones. In 2002, the Hospice House was officially built, providing a four-bedroom home for patients to live. The nonprofit also provides several bereavement groups and an online library. Every service in the Hospice House free of charge to its patients. Being the only facility of its kind for 250 miles, the workers and volunteers of the house take great pride in the services they can offer to the area.
However, last fall there was still a lack of cohesiveness between the community and the organization. The House felt as if Williamsburg did not fully understand the purpose of hospice care. Because of this disconnect, they called upon a group of business professionals that were skilled in analytics and interpreting data: 2nd year MBA students at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at William & Mary.
The full-time MBA program offers a Field Consultancy program that allows students to work with local businesses and nonprofits to solve a particular problem that is unique to the client. In the case of the Hospice House, “We were looking for a way to get a good pulse on the needs of the community,” says Audrey Smith, executive director. She explains how “there is a national and local increase in the need for hospice services.” With the median age of Americans older than it has ever been before, hospice care services are now more important than they have been in years past.
The MBA students were able to conduct research and create a report that better depicts the needs and wants of the community. “We had a really healthy dialogue,” Smith describes. “The students themselves began to better understand what we do and why we do it.”
The project proved to be so beneficial that some of the student’s suggestions were incorporated almost immediately. Smith proudly points out how “at the beginning of the project there were some recommendations that we could implement right away.” She goes on to explain how the final project is being used as “a springboard to our strategic planning.”
The collaboration was also helpful for the students. “I think the William & Mary School of Business is really smart to provide this opportunity to graduate students,” Smith says. “I believe this group learned a lot by working with us, as they were able to embrace the real world with a real client on real issues.”