Driving Leadership; Kate Rolf

Join us at the stunning Beeches Manor as we sit down with Kate Rolf of Nascentia Health to discuss her journey from insurance claims to leading a $390 million healthcare organization. In this episode of ‘Driving Leadership’, Kate shares the evolution of Nascentia Health from its roots in community nursing to a future-forward vision of active aging and integrated health technology. Discover how empathy, compassion, and a personal touch in leadership can transform healthcare and create communities that celebrate life at every stage.



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Leading with Vision: Kate Rolf’s Journey at Nascentia Health

Bill Berthel: Hey, welcome to another episode of driving leadership. Today I’m going to get to talk with leader, CEO and President Kate Rolf of Nascentia Health. We’re at the beautiful Beeches Manor today in Rome, New York, and I can’t wait for this conversation. Kate is a dynamic leader and she’s going to share about the mission of Nascentia Health as well as her leadership path. Come on, let’s go. Kate, thank you for this time. I really appreciate it.

And thank you for hosting us here at the Beeches Manor This is just a stunning, stunning facility. And I know we’ll get a chance to walk around a little bit, but can you speak a little bit about how you’re utilizing this in your organization?

Kate Rolf: Well, we bought the Beeches Manor property. It was called the Beeches and it had, 52 acres. We purchased it from the Desito family. There was a motel on the campus here, some, office buildings, as well as, this, Manor house. It’s a restaurant, and event venue, but it had been closed for three years. So we got some, funding and did some investment into the building and worked on this first. Our overall vision is to turn the campus into, housing for 55 and over, really more a retirement community, active aging. Our thought is maybe like a Margaritaville of the north, the place people enjoy being. perhaps they may have a place that they go to in the winter.

Bill Berthel: Sure.

Kate Rolf: They have this place the other half of the year or year round, we’re trying to make sure that there’s going to be activities and events and things. In the summer we’ll have pool and pickleball and that type of thing with some golf cart path, to get around. And then in the winter, just to try and add some different activities, either indoors here, inside the Manor house, as well as taking people places if they want to and planning events. So, the core piece was this restaurant. we really did a lot of renovation. Got, it on the historic, preservation list.

Bill Berthel: Okay.

Kate Rolf: because it is such a beautiful facility.

Bill Berthel: It’s stunning. And I know we’ll get a chance to see more of it.

Kate Rolf: And we did the restaurant, and event banquet portion. We did a lot of work, renovated that, and worked actually, we worked really with a lot of different, people in the community. Revere copper donated the bar tops because they’re all copper. So really just trying to keep with a lot of other Rome theme and keeping a lot of the community involved in the project. So when we started, this, we were originally just going to do, for banquets. And eventually it’s a place for people living, residents here in the community, to be able to have a place for dining, and such. And then we just decided, you know what, let’s just open the restaurant. The community, the whole city of Rome love the Beeches so we really wanted, to bring it back. So it was, being used again. And we reopened the restaurant in August and have been so busy. It’s phenomenal. We have a great, staff running the operations, running, the event menu as well as the restaurant and the cooking staff, the serving staff, the hosting staff. It’s just phenomenal.

Bill Berthel: How does this fit in with Nascentia? And tell me a little bit more about Nascentia as an organization.

Kate Rolf: Sure. Nascentia Health, its roots are of the Visiting Nurse Association of Central New York, which began in the 1890s with, nurses really going out and doing community health, trying to help maternal, child, health issues and help with, infant mortality.

Bill Berthel: That was the focus?

Kate Rolf: Yeah, back then and then over time. Different things. They were there for the Spanish flu. They dealt with a lot of the different things. So kind of brought back a little bit as we dealt with COVID in the past and just trying to get our nurses out there to be a part of the community, providing vaccinations and doing testing. As we grew over time, we decided to do more focusing on long term care, keeping people at home versus in nursing homes, later in their lives.

Bill Berthel: Right.

Kate Rolf: And we have a managed long term care plan across 48 counties in upstate New York. Pretty much everything north and west of the Hudson Valley. So we operate that, and have about 5000 members in that program.

Bill Berthel: And tell me about your role, Kate.

Kate Rolf: Well, my role really is to the visionary of the organization, trying to find ways to keep our organization sustainable and relevant, as well as make sure that, we have a viable future for our staff.

Bill Berthel: Sure.

Kate Rolf: But that we’re keeping to our mission, really. And that’s just to keep people at home safely and helpfully at home. And then this piece was really give people a home as they get, age in life, a safe place where they can age in place.

Bill Berthel: To be a visionary, there must be something that motivates you, moves you, drives you. What is that for you as a leader?

Kate Rolf: When you hear some of the stories of people that have been very sick, weren’t able to come home, weren’t able to get out of the hospital, and you can see what you do to give people more independence, make them feel, I can do this. I can do this at home. There’s people there to help me. And some of those stories are just. Remarkable.

Bill Berthel: Those human stories. Yeah.

Kate Rolf: Ah, I lost my mother when I was 16, and she passed away, at Roswell park in Buffalo. So it was really when you see someone that you really want, she was. Able to come home a little bit while she was sick, but really, at the end, if she could have been home, I think it would have been so much, you know, building off of that and knowing how important it is for families to have their loved ones at home.

Bill Berthel: What do you look either currently or back to? And what was it about their leadership that, you’re either emulating or that you’re tapping into

Kate Rolf: All through your career you always have leaders. There’s the good and the bad things that you pick up on and something never to do, something to do. And I’ve seen just from, not necessarily even people that were in, known leadership positions, but just in their roles as nurses, doing that little bit of extra above and beyond, and just having that empathy and compassion to relate and understand the people around them. And I just really think our organization encompasses that. That’s the heart of who we are, is just making sure that we’re understanding that. You never understand what a person’s going through when a loved one’s passing away.

Bill Berthel: Sure.

Kate Rolf: or when they’re struggling or going through that, because everyone sees something differently, but you have a deep understanding that they are going through something very traumatic in their own way and really need the support in a way that you’re there to help them, but you’re not there to take over for them.

Bill Berthel: Absolutely. It wasn’t until, I don’t know, we were maybe mid Covid. It’s almost difficult to understand that timeline now that we’re past it. But, for the first time, I had heard the term empathy, and compassion fatigue. And I heard this coming out of the medical field, nursing, specifically, that they were fatigued, and understandable, right. There’s a capacity, What do healthcare, professionals do and leaders to stay as recharged and as refreshed as possible, because it has to be a very draining, energetically draining role. What do you see being done and what do you do personally to stay recharged and energized?

Kate Rolf: We try to really have moments of laughter, times where you can just have to step back and say, in the midst of all of this, there has to be something to just make you relax and feel more human again, not what you’re on. Yeah, we love to experience that whenever we can. We also just like to celebrate the good moments. Next week is our employee annual celebration, and we try and get all our employees together and have a big celebration with a nice dinner. And, our restaurant here is going to be closed. All the staff, we want to have as many people there. Obviously, being in healthcare, we have nursing, staff, and home health aid staff out in the community that may not be able to make it, but we try to get as many as possible, and we try and do a lot of that, even throughout the year, recognizing people for those little extra things. And those stories, when our clinicians can come back with a really wonderful story, I love to share those with our board of directors, so they know this is why you do this, and this is why we all do this, because of these things that come back to us, and we can hear.

Bill Berthel: So how did you find your way into this role?

Kate Rolf: I think I started my journey in healthcare back in, I want to say, in the early 90s, and it was just working at an insurance company doing medical claims. Then I transitioned into a, medical office as an office manager right here in Rome. worked there for about five years, and then went into a role in a nursing home in human resources, in Utica. And then from there, an opportunity came up to, be the director of one of their, programs, which was a managed long term care plan, which is what we’re doing now. It’s keeping people at home. and after I did that, the program, we expanded, and my role began to oversee home health as well as that program. And I found that to be really where my passion lies. I found that just in keeping people at home, and I’m able to do something that’s really meaningful.

Bill Berthel: Kate, thank you again. This is a phenomenal facility. Thank you for the tour. Can’t wait to see more of it. it feels like I’m entering some sort of, like, English Scottish Manor in this space. It’s beautiful. So this is where the restaurant is, and it’s open to the public?

Kate Rolf: Correct. Wednesdays through Saturdays, we’re open 11:00 a.m. To 09:00 p.m.

Bill Berthel: So we can come for lunch or dinner.

Kate Rolf: Correct.

Bill Berthel: It’s phenomenal. This is the pub?

Kate Rolf: Yes, absolutely.

Bill Berthel: Oh, wow, look at this. Holy cow. So, how many people can the entire place like? What’s the largest party you’d have here?

Kate Rolf: We could have up to 400 people for an event.

Bill Berthel: Wow. Okay. And anything like weddings, corporate events?

Kate Rolf: Yeah, we’ve had, a lot of both, weddings, different events. We’ve had just some small meetings that are just meeting space as well as we’ve had a wedding over 400 people.

Bill Berthel: And then I know we’ll see it probably later. There’s a little bridal room. So this is the bridal suite?

Bill Berthel: Yes. Oh, my gosh.

Bill Berthel: Oh, look how beautiful this is. So a little space to get makeup and hair done and whatever. Right.

Kate Rolf: Bathroom off it. Yeah.

Bill Berthel: That’s cool.

Kate Rolf: Yeah.

Bill Berthel: What is this? Dining space?

Kate Rolf: Yes, this is a dining space, or, the banquet space.

Bill Berthel: Okay. So this could be closed off for a specific event, or this is open at lunch and dinner?

Kate Rolf: Yes. And sometimes if this is used for a banquet area, we’ll use, one of the other area rooms for the restaurant piece.

Bill Berthel: Sure.

Kate Rolf: Gives us a little flexibility to, utilize different space.

Bill Berthel: So, Kate, this isn’t the only work you do?

Kate Rolf: No.

Bill Berthel: How do you fit all this in?

Kate Rolf: This was really just, kind of a little fun thing to add to a bigger project.

Bill Berthel: This isn’t a little, this is a big project.

Kate Rolf: Well, the Nascentia Health is about a $390,000,000 healthcare organization. So this is.

Bill Berthel: Oh, my gosh,

Kate Rolf: This is just the fun hospitality piece. And really healthcare and hospitality work hand in hand because you want to have.

Bill Berthel: What does your real day job look like? Because this isn’t it.

Kate Rolf: No, this isn’t. I have great people that really do a lot of this. My day job is really focusing on home and community based health care. Trying to make sure that our operations and our organization can, have, working with the legislatures, working on laws, trying to make sure that we find other revenue streams, looking into new programs that can help benefit our organization more and that can help support the community.

Bill Berthel: So tell me about your Team. Like, who reports to you and what do they do day in, day out?

Kate Rolf: I have a great Team.

Bill Berthel: I bet you do.

Kate Rolf: Yeah. Our, ah, chief operating officer, Cheryl Mannis. Part of her role is overseeing this. I’ve known Cheryl for over 20 years, age us, but, Andrea, Lazaric Laquay is our chief clinical officer, and she really oversees all of our clinical programs, our nursing, our, home care side. We have, Joe Twartie and he works out of our Latham office. But, he’s the president of our health plans because we also have a medicare division and our managed long term care plan and our, chief administrative officer.

Bill Berthel: Actually, no, Joe, I got to meet him last year, two years ago as, ah, some of your staff were in one of our programs. So I got to meet Joe.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. Yeah. Great guy. Yeah.

Kate Rolf: And then we have, dune Castle as our chief financial officer. we also have Tammy, Lindsay as our chief of staff, and our, executive vice president of our strategic operations. And Janet Billington is our chief compliance officer. So really, this was all. The premise on all of this is to be an aging in place community here, where we’re going to have 55 and over. we’ll have the motel, which will be apartments. We’re also going to have the duplexes. there’ll be 82 units. So it’s 41 duplexes. It’ll be more of a gated community for, people to purchase and have an HOA with some different amenities on the property. And then there’ll be another area where there’s going to be patio homes. There’ll be four or five-, one- or two-bedroom units, that will be, right here on the campus. And we’ll have a walking path and a lot of different things like pickleball courts and swimming pools and things to keep people, active and enjoy staying in Rome.

Bill Berthel: Absolutely.

Kate Rolf: Great reason they might want to downsize and be out of it when they’re ready to no longer, have children in the home. So I think it’ll be a nice way to keep community.

Bill Berthel: Absolutely.

Kate Rolf: People engaged.

Bill Berthel: So I love that, mission of having people kind of age in place, stay home. That has to mean something to their health. That has to mean, more longevity, more activity. What is that about?

Kate Rolf: Our goal, really is to look at. What can we do when they’re here. To keep them active and healthy, not having to go into a more skilled facility, if necessary. So looking at different types of technology and things that might be able to. Help them as they age, to age safely, to have things monitored as needed.

Bill Berthel: Oh, really?

Kate Rolf: That you can identify things on the front end before something, happens.

Bill Berthel: So technology that incorporates health, not just technology for information.

Kate Rolf: Correct. There’s mirrors that take your daily temperature and can monitor your blood pressure. The amazing things that are out there that we really, plan to integrate. It’ll be really wonderful.

Bill Berthel: So to have a much more proactive approach to people aging in place.

Kate Rolf: Correct.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. That’s cool.

Bill Berthel: Kate, thank you so much. I really appreciate this conversation with you.

Kate Rolf: Yeah, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

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