nurse taking infant boy's vital signs

OSF Mission culture ‘a tremendous gift’ to physicians

“In the spirit of Christ and the example of Francis of Assisi, the Mission of OSF HealthCare is to serve persons with the greatest care and love in a community that celebrates the Gift of Life.”

Even if they can’t recite the exact statement perfectly, every one of more than 20,000 OSF HealthCare employees, or Mission Partners, knows the heart of the Mission: We serve with the greatest care and love.

But those 36 words are more than just a statement. They are a way of life.

“The Mission-based culture is my animating force,” said Greg Tudor, MD, a physician in the Emergency Department at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois.

“Many systems have good mission statements, but not all of them walk the talk,” said Sarah Zallek, MD, medical director for the sleep center at OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute in Peoria. “OSF gets it right. It’s not lip service here.”

‘You don’t have to be Catholic’

The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (OSF) moved to Peoria in 1877 and they soon started a hospital.

Sarah Zallek, MD photoIt is easy to look at the name itself, OSF HealthCare, and make assumptions. Yes, it is faith-based in the Catholic tradition. But what does that mean for the care provided? Are only Catholics served? Are only Catholics – or at least Christians – allowed to practice as doctors and nurses here? Even if allowed, are non-Catholics welcome, or merely tolerated? What about the comfort level for non-Catholics?

Dr. Tudor is a practicing Catholic. Dr. Zallek is not. But they embrace the Mission with equal passion.

“I came for the job,” said Dr. Zallek, who started working for OSF INI in 2000. “I stayed for the culture.”

That culture includes a Vision of “transforming health care to improve the lives of those we serve.” That culture embraces specific Values: justice, compassion, integrity, teamwork, employee well-being, supportive work environment, trust, stewardship and leadership.

The result?

“It’s an environment that nurtures the physician to care for the patient,” Dr. Zallek said. “You don’t have to be Catholic to do that or appreciate that.”

Charity and outreach are key

The more OSF HealthCare physicians you talk to – and this is regardless of their religious or non-religious background – the more you hear appreciation for the Mission and its scope. They treat anyone and everyone who needs help. The spirit of the founding Sisters lives in genuine ways.

For millennia, physicians created expectations for themselves, and civil societies accepted those expectations. Exceptions occur because we live in an imperfect world, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice those ideal values.

“You look at antiquity and the things ancient physicians espoused. Look at Hippocrates and Maimonides; their codes were right on. Those are the things we espouse, especially in our Mission-based culture at OSF, down to the letter,” Dr. Tudor said.

As an emergency physician, Dr. Tudor said he appreciates that nobody is denied care. But he also is excited by the charitable outreach, which he illustrated with a story.

Last fall, Dr. Tudor answered a random phone call from a woman whose 30-year-old sister in Kenya was going blind from a brain tumor. The family could not afford the cost of surgery in the capital city of Nairobi, so care was not available. Dr. Tudor took the case to OSF Saint Francis administration, and the board approved coverage of surgery and rehabilitation.

“That speaks so loudly of our Mission, that this person who has no value in the eyes of the world would be offered something so dramatic by our humble hospital chain,” Dr. Tudor said.

More freedom than constraint

Gregory Tudor, MD photoDr. Tudor looks at the health care system in this country and shakes his head at the “finance-based or productivity-based culture” that is so prevalent. He surveys the world around him and laments that “culture in the public space is tied up in knots about some messy issues.”

These are the reasons why he appreciates the Mission-driven culture of OSF HealthCare.

“The Mission provides stability and authenticity,” he said. “It’s unapologetic and unwavering. It’s not a moving target. There’s something to be said for an institution that lets you know where they stand.”

But that doesn’t equate to oppression and restriction. Quite the opposite, Dr. Tudor said.

“Because of the Mission, it’s a more free place to practice,” he said. “People of all faiths are Mission Partners here, but the Mission allows more freedom than constraint.”

A nurturing environment

It is difficult, if not impossible, for Dr. Zallek to contain her enthusiasm when she considers the OSF Mission. She freely shares it with her friends who work in other health care systems.

“That’s a very easy conversation to have,” she said.

“The beauty of working in this environment is that the Mission takes away things that can get in the way of providing care. The Mission allows me to see and care for every single person who walks through my door, and it teaches me how to do that.

“OSF teaches us to set aside preconceived notions about the individual before we encounter them in clinical care. OSF teaches us to connect with them personally, as an individual, to know that person and care for them, regardless of where they came from, or what their resources are. We are taught to care for people who are hard to love. I get to see everyone.

“That’s a tremendous gift to a physician. That’s our Mission. And that’s awesome.”

If you are a physician, learn more about our Mission-driven culture. Check out opportunities in the OSF HealthCare system at Talk to a recruiter (309) 683-6510.


About Author: Kirk Wessler

After being a writer for OSF HealthCare for three years, Kirk Wessler retired in January 2022. A Peoria native and graduate of Bradley University, Kirk's experience included working for newspapers in Missouri, Texas and the Peoria Journal Star.

Kirk and his wife, Mary Frances, have five sons, four daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. Kirk plans to spend his retirement on the golf course, mastering the guitar and traveling.

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