Kim Johansen is the vice president of operations for home- and community-based services (HCBS) for The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society and the president of Good Samaritan Society HCBS, LLCs. In this profile, she shares her 39-year history with the Society, her vision for creating senior services of the future, and the importance of fellow employees and family.
Growing up with a love of seniors
Johansen began her young life working for the toughest boss: her father. She grew up on a family farm near Gibbon, Nebraska.
“There are no boundaries to the hours that you work, and you have to do whatever it takes to get the work done. But it was a good life,” she said.
One of the most memorable parts of childhood remains visiting the local nursing home, where her grandmother lived.
“I just fell in love with the seniors at the nursing home,” Johansen said. “I used to entertain them and cook for them. I was just fascinated by the lives that they had led. So as I got older, that remained my passion: I loved seniors.”
Joining the Society
Johansen’s mother really wanted her to be a nurse, so she pursued a degree in nursing at the University of Nebraska.
After that, she returned to Gibbon to marry her husband, Phil. There, she learned about Good Samaritan Village in Hastings, Nebraska. Even though it was located nearby and housed 1,200 people with two skilled nursing facilities, Johansen expressed surprise that she knew nothing of it.
Johansen joined the Society in Hastings in the Medicare wing. After a couple of years, the leadership asked her to be the director of nursing in the other skilled facility. In her efforts, she tried to make the lives of seniors the best they could be.
Located on a farm between Hastings, Kearney and Grand Island, Johansen saw a number of options for living out her vocation. However, the Good Samaritan Society attracted her because “the mission drove the work in everything” and the organization “truly cared about the employee,” she said.
After serving as director of nursing, she took a position setting up apartment services in the 1980s. At the same time, she completed her classes to become an administrator and worked at a hospital on weekends to maintain her nursing skills.
Administrative degree in hand, Johansen then took over as executive director of Good Samaritan Village in Hastings, a position she held for 10 years. During that time, she helped introduce programs like WellAWARE, a telehealth service, and expand into the Grand Island area.
After that, Johansen made the move to National Campus in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she helped the skilled nursing area implement PointClickCare, an electronic medical records system. Even though she now worked remotely from patients and staff, Johansen still felt engaged in the important care work she previously undertook.
“What I’m most proud of is things that people I supervised did or that the community did for us. At one point, everyone just opened up their pocketbooks and built a child daycare center for us. I am so proud of the people I’ve gotten to work with over the years and what they’ve accomplished.”
Working on senior services of the future
Having started a home health agency in the ’80s, the leadership then tapped Johansen to run the HCBS division for the Society about four years ago.
“The home care area will be huge for our integrated health system going forward, and there’s a lot of work to do to ensure it’s a model of excellence for the future,” Johansen said. “As I age, I think more about what I would want from senior services. I think about being at home and what choices I get to make in my health care. I work to put together a model that I think I would want to have and we, the people, would want to have.”
Important to home care is ensuring that seniors feel connected to the community. Senior Companions of South Dakota is one Good Samaritan Society initiative that pays volunteers to provide in-home assistance and support to clients, who receive the service free of charge.
Roles and responsibilities
In her current role, Johanson is the vice president of home- and community-based services and the president of Good Samaritan Society HCBS, LLCs, based in Texas and New Mexico.
In operations, Johansen says, “Every single day is different.” But globally, Johansen focuses on finances, communicates with regional vice presidents on a daily basis and teaches others about home health services. Her attention is often devoted to reports, compliance, surveys and more.
“It just depends on the day, but anything that benefits the patients and staff and our growth and having the tools that they need to run our business, I support that for all of the people who are doing the hard work out there,” Johansen says.
Along with her organizational leadership role, Johansen says she also was called to serve as a spiritual leader. When first informed that this would be part of her responsibilities, Johansen, who was raised in the church and taught Sunday school, worried whether she knew the Bible well enough.
However, Johansen said, “I learned very quickly that being a spiritual leader in your faith is more than knowing the Bible. What’s most important is caring for patients in a Christian manner — that is, with compassion and love. They should feel that spirit in their lives.”
Johansen has found over the years that many employees found faith through the Society. Soon after beginning work for the Society, a number of employees asked Johansen which church would be best and how they could get more involved.
“For those that didn’t, they still had a faith, and we could still come together with a passion for the residents,” she said.
“It’s the people,” says Johansen, in response to a question about what she enjoys most about her work. “I love it when stories bubble up from the field — something that an employee did to make a difference in the life of a patient that we’re caring for. What the staff will do to make patients’ and residents’ lives better just blows you away.
“And if we have an employee who has something tough happen in their life, everyone pulls together to support them and do everything we can: We pray for them, we donate money, we have donated time off. If we take care of each other and we take care of our people, everything else falls into place.”
Another thing Johansen loves is helping people develop their talent. She finds out what their passion, goals and strengths are and seeks a way to help them get there.
Close family, close friends
Kim and her husband, Phil, still live on their farm in Nebraska every few weekends, though they reside in Sioux Falls. Outside of work, Johansen loves horseback riding, including teaching her granddaughters to ride. She also practices yoga in her free time.
The Johansens have a daughter, Whitney, who lives in Omaha. Whitney studied to be a nurse and now stays home with her two daughters, Riley, 9, and Charlie, 7. “They’re the passion of my existence,” Johansen says.
They also have a son, Collin, who is married and lives in Houston, Texas.
“We’re a very close family, and I consider us close friends as well,” Johansen said.
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