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Early encounter in nursing launched healthcare journey for new St. Joseph head

Early encounter in nursing launched healthcare journey for new St. Joseph head

Long before Jeremy Zoch was the chief executive of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, he was a high school student looking to spend some free time making a difference.

And that is when he meet someone who would help launch his lifetime of dedication to healthcare.

Zoch took over as the head of St. Joseph earlier this year. Sitting in his new office, he leaned back in his chair as he reminisced on the start of his journey.

Growing up in Fairmont, Minnesota, Zoch said the only job a high schooler could typically find was working fast food. Being proactive there gave him an early taste of leadership, but he craved more. Looking to follow in his mother’s footsteps as a nurse, he started working during his senior year as a nurse at a group home for patients with cerebral palsy, down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.

Starting at the home, Zoch met someone who would become a friend for the rest of his life: Uriah Pierce. As he worked with Pierce, Zoch said he felt a bond emerge between the two – a friendship that helped him realize he’d found his calling.

“It wasn’t ‘I’m the caregiver and he’s the one receiving the care’ – it was the two of us just enjoying great summer days together,” Zoch said. “He was in a wheelchair, he could control it, and I would have my Rollerblades on. We would go all over the city to parks and various places, whether it was going out to get a bite to eat or going to the movies. I felt like I was able to help him have the best day possible, and I would notice every two weeks I’d get a check for doing it.”

Inspired by his friendship with Pierce, Zoch soon took a much more active role at the group home. In short order, he was organizing schedules and advocating for his patients.

Zoch still keeps in touch with Pierce, and even goes to visit him over the holidays when he can, he said.

After a sprawling journey from college onward, where he went across the country and tackled emergencies like hospital power outages and visits from cars riddled with bullet holes, Zoch ended up at St. Joseph Hospital.

In the coming years, Zoch hopes to expand the hospital’s offerings beyond “sick care” and further in to “health care” – making use of early diagnoses and educational programs to make sure people avoid needing major treatment in the first place.

One of the first things Zoch set to work on, though, was the “Sixty Back” effort – an attempt to free up at least a hour of time for caregivers by streamlining work through organization and new technology. What would he have them do with that extra time? Try to forge bonds, like the one that inspired him in his youth.

“What we wanted to do, is use this time to be able to know our patients. Know your co-workers and not just feel like you’re running from one place to the next,” Zoch said. “When you walk out to your car and you know the people you took care of that day and you enjoyed working with your team, and you’re on again tomorrow for 12 more hours, you want to come back – like I did with Uriah.”

By | | Orange County Register

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