Elkhorn, NE: Jack Vetter: A Commitment to Quality Life and Quality Care

Reprinted with Permission: Merrymakers “noteworthy Spring 2015” Publication.

Jack      A conversation with Vetter Health Services founder and owner, Jack Vetter, always comes back to his insistence on one word: Quality.

That baseline standard has a way of dictating how he approaches the 33 senior care and post-acute rehabilitation facilities his company owns and operates and it strongly influences the baseline principles for his business.  His company’s mission statement is only three words: “Dignity in Life”, yet it reverberates down all levels of the company.  The other word he stresses is “relationships”.  It is also part of his core belief that by building strong connections and relationships, the overall health and happiness of staff and clients will be impacted in a good way.

Vetter Health Services is now celebrating 40 years in the profession, founded in 1975 by Jack and wife Eldora’s first facility in Fairbury, Nebraska. Eldora is now retired from the industry business, but she shared Jack’s commitment to the business as the day-to-day bookkeeper for nearly 30 years (she still keeps the books for their corn, soy and beef operation in the Ainsworth area). Jack’s entry into the industry long term care profession started even earlier when a friend asked him to leave the feed mill and fertilizer plant to become a nursing home administrator. “Back then, you didn’t need a license, so I interviewed,” he said. His career path was set. “I like the elderly a lot, and I thought caring for them it could be financially successful if it was done right. I’ve always had the desire to make sure we provide quality care, and a quality of life for the residents. That’s always been there.” A visit to any of the Vetter Health facilities or a chat with any employee team member will echo that concept.

Jack Vetter has seen the health systems industry care profession change over the years from a time when there was little or no regulation and health planning in place to a time when regulations started in the mid 70s. He sees the regulations overall as being a good thing for the industry profession-if not a little frustrating at times. He adds with some pride that they helped set the standard in the state for quality. “We do what we say we’ll do, and people know that. If you’ve been in the facilities, you can see that,” he said. He has also witnessed the landscape change over the years to see more turnover: large companies buying up facilities in the region, but not maintain or improve them. He sees their motivation being only a return on their investment. Asked if he thought his Sand Hills rearing affected his approach to business, he paused. “I think my life’s plan was to be in this business. I think God shined on it and helped me make it happen.”

Vetter’s knowledge of Merrymakers goes back to its earliest days in the late 1980s, when founder Jim Johnson was the sole musician trying to get to facilities in Blair, NE and the Omaha metro. Jack was one of the earliest Merrymakers board members, but he resigned when he saw potential conflicts of interest stemming from his ownership of retirement facilities. Nevertheless, he has continued to sponsor Merrymakers in a number of his facilities over the years, and has kept a close eye on the organization’s growth. “I think Merry makers is the best. I think they’re just awesome. They bring quality from the music they sing to the interaction with the residents. I’m proud of them and glad they’re there. I’m glad I was there in the beginning.” He confesses that he is not all that musical, but sees the value it brings to his residents. “It’s a wise decision to make a donation to Merrymakers,” he said.

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