Was that a compliment you just heard? Take action

Did you just overhear a patient's wife say that one of your access employees is always friendly? This simple statement gives you a big opportunity.

"Patient access employees do many great things that go simply unnoticed, which is very unfortunate," says Sandy Small, CAM, an ED registration supervisor at Moses Cone Health System-Wesley Long Campus in Greensboro, NC. "Staff, especially ED registration staff, often go unrecognized for their customer service skills."

"We have all worked in environments where the employees were not recognized regularly for accomplishments, and compliments were stingy," says Jen White, patient access supervisor atCottage Hospital in Woodsville, NH. "The negative impact it has on the overall department functionality is counter-productive. Staff become disillusioned, morale diminishes rapidly, and turnover becomes high."

Here are some strategies to "spread the good news" about a compliment:

• Actively solicit praise.

At Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, NC, patient access staff have a "Customer Service Comment" card that they place at their desk, in the hopes that a patient or family member will give them immediate feedback on how well they did during the registration process. The patient drops his or her comment card in a designated box. Comments are then tracked on a spreadsheet, which ties to the employee's annual performance review. 

"A few of our intake specialists have averaged about 100 compliments a week!" reports Joe Palumbo, CAM, CHAA, manager of patient access site administration. "Rather than wait for our monthly patient satisfaction reports, we can share the patients' comments with them as quickly as we receive them. Some patients will take the opportunity to write a letter to our senior leadership team, who in turn, recognize the co-worker."

• Spread the word.

When White is notified of any compliment directed toward her department or an individual registrar, she shares this immediately with the employee. It's also announced at the next team meeting, in front of the entire staff. "It is important to let staff know when a compliment from patients, visitors, or other staff members comes to our department," she says. "We also share this information at our monthly staff meeting for recognition of superior customer service provided among our peers."

The hospital's flyer, "The Cottage Chat," which is published for employees, includes compliments from patients, visitors, and community members. "This is a very public expression of recognition for excellent customer service or patient care. Employees read the compliments, engage with fellow co-workers, and add positive praise on a peer-to-peer level," says White. "Written compliments are also shared at the senior staff meeting, which is held weekly."

Small recognizes verbal compliments by sending out a congratulatory notice to the other staff members. "I usually go immediately to the staff member and tell them exactly what was said, but if the employee is not here, I document what was said, so that the meaning will not be lost," says Small.

She also gives the employee a "Caught Caring" card, which they can use in the gift shop, cafeteria, or cash in for movie tickets. "Our director is notified, and she sends the notice up the ladder, usually to the VP," says Small. "Both the director and the VP send a note to the employee."

When an employee receives a formal written compliment, Small adds her own comment about the employee and sends it off to human resources. These are reviewed by a committee every month, with an employee chosen to receive a certificate, a small gift, and a gift card. "The employee is placed in nomination for the employee of the month award and employee of the year award," says Small. "As supervisor, I once again send a congratulatory notice to all other members of our team and present them with a 'Caught Caring' card. Co-workers can also nominate staff for these awards."

[For more information, contact:

  • Joe Palumbo, CAM, CHAA, Manager, Patient Access Site Administration, Rex Healthcare, Raleigh, NC. Phone: (919) 784-3096. Fax: (919) 784-4536. E-mail: Joe.Palumbo@rexhealth.com.
  • Sandy Small, CAM, Supervisor, ED Registration, Moses Cone Health System-Wesley Long Campus, Greensboro, NC. Phone: (336) 832-1825. Fax: (336) 832-0266. E-mail: Sandy.Small@mosescone.com.
  • Jen White, Patient Access Supervisor,Cottage Hospital, Woodsville NH. Phone: (603) 747-9252. E-mail: jawhite@cottagehospital.org.]