Do you know what access staff really want?

Employees appreciate being thanked

Would you be surprised to learn that what your staff members really want is to be given the opportunity to do additional tasks outside their normal work responsibilities?

That is what Desember Brucker, manager of ambulatory registration services at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, learned after soliciting feedback from her staff.

“Unfortunately, it was typically those staff that were very vocal about wanting other tasks that I automatically went to when something was available,” she explains. “That left others out of the opportunity.”

Brucker responded by inviting her team to give their own presentations at upcoming staff meetings. “I’ve had staff do additional training on financial assistance, Medicaid eligibility screening, and accessing registration information on our internal website,” she says.

Other patient access employees volunteered to report in the monthly newsletter on activities they’re involved in outside of the department, such as the union’s mediation program and the hospital’s Cultural Advocacy Team. “We also have a featured employee section every month to get to know a little more about someone on our team,” says Brucker. “In addition, we usually have a restaurant review that is written by one of the staff every month.”

More interaction needed

“We have tried to assess staff satisfaction in a multitude of ways, including organizational surveys,” says Brucker. Here are some things she’s learned from surveys and one-on-one meetings:

• Staff members also wanted to get to know each other better.

“The feedback that we received was that staff got to know the individuals who were seated near them fairly well, but didn’t know staff on the other end of the room,” she says.

Staff meetings are now started with an “ice breaker” activity, such as “Two Truths and a Lie.” “Each staff person tells two truths about themselves and one lie. Then we try to guess which one is the lie,” says Brucker. “It’s sometimes very surprising!”

Some patient access employees participate in activities together outside of work, such as a Heart & Stroke Walk, and Brucker is looking into other volunteer activities her staff can do as a group. “We also try to vary the participants in small group meetings so that it is not always the same staff in each meeting,” she says.

• Staff wanted more interaction from Brucker as a manager.

“This had the largest impact on me,” she says. “It’s easy to get caught up in all of the tasks that need to be completed in any given day, but our people are our greatest asset.”

Brucker now meets with patient access employees one-on-one each month to obtain their feedback. “Interest in additional tasks is one of the things that comes up frequently in my one-on-one meetings,” she says. “It also gives me the opportunity to talk about suggestions for improvements in more detail or any issues that staff may be having.”

• Staff members wanted to be thanked for their work.

In response to hearing this from many of her registrars, Brucker made these changes:

• She now begins monthly staff meetings reading thank-yous that have been received from patients during the previous month.

• She hung a bulletin board in the department just to post thank-you notes from patients.

• She created a special section in the department’s monthly newsletter that thanks specific staff members.

• She sends thank-you emails or handwritten notes to recognize individual efforts of employees.

“I’ve thanked staff for a variety of things, including jumping in and taking care of a task for me, working overtime, helping another staff member with work, and dealing with a difficult situation well,” says Brucker. (See related story, Patients can give you service advice, on obtaining feedback from patients on customer service.)


For more information on obtaining input from patient access employees, contact:

Desember Brucker, Manager, Ambulatory Registration Services, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland. Phone: (503) 418-2376. Email: