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Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Your Patients
Treat your patients like honored guests.
Vangie Dennis
Publish Date: May 25, 2016
OR Excellence
Vangie Dennis, BSN, RN, CNOR, CMLSO Vangie Dennis,
BSN, RN, CNOR, CMLSO

Speaker Profile

  • Ms. Dennis has 42 years' nursing experience.
  • She's lectured nationally and internationally on lasers, endoscopic procedures, advanced technologies and nursing practices.
  • In 2011, she received the AORN Award for Outstanding Achievement in Perioperative Clinical Nursing Education.

Do your patients feel like honored guests or widgets whizzing by on a conveyor belt? In "What Can Surgical Facilities Learn From the Ritz Carlton and Other World-Class Corporations?" Vangie Dennis, BSN, RN, CNOR, CMLSO, director of patient care practice at the Emory Clinics ASC in Atlanta, Ga., will share thoughts on making sure your patients are satisfied enough to share good words about you in the community.

  • Customer service. We call our physicians "providers." We should see and treat patients as "our customers." Not just because their satisfaction scores will potentially affect our reimbursements, but also because it's the right thing to do. We're service providers. We're in the people business. They're choosing to come to us. We shouldn't just be about efficiency and scheduling.
  • What's your selling point? Customer service is just as important as infection prevention. If you're a patient and the best thing you can say about your surgical experience is, "I didn't get an SSI after my operation," that's not much of an endorsement. A patient-and-family-centered focus is necessary to keep your customers and attract new ones.
  • Role models. Why do people like to order from Amazon? It's a website, after all, there's no human interaction. But it's easy and convenient, there's no-hassle returns and you can shop whenever you want. We should be able to emulate that in our patient portals, to make the pre-admission process go as smoothly as possible. The Ritz Carlton is a Marriott property. But if I'm staying there, they address me as Ms. Dennis, they'll say, "How can I help you today?" or "It's my pleasure to assist you." We could do that when we're rounding with patients, or their families in the waiting room. We shouldn't just point the way, but walk them down the hall. What makes high-performance companies like Amazon or the Ritz different is that they take customer service to another level. It sounds like a clich?©, but it makes the customer feel special.
  • It doesn't cost anything to be nice. Everything's not always going to go perfectly in surgery, but the most important thing is to be able to take care of each other. Here's an example: One morning I was moving through the facility, delivering the day's orders, all business. I saw a surgeon who'd be operating that morning and asked him, "Did you get the H&P signed?" He turned to me and said, "Good morning to you, too, Vangie." I learned my lesson: Courtesy doesn't take much more than a few extra seconds.
  • Making customers your culture. Customer service requires buy-in, for sure, and I've seen resistance to it when I've started at new facilities. In health care, people are hard-wired to standards, to a certain way of treating patients. But if you're aiming to be a customer-focused organization, it's something you have to expect of all your employees. It has to be ingrained all the way down through your staff. You can have the best nurse ever, who maybe has poor social skills or difficulty interacting with your surgeons or the rest of your staff. And if you say, "She's a great nurse, but ", as soon as you say "but" you've just cancelled out everything before it. OSM

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