Every so often, I run into a service star that knocks my socks off and I just have to share. This week it was Kelly, a bright and bubbly waitress who served this bleary-eyed traveler her 6:00 a.m. coffee. I was impressed with her energy because I don’t often see much enthusiasm at that time of day. But Kelly was equally personable and attentive when she waited on our table at noon. She even offered to bring me some honey, remembering that I had a cold and had requested it in the morning. But what really impressed me was when, at 8:30 p.m., my room service arrived and was delivered by–who else but–Kelly! Smiling and positive, she delivered my meal to my room, made small talk, and asked how I was feeling. After a bit of probing, I learned that she had arrived at 5:30 that morning and would work until 11:00 that night. When I commented how that was a long stretch to work, she didn’t offer any additional information about why she was working such a long day. Did staff call in sick? Was she training for a food service marathon? Was this some weird waitress initiation or hazing? All she offered was, “I really enjoy my work. I meet so many interesting guests.”
Wouldn’t it be great if every person on your team was as consistently kind, considerate, and enthusiastic as Kelly? Even if they were working a double shift? What if no one ever complained in front of patients that they were working short handed or that someone had called in sick? Unfortunately, many healthcare staff openly complain to patients and family members about working long hours or being short staffed. Although it’s often necessary to work overtime, telling the patients and family members about staffing woes does little to instill the trust and confidence that the patient needs to have in his care team. In fact, when staff complain about being short handed, patients are more likely to get nervous about the attention being paid to them. They’re more likely to hit the call light and to keep a watchful eye on how long it takes for someone to respond.
What I learned from Kelly is that her 8:30 p.m. customers get the same level of attention and energy that the 6:00 a.m. customers get. She didn’t need to tell me that she enjoyed her job. That was obvious. If I could bottle that up and distribute it throughout healthcare settings, I would. Oatmeal and coffee: $8.00. Soup and Salad: $12.50. A positive staff member who makes her work a joy: priceless.