Volunteers play a vital role in hospitals all over the country and the world. They contribute millions of hours of service that supplement what can be offered to patients and the community. In fact, volunteers often provide services that would not exist without their time and talent.
As important as volunteers are to hospital operations, many of their roles are public-facing and often shape the first impression of the organization. Information desks, registration areas, waiting rooms, and transport services often include volunteers. In terms of the patient experience, the organization must own the entire experience whether or not the interaction is with paid employees or volunteers. The problem is that many hospitals are hesitant to put too many expectations or parameters on the volunteers because they are so graciously volunteering their time.
This really came to light for me last week when I was being admitted for outpatient surgery. The volunteer was hands-down the best I’ve seen in his role. He was our first impression of the hospital and is the poster boy for what needs to happen. He was welcoming, knowledgeable, and efficient in orienting us to the surgical waiting area, the update board, and the flow of events. But the real mark of excellence came when he dropped me off at my room. His parting words were, “They’re going to take really good care of you.”
Wow. Isn’t this what it’s all about? Shouldn’t every interaction with patients and families instill confidence and calm? When my husband heard this parting remark, he turned to me and just said, “Wow. He’s good.” He isn’t just good, he’s excellent, which proves to me that healthcare leaders can and should set the bar high for all patient encounters without exception. There should be no disclaimers or covert excuse-making that, “She’s just a volunteer.”
Set the bar, define the standards, then select and train to preserve the brand experience in every encounter. Your reputation depends on it.