First Impressions Leave Lasting Impressions

First Impressions Leave Lasting Impressions

Blog: Angela Fieler

In training, I often say first impressions are the gift that keeps on giving. Long after you have forgotten an encounter with a patient or family member, the first impression you made may live on in a post, a tweet, or even a blog. Today, I can prove my point.

My Experience with First Impressions

I have been searching for a long-term care option for someone I love. This will be one of the most important decisions I will make for her and for me. I have been diligently evaluating all the options. I started with publicly reported data, selecting only four and five-star facilities that were within 25 miles of my home. Ten facilities met my criteria, and I called each one to ask about costs, services, and bed availability. I eliminated two simply because they didn’t accept the insurance program I was planning to use and one because they told me that it would likely be a year or more before a bed was available.

Going the Extra Mile Matters

On paper, the remaining seven were “equal,” but my experience over the phone was vastly different. In all seven cases, I was speaking to the admissions director. I had a list of questions that I thought would give me all the information I needed to decide, and I asked all seven the same questions. 

Everyone I spoke to was knowledgeable and forthcoming about the services I asked about. The difference was that four directors only answered the questions I asked. The remaining three recognized that there was a lot I clearly did not know and provided me with a wealth of information I would never have asked about. They asked me questions to make sure they understood what I needed as opposed to what I asked, and I came away from those calls thinking that these facilities would go the extra mile to meet their residents’ needs.

The Final Evaluation

I felt comfortable with those three remaining facilities and decided to visit each one unannounced. Two of the facilities were warm and welcoming right from the start. The receptionists made eye contact, smiled, introduced themselves, and asked how they could help. They called the admissions director right away and offered us refreshments, told us how long the wait would be, and gave us a comfortable place to sit.

The third facility was an entirely different story. When I approached the reception desk, the first thing I saw was two paper signs. One read “Visitors MAY NOT bring clothing items to residents. ALL clothing items MUST be turned in to reception.” The font size on that sign was at least 72. The second sign read “If you must bring food to a resident, please eat it outside.” The font was a little smaller and there were no words in bold type, so I thought perhaps this rule wasn’t as important. I wanted to ask the receptionist about what the purpose of the signs was, but she was busy filing her nails.

When I finally got her to look up, she didn’t ask how she could help me, she just looked at me with what I can only describe as a “questioning” face. I told her I would like to see the admission director. Without looking anywhere but at me, the receptionist told me that the Director was busy. No invitation to have a seat, no offer of refreshments, and no indication of how long the wait would be. I asked if it was okay to look at what was posted on the wall, which she approved, and once out of her line of sight, I wandered further down the hall.

The Final Straw

The first thing I saw were plaques on the wall for awards given in 2004 and 2007 for Best Long-Term Care in the county. Then I saw a yellowing newspaper article from 2011 where a resident was praising the rehab team. I couldn’t help but wonder what good things, if any, had been happening at the facility in the last 12 years. My next stop was a bulletin board with the month’s activity calendar for residents. Tuesday is Bingo Day, Wednesday is Wii bowling, and Thursday is Wii tennis. That’s it. No social or spiritual gatherings, no outings, nothing that I thought my loved one would participate in. 

As I was looking at the calendar, a resident wheeled herself up to a door just beyond where I was standing. She banged on the door several times and was calling out loudly for help. The receptionist never moved. Three different staff members, identified by name tags, walked by her. Two of the people never even paused, let alone acknowledge her. The third person did stop and ask what the resident needed. She said she wanted cottage cheese, and he replied, “Then you’re at the right place,” and kept walking. I would have tried to help, but she gave up her quest and moved on.

Needless to say, that clinched it for me. This was not a place that would provide the level I care I would want for anyone, let alone my loved one. I walked out with a clear conscience and am pretty sure the receptionist never realized I left.

Do you know what lasting impressions your first encounters are creating? If not, contact Baird Group about Mystery Shopping – it’s never too late to create a great first impression that will last for a long time. Contact us today at (866) 686-7672 or

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