Pittsburgh hospitals are saying hello to professional greeters
When 28-year-old Ja’Ray Gamble began working at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital three years ago, he never expected to make such a positive impact on the lives of patients every day.
He’s not a doctor or a nurse. You won’t find him checking your heartbeat or even taking your height and weight. But as a team lead in customer service, he makes a difference with every welcoming smile and helping hand.
“It’s not just work for me. It’s the quality of work,” Gamble said. “ I greet people when they come into the hospital. I try to give them my full attention, so despite what they are there for, there is someone to make that stay a little more welcoming.”
Every day, he greets patients and families as they enter the hospital, sometimes in a stressful situation and other times during the most exciting moment in their lives — childbirth. For Gamble, this is more than just a 9 to 5. It’s real life, and he’s happy to be a part of it.
“If someone comes in and they are super excited, I’m happy with them. If they are sad, I’m sad with them. I understand those feelings,” he said.
Gamble is known for going above and beyond expectations, whether with patients or his fellow staff. He tells a story of when he walked a blind woman all the way to the bus stop and waited until she got on the correct bus before leaving her side.
“We talked and held hands the whole way,” he said. “I introduced myself so she didn’t feel like I was a random stranger. I just tried to put myself in her position. … A lot of these moments happen daily.”
Chris Vistas, director of hospitality and operations, said that he has seen a lot unfold within customer service at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital over the past few years. “Ja’Ray is definitely one of them.”
“He is a wonderful person inside and out, and displays the hospitality line first class, for patients, visitors and staff alike,” Vistas said. “He does a great job acknowledging visitors, introducing himself, explaining how he can help and walking them to their location.”
Vistas said the efforts of Gamble and other customer service team members are an integral part of the overall patient experience at the hospital, and it is a service that is being placed on a higher priority within the health care industry.
“It is a systemwide effort,” he said. “In the changing environment that we are in, it is something to have empathy in a system of healing.”
This includes Magee’s recent addition of a so-called “hospitality hotline.” It is a system comparable to room service in a hotel, offering patients assistance.
“It’s all about adding value to clinical care,” Vistas said. “We are always looking to expand and figure out how to make the patient experience better.”
The concentration on customer service can be seen across many local hospitals, including Allegheny Health Network facilities.
“It’s been a culture change,” said Jen Certo, AHN’s senior vice president of patient experience. “Everyone is a part of the patient experience. We can all affect positively and negatively. It doesn’t matter what your title is, we are all in this together to care of the patient and their families.”
Two years ago, AHN began improving patient experience by having executives sit in while front line employees complete their rounds. This allows administration to see everyday experiences from both a patient and employee perspective.
“Employees do the job every day,” said Chief Experience Officer Dr. Eugene Scioscia. “When there is a problem, we ask them. They have the best ideas and we implement it.”
Scioscia said that it is important to focus on the entire care continuum, from the time a patient schedules an appointment, to the moment they pull into the parking lot, to when they are sitting in the doctor’s office. “We want to look at the whole experience,” he said.
While there are always ways to improve, Scioscia admits there is one element at the core of quality patient experience – empathy.
“Empathy has always been the foundation for providing care in health care,” Scioscia said. “It always existed. We use our team and their experience to bring it back to the center.”
That is exactly the mindset that motivates Gamble to make a difference every day.
“I want to give people more than what they are asking for. I want to give them a personal, genuine experience. It’s not a costume or a mask. It’s about being a real person,” Gamble said.
“I could be here for a paycheck but why settle for that when it can be so much more?”