I needed nails. Actually, I needed 3-inch nails with a flat head. So I went to a big hardware store one night. When I walked in, there was an old-fashioned popcorn cart filled with popcorn. Three store workers stood by the cart selling the popcorn. One of the workers was wearing a red apron with the store’s logo. I asked one of the workers where I would find 3-inch nails with a flat head.
“Aisle 16 on the right-hand side,” said the worker
As I walked to aisle 16, I wondered how I would determine which was the right-hand side. Obviously, depending on how I entered the aisle, would determine which is the right-hand side.
I arrived at aisle 16. The aisle was filled with countless bins of nails, screws, and bolts in all shapes and sizes. I could not see any logic behind how they were sorted. There were just too many of them. I looked at the right-hand side and the left-hand side. I couldn’t find the nails that I was looking for. I decided to return to the people in front of the store.
I went back to the popcorn cart. There I found the same three people as before. I must explain that it was not busy at the popcorn cart. There were no customers buying popcorn— actually, there were hardly any people in the entire store. The three people were just standing around. I repeated my request from before.
“Hi, I’m looking for 3-inch nails with a flat head”, I stated.
The red-aproned worker replied, “Aisle 16 on the right-hand side.”
“I just came from aisle 16,” I said, “I couldn’t find them.”
“They’re right there,” he replied, “In a blue bin.”
I paused. I looked right at him and said, “Every bin in aisle 16 is blue!! Could someone come with me and show me where I might find the nails?”
The worker in the red apron responded, “We really can’t leave the cart right now. Maybe in about fifteen minutes.”
I nodded. I didn’t think the store needed three workers to guard the popcorn cart. Especially since the store was in the business of selling hardware materials— not popcorn. I walked out of the store.
Volunteering In My Hospital
I’m retired. I decided to volunteer to work in one of my former hospitals. I really liked working in this hospital. I knew the staff, the procedures, and the layout of the building.
It took about six weeks to become a volunteer in my hospital. I needed to fill out an application, meet my vaccine and PPD requirements, and attend an orientation class. I worked as a pharmacy manager for eleven years in the hospital. I thought it was silly that I needed an orientation class. But it was one of the requirements. So I took the class.
I didn’t want a volunteer position of 30-40 hours. Thus, I decided to volunteer two days a week, five hours a day. I was also able to select in what department I wanted to volunteer.
I didn’t want to volunteer to work in the pharmacy department. As I said, I was employed by this hospital for eleven years. I wanted something easy. I didn’t need the stress and aggravation of working in the pharmacy department. Even if I wasn’t in-charged.
I chose the information desk as my volunteer assignment for a couple of reasons:
- I’m a people person. The information desk allowed me to interact and help visitors get to where they needed to go.
- I’m familiar with the overall layout of the facility. I knew the location of all the departments and units.
Screening For Covid
I enjoyed working at the information desk. As I said, it gave me a chance to interact with people. While working there I had two major tasks.
The first was to help visitors get where they needed to go. Visitors could either get a pass to go see a patient or direct them to a given office or department.
My second task involved the Covid screening. Unfortunately, the world was in the midst of a pandemic. My hospital performed the Covid screening for every visitor, every day, every time. The information was gathered on a laptop. I asked the visitors for their first and last names. I entered whether they had the vaccine or not. I asked them if anyone in their household had Covid in the last 14 days. I asked them if they had any Covid symptoms
For the most part, the Covid screening cleared the visitors. Thus, they were allowed to obtain a visitor pass to see a patient.
I was baffled by the Covid screening process. Originally, I was told that the data was being downloaded every night. Then, it was sent to someone in Trenton, NJ (the state capital), where it was reviewed on a regular basis. I didn’t think this was happening
After a few months, the story changed. The data collected each day was now being downloaded and examined by a hospital official. I was certain that this wasn’t happening either.
So what happened to the data that I and others collected and entered into the laptops? I’m convinced— absolutely nothing!! We’re doing it for each visitor— for each and every time. And the data wasn’t being used for anything! What’s more, I’m sure that no one was even looking at it!! Oh well. At least it gave me something to do.
It took about a year, but they finally discontinued the Covid screening process.
Visiting My Hospital
Many people came into my hospital to visit a patient. These people joined a line near the information desk. When it was their turn, they approached an information desk worker and were issued a pass to visit a patient.
There were many people who came to my hospital. Some wanted to visit a patient. But others had an appointment with a doctor or at one of the clinics. Others needed to be admitted. While others had to go to one of the nearby sites affiliated with the hospital.
These people did not have to go to the information desk in order to get where they needed to go. But they did go to the information desk. Why? Mainly because they didn’t know where they were going and there was no one to ask. So they entered through the main lobby, waited in the visitors’ line, and eventually approached an information desk worker. It was at this point that these people found that they wasted their time standing in line. Especially when they were directed somewhere else by the information desk worker.
This situation caused a lot of annoyance for both the visitor and the information worker. It frustrated the visitor by making them wait in line— only to be sent somewhere else. It irritated the information desk workers because it created long and unnecessary lines.
I came up with a solution that would make both parties happy.
Forming A Concierge Team
My idea was to assemble a knowledgeable team, who would manage a concierge desk. The desk was situated on the first floor of the main lobby, at the base of the escalator. The information desk was on the second floor of the main lobby at the top of the escalator. When a visitor entered the hospital they were greeted by a concierge worker. The visitor was asked if they were there for an appointment or to visit a patient.
If they were there to visit a patient, they were directed to the information desk. There, they would get a pass and written directions to the nursing unit in order to visit their patient. If the visitor was there for an appointment, they were asked if they knew where they needed to go. If the answer was “yes” they were permitted to proceed to that area.
If they did not know where their appointment was located, a member of the concierge team would walk them to the proper location. My concierge team and I escorted visitors to the correct areas all throughout the hospital.
Many visitors were very appreciative of this idea. They thought it was wonderful that they were being escorted to where they needed to go. If not for my idea, people would have wandered aimlessly around the hospital in search of the right department. Now a concierge worker brought them directly to where they needed to be. People marveled at this concept.
I marveled at this concept. Think about this. Nobody does this. Many times I go into a department store searching for a particular item. When I ask for help, I’m told to go to the back of the store. Then I’ll find what I’m looking for on the rack opposite the children’s department.
It’s the same thing in my local library. The librarian, who is behind the plexiglass, says that the book I’m looking for is on the non-fiction racks between GRA and HED.
Why is this acceptable?
It’s not even a question of these workers being too busy. The department store worker could have easily left her post in order to help me. The librarian could have stepped away from her desk to help me. But they don’t.
But I do. When I’m volunteering in my hospital, my concierge team and I always walk people to their area. We constantly help them find what they were looking for. The data collected, which supports my idea, is off the charts. The lines that were clogged with people at the information desk are non-existent. But regardless of these wonderful things, there are better indicators of the success of my idea. These are the happiness of the information desk workers and the true appreciation of the visitors when they are brought to the correct designation.
Embracing My Idea
My hospital hasn’t embraced my idea quite yet. I don’t think they realize what they got.
Several months ago, my girlfriend and I went to another hospital. I was the patient and had to go for a procedure at a specific department within the facility. When we walked into the lobby, we must have looked confused as we tried to determine our whereabouts. At that point, a doctor walked up to us. He asked us where we needed to go. We told him. He smiled and told us to follow him.
We followed the doctor down the hall, up the elevator, and down the corridor to the department. He walked us right up to the front desk, where a nurse was sitting. She took my name and assured us that we were in the correct place.
We were most appreciative of the doctor. We thanked him for walking us to the right department. Why isn’t this the norm?
Daniel Shifrin, R.P., M.S. is a recently retired pharmacist who enjoys sharing his insights about hospital pharmacy. He is proud to own one of the largest collections of Pharmacy Stamp First Day Covers.