WANTED: One "Hand Holder" for Patient Care and Manicures

If you happen to be peeking into patient rooms at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center and notice a patient waving her hands, have no worries. Most likely, it means that a Phelps Hospitality Services Representative has stopped by recently to polish her nails.

"Nail polishing isn’t specifically listed in the Hospitality Services Patient Rep’s job description, but our Hospitality Reps know how uplifting that type of special attention is for their patients," states Richard Schmidt, Director, Food, Nutrition and Hospitality Services. "Our goal is to achieve overall increased patient satisfaction. Hospitality goes beyond fancy food and decor. Patients need people to help them with hour-to-hour challenges and to let them know that someone will make sure that all of their needs and concerns will be addressed quickly. Our program cycles staff to visit patients often, providing just that."

The program, which began in August 2005, is modeled after a South Carolina program that was observed by an Administrative group from Phelps. A training manual and orientation program was designed, job descriptions devised, and a staff of twelve now traverses patient rooms, visiting patients a minimum of twenty times each day. Caring representatives refill water pitchers, serve meals, open containers, let patients know who the head nurse is, answer call bells, help patients get comfortable, keep an eye out for patients prone to falling, document fluid intake and check to see that patients who are not supposed to be eating are not served food or water. And when they find a spare moment, it is not unusual to see these reps playing a quick hand of cards or polishing a patient’s nails. While the Hospitality Services Representatives do not empty bedpans or feed or bathe patients, they are instrumental in helping track food intake and helping patients address issues and challenges that come up.

"Since the program began, approximately 2,200 call bells are answered each month by the hospitality reps," explained Schmidt. "That frees up nurses and techs and gives the patients a contact person to help them with simple tasks like turning on their television, or more involved ones like helping them get in touch with physicians or family."

The results of over two hundred surveys revealed a 98 percent patient satisfaction score, evidence to support further expansion of the program. Enthusiastic letters and phone calls began pouring in to the hospital after the program was introduced.

One of the nurses on the night shift wrote, "…I just want to tell you about the wonderful job that those Hospitality Aides are doing. There’s a little old lady ‚Äî she’s a respite [patient] and just heard [that she is going to a nursing home]. Between the fussing and the caring the hospitality reps are giving her, this woman is glowing . . ."

And from a patient: "…I felt as if I were the most important patient there, with the complete security that all of my needs would be taken care of…"

For more information on the Hospitality Services program at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center, contact 914-366-3369.

Phelps Memorial Hospital Center is a 235-bed community hospital with 450 medical staff, representing 34 clinical specialties. Phelps is the exclusive Westchester satellite for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a clinical affiliate of Mount Sinai Hospital, and a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System.

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About the Author: Mary Sernatinger