Forty members of Christiana Care Health System’s front-of-house staff recently became the first graduates of the Patient Experience Academy, a novel partnership between Christiana Care and the University of Delaware’s Lerner College of Business and Economics. The program applies the hospitality industry’s best customer service practices within the hospital setting, all in the name of providing patients, their families and visitors with the best, most comfortable experience possible, starting from the moment they first walk through the doors.
“This is the first partnership of its kind between a university and a health care system, matching the university expertise with the hospital expertise to create a culture of caring,” Dr. Sheryl Kline, chair of the University of Delaware’s Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management, said during a graduation ceremony held Oct. 6 at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center.
Throughout the 10-week course, she and other University of Delaware business professors guided the learners through a curriculum that included experience-based learning, role-playing and other activities that connected hospitality and customer-service best practices directly to their work environment. The students included patient guides, Guest Services representatives, valets and other front-of-house staff.
“These key employees, who are the first and last people to see patients as they enter the hospital system, are creating a total customer service experience at Christiana Care,” Klein said.
The Patient Experience Academy represents a one-of-a-kind partnership and an important step in hard-wiring the behaviors that exemplify The Christiana Care Way.
“Patients already expect care to be perfect on the clinical side,” said Shawn R. Smith, MBA, vice president of Patient Experience. “It’s the compassionate care, which if it’s not there 100 percent by every employee, every time, that they’ll remember. You need to train the muscle that deals in emotional intelligence, especially in this setting, where we are partnering with patients and families during the most difficult times for them. Giving our employees the tools to do that, in the spirit of The Christiana Care Way, through the Patient Experience Academy, is truly a major milestone in our journey of sustained success as a health care system.”
The course is now part of the patient experience curriculum of the Value Institute Academy. Next year, Smith hopes to expand the program to involve employees in other departments at Christiana Care.
“Christiana Care has clear vision for the future,” said Julia Tindall, a Guest Services representative and a graduate of the program. “This vision includes a new, higher standard that begins with a great first impression. We are the first-impression team. Our leaders at Christiana Care have partnered with professors at the University of Delaware to educate us on what it truly means to serve and ensure every guest is treated with respect and dignity. We have been enlightened on importance of anticipating needs and going beyond them to exceed expectations. We’ve been empowered with knowledge to make a difference, to show our neighbors that we truly care, not only about their health but their whole patient experience.”