January 10, 1997

Service to patients, families goal of VUH Welcome Center

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Guest services representative JoGale Ray (right) assists patient Joyce Seagraves in the Welcome Center area at the entrance to Vanderbilt University Hospital.

Service to patients, families goal of VUH Welcome Center

The drive-through entrance to Vanderbilt University Hospital has undergone some changes during the past several weeks, transforming from a patient drop-off point to a Welcome Center.

Occupying the hospital's main entrance, lobby and second- and third-floor waiting areas, the new Welcome Center was created to put patients and their families first.

In an effort to create a service-oriented atmosphere, much like a hotel, guest services representatives will greet arriving patients and guests and help to answer questions and solve any problems that might arise.

Some of the services provided include greeting patients and guests, coordinating traffic flow, valet parking, luggage handling assistance, wheelchair assistance, free coffee for waiting families, providing pillows and blankets for overnight stays and arranging transportation services.

The goal of the new Welcome Center is to make checking into the hospital easier for patients and their families. The new atmosphere is meant to make everyone feel a little more at home.

Though in operation only a few weeks, the Welcome Center is already proving to be a success for patients and families.

After being helped by a guest service representative, one patient posed this question on a comment card: "Is it a requirement that someone be nice before they are hired at Vanderbilt?"

Many staff have also said that it seems much less chaotic in the hospital lobby. One of the reasons for the reduction in noise and people is the recent separation of the day surgery waiting area and the Surgical Intensive Care waiting area.

The SICU waiting area is still located on the second floor overlooking the lobby, while the day surgery waiting area is now placed on the right side of the lobby as one walks in the front entrance.

To make the services provided by the Welcome Center cost-effective, several VUMC departments donated leftover money from their budgets from positions that were no longer needed.

Environmental Services, for instance, not only budgeted some money to go to the Welcome Center but also now provides a full-time employee for the sole purpose of keeping the VUH lobby area clean, said Jean Gauld-Jaeger, director of Patient Affairs.

A cooperative effort by Patient Transportation, Environmental Services, Linen Services and Operative Services made the current Welcome Center possible.

"The major change has been with the greeters out front who help the patients and guests unload their luggage, take them in a wheelchair wherever they need to go, and then help them load their luggage up again when they have been discharged," said Gauld-Jaeger.

Since many people coming to the hospital are from out of town, guest services representatives are also able to provide people with transportation to nearby hotels. Easing the burden of finding hotels and transportation allows guests to spend more time attending to the patients they are visiting.

"Having someone else park my car let me spend that time with my husband who was having surgery," another patient wrote on a comment card. "That really doesn't seem like that much time, but when you have a family member who is sick it really helps."