09:23 AM

Elevating the Experience: ‘Be the reason someone smiles today’


When was the last time you know you made someone smile? What about a time when something or someone else caused you to smile and you told them so? How did it make you feel? Share your experience with internalcommunications@cookchildrens.org. We might share your story with the rest of the Cook Children’s family.   

By Linda Goelzer, APR

Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including isolation, long hours and staffing shortages, made smiles seem like they were another victim of supply chain issues at the Richland Hills Neighborhood Clinic (NHC).

In late 2021, the team’s patience for patients and each other became limited at times.

“Their scores on the survey questions about ‘likelihood to recommend’ and ‘clerk/receptionist courtesy’ were not looking strong. I knew we wanted to and could do better,” said Shelly Rosenberry, practice manager at Richland Hills NHC.

To jumpstart a new year in 2022, Rosenberry reached out to Missy Staben, director of Experience Elevation for Cook Children’s Health Care System, to find a fix.

“Shelly came to me and said, ‘I want this group to shine as individuals and as a team,’” Missy said. “She envisioned a project that would lift up each other, in addition to the patients and families.

“Brainstorming for a project that would work for the Richland Hills NHC team started with parameters around the experience for the team and patient, behaviors to increase human connections, positive team recognition, and objective measurement. Additionally, creating a project with frontline staff involvement was crucial to its success.”

When the clinic’s practice administrator, Maricela Ramos, got involved, Missy said it was the first patient experience project involving both the manager and an administrator.

“Our staff was challenged to meet the needs of our patient families and each other, even at our most vulnerable position,” Ramos said. “It was a true testing of the ability to provide excellent customer service amid staff shortages and at times we were not completely successful.”

Designing the Project

be the reason someone smiles todayRosenberry wanted the team’s input on her theme idea, which she called ‘Be the reason someone smiles today.’

“[The staff] gave her the input she sought and agreed on activities for improvement and measurements of success,” said Rosenberry. “I displayed a poster with our theme headline in a location where it was visible to the team as they went about their work. They could see how everyone was doing as comments were posted.”

Rosenberry’s team challenged each other to notice when a teammate did or said something that made a teammate or patient/family member smile. The process was to write a note on the poster to the teammate who generated the smiles, then take a flower cutout from the designated jar and place it on the poster for others to notice the new comment.

At the end of the quarter, if the team’s ‘likelihood to recommend’ scores improved by 2-3%, they would celebrate with a pizza party. At the party, managers would reveal the name of the person who received the most comments on the poster. That person’s reward would be a gift basket from the doctors (their idea!) and the privilege of using the Employee of the Month parking spot.  

As a daily reminder of their goals, Rosenberry supplied each person with a sticker of a smiley face and the project’s theme statement, to place near their computer. Another team-building exercise Rosenberry added to her routine is the ‘10-second Start.’ On the mornings that began with a huddle, she included sharing a brief positive comment – a patient family compliment, a motivational quote, or even a team member’s words of gratitude.

Rosenberry admits that in the beginning she had to push the project activities a bit. One day she brought in s’mores for the staff with a note, “Give out s’more smiles today.” Instead of focusing on problems, the team learned to notice what others did to support them and their patients. Building trust and a positive culture takes many little steps that pay off in big ways for patient families and each other.  

What Was The Result?

The team at the Richland Hills NHC smiled their way into improved patient satisfaction. The scores for ‘likelihood to recommend’ increased 3% and those for ‘clerk/receptionist courtesy’ increased 16%. The results have them believing in the power of a positive attitude and intentional encouragement toward others. The Q2 theme has been “Kindness is uplifting. Lift someone up today.” The staff ‘filled up’ balloons with their comments to each other and placed them on the poster. 

Who Won The Prize? 

Nancy BrunoOh, do you want to know who received the most comments during the Q1 project? It was Nancy Bruno, medical assistant at Richland Hills NHC; and when Rosenberry announced Nancy’s name, the team ‘exploded.’ It is not surprising, given that Nancy was an early adopter of the program, posting acknowledgments about others on kick-off day.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was happy and excited,” Nancy Bruno said. “Our workplace feels different since we started the project. We work better together as a team and we acknowledge each individual’s hard work.”

How does Nancy think the project has affected the team’s relationships with the clinic’s care providers – the doctors and nurse practitioners?

“It’s improved our being able to communicate better and have fun together. The doctors [also] notice more the work everyone has put in,” she said.

“The team is proud of their success and even more pleased with the amazing experience the process created for them. The story can be a template for the rest of us,” said Shelly Rosenberry.

If you are interested in a project like this one to improve the team and patient experience at your location, reach out to missy.staben@cookchildrens.org or victoria.valek@cookchildrens.org.