Every role in the delivery of care has a mission – from those who help our patients heal, to those who feed and nourish them or keep our facilities safe and free from infection.


Of all the ways we serve, it’s easy to overlook the vital role support services has in the delivery of care, and how it can truly be a tipping point in creating and maintaining a culture of hospitality.


When we talk about excellence in hospitality, companies such as Chick-fil-A or Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts can come to mind. These are organizations that have built a reputation for delivering high-quality support services and customer service time and time again.


In healthcare, we are dealing with a range of people who depend on us. That includes patients, their families, hospital visitors, and of course our fellow employees – nurses, doctors and clinicians. All of these interactions are crucial in fostering an atmosphere of hospitality.


A patient can be “touched” by 25 different people during their stay at our facilities, meaning they will have dozens of points of contact from admission, to surgery, to post-operative care, discharge and follow up.


It goes without saying that we should all be providing the highest level of hospitality to the patients we are privileged to serve.


But when we talk about the important role of support services, we also includeeveryone else around us within the facility. Our co-workers who interact with our guests, the doctors and nurses who -- day in and day out -- provide care for vulnerable patients.


All of these important caregivers contribute to a culture of hospitality. That’s why it’s imperative that, as support services professionals,we are engaged, educated and ready to go. Everyday we need to be positive and supportive and level up those around us whom we interact with.


Our associates need to be secure that if they go the extra mile, and take time away from their duties to help a patient in need to make sure they are cared for, they won’t have a fear of reprimand.


It’s all about the interactions we share – saying those important phrases like please, thank you and my pleasure – and the actions we take that keep a culture of hospitality alive. Helping a lost patient find their destination or comforting someone who might seem distraught.


A hospital is like a little city, where we’re all serving the patients, but also interacting with each other. That’s where our culture is so important: How do we treat the physician’s in the doctor’s lounge? How do we treat the EVS worker in the patient room? Through respect and mutual dignity,a positive culture is truly manifested.


When a culture of hospitality is present, it’s easily noticeable to visitors and staff alike. The culture is shining. It’s like going on vacation and staying at a Four Seasons; the vibe is there. You can truly feel the difference inside a hospitable organization.


In a hospital, you can feel the difference just walking down the hall, when employees are engaged and keep hospitality top of mind. Whether a coworker or a guest, employees follow the 10-second rule;they get close and say “good morning” and make eye contact.


Hospitality is based on simple things, but when you start adding them all up, it creates and maintains that positive culture.


It starts with modeling this behavior in your hospital or health system. If the CEO walks down the hallway and doesn’t acknowledge other associates, only saying “hello” to the doctors but not to the EVS worker, that’s an issue.


You have to not only provide education and training for your staff, but as a leader, you must also “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.”


When you have leadership who truly does this and puts it into action, it becomes infectious across the entire organization. Encourageparticipation through incentive programs – awards, recognitions or prizes – that will instill a desire for staff to employ and maintain a high level of hospitality.


When you’ve made a culture of hospitality a priority in your facilities, it will be a differentiator for your organization. Your hospital will be known as the “nice hospital” in the community. Patients will tell their family and friends about their welcoming experience and word will spread.


And it’s important that this culture of hospitality be implemented across all points of access for visitors and employees equally.


One of the most crucial points of access is your Emergency Department. Many organizations call the ED your “front door.” It’s a revolving door of patients, visitors and relatives who are at their most emotionally and physically vulnerable. Organizations need those hospitable and empathetic associates in these ED roles, lending a sympathetic ear during long wait times, catering to patient’s needs and providing support.


As someone who has worked across multiple health systems in a variety of support services and leadership roles, I’ve seen this work firsthand. In nearly 30 years, I have served as a dietician and a chef, a department director and regional leader. When hospitality is kept top of mind in an organization, all caregivers shine.


A happy nurse means a happy patient. A happy EVS worker means a cleaner room. A happy cook means better meals and a welcoming cafeteria.


Any worker, if they come to work and feel secure in a positive environment, will naturally be more hospitable, which in turn boosts patient satisfaction.


When patient satisfaction goes up, care goes up, which increases productivity, profitability and reimbursements. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.


With a culture of hospitality in place, as the water rises, so does the boat.


Support services, if done right, will become engrained in the DNA of the hospital and, in turn, have a positive effect on every interaction within the organization.