During this summer "break" from school, I have come to realize how appreciative our patients are. I have the best days only because I am lucky enough to hear the praise of our patients about the staff at our facility. Even on the most difficult of days, where a patient calls to ask (again) why haven't I tried ultrasound and pelvic traction to relieve her pain (and yes, she is Medicare), the majority of patients are satisfied that we have tried all efforts to restore their function, and served as their mental health counselors at the same time. (Which by the way, we certainly are not; but we listen to them because we are able to spend time with our patients).
On one day in particular, as many as eight people approached me to make known their appreciation for the kindness, compassion, knowledge and skill the physical therapy staff bestowed upon them. Lifestyle changes are recommended to most, if not all of our patients in one form or another. This, of course, is difficult for many patients to swallow, so keeping our customers satisfied with the care they are getting is imperative to continue their quest for good health.
Customer service -- where do we start, and how do we recognize it before a complaint is made. Perhaps it's the fact that patients enjoy the free coffee as they wait for their therapist. Or perhaps it's the friendships that are made in the lobby, as many patients try to come at the same time each day they are scheduled. Could it be the television in the lobby, or the magazines and educational material made available to them?
This week I decided to listen in on a few conversations between patients in the lobby, and this is what I found: Customers absolutely love the free coffee, and when they want tea, "all I have to do is ask." Customers enjoy watching the television, but when the lobby gets loud, having the caption option on helps (although the older customers may be unable to read the small print).
When the lobby gets loud, that usually means it's after 3 pm, when all the pediatric patients come in (which can serve as entertainment for the older folks). One thing we have learned is that pediatric patients and the elderly don't always mix well, so as much as we have tried to separate these groups, it continues to be a struggle.
One of the most heartwarming stories I personally have heard happened yesterday, from a previous patient and her husband who are elderly. She was with us for a total of approximately two months after having each knee replaced. They are now members of our community fitness center (which happens to be in the same building). They can be found walking in the rehab door at the same time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. After a prolonged hug from her, I mentioned I am quite impressed at their dedication to the routine. They quickly let me know that they come at this specific time on those days because they get to see a 13-year-old Down 's syndrome patient who is scheduled and usually waiting for his speech and occupational therapy appointments, which then motivates them to continue their routine in the gym.
So I have come to the conclusion that friendships abound in the lobby and the rehab gym. Upon walking through the gym, I continue to recognize previous patients who not only are familiar with each other, but come to work out together after rehabilitation ceases. All of this activity makes it worth the conscious effort to continue to provide the best customer service. I think it's rubbing off on our patients, sort of like "paying if forward," building friendships and a better lifestyle for all.