“Let us wear jeans with our uniform shirts instead of dress slacks.”
It was a simple request dropped in the UF Health Physicians Patient Access Center’s employee suggestion box, and fulfilling it was just as easy.
“But it meant a lot to our staff,” said Mary Ellen Frey, operations coordinator. “The little things make a big difference.”
Since the Access Center was established in 2011, it has consistently received a Tier One rating on the UF Health Shands Employee Engagement Survey. This year was no different — satisfaction was high and comments were glowing.
“Our goal from the beginning was to make the center a place that not only delivered outstanding care to our patients, but created an environment that staff wanted to be part of,” said Kelly Kerr, senior director. “We really try to listen to our employees and their ideas.”
Neither patients nor the public visit the Access Center, but far from being isolated, the team has developed a welcoming, family-like environment. Tasteful decorations adorn the walls, personal pictures are displayed and team members often bring baked goods or pizza to share. There’s a quiet room where employees can take a break and a prize basket is stuffed with incentives of candy and trinkets.
“I think it starts from the top — all supervisors foster a sense of teamwork through reward, recognition and praise,” said Frey. “We have a culture where everyone rallies to be patient- and team-centered.”
The annual Employee Engagement Survey is open to all UF Health Shands employees and UF employees who are members of core service departments. Leaders are encouraged to discuss survey results with their teams and implement effective processes to address areas of improvement.
The Access Center’s managers enlist an open-door policy to stay connected with employees and be actively involved in the daily routine. A robust social agenda keeps the team engaged, and a break room gives them a place to congregate, bond and laugh over lunch.
“Our employees are the key to the center’s success,” said Kerr. “They bring a wealth of ideas about how to improve, and we are always willing to listen and implement their suggestions whenever possible.”
The team of 119 handles incoming patient calls, faxes and referrals, and provides scheduling, customer service and real-time problem-solving for callers.
Kourtney Mitchum, a supervisor, received a five-star rating this year on the survey question: “The person I report to treats me with respect.” Mitchum teared up when her team presented her with congratulatory cards, each one filled with encouraging words and a $5 bill.
“My team makes my job easy,” said Mitchum. “We’re a family here.”