Jefferson Hospital Balloon Lady—Everyone is a Caregiver

Updated on September 7, 2019
Sandy Anderson, “The Balloon Lady” at Allegheny Health Network’s Jefferson Hospital

By Grace Zarnas-Hoyer

At Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Jefferson Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, the dining team is leading the patient experience by helping to increase patient satisfaction scores!  How are they doing it?  Cura, the dining services provider that manages the food at Jefferson, is aligning their goals with the goals of AHN’s Operations Excellence, a program that promotes everyday team members who take extra special initiatives to enhance the overall patient experience!   

According to Chris Denne, Cura patient services manager, we have experienced a dramatic increase in Press Ganey scores, which is a leading provider in patient measurement. “We conduct daily huddles with our dining team where we share and review our patient services scores.  We will ask our team members about their challenges, and what we can do to help them to be successful.”

Denne and Cura General Manager of Dining Services Emily Guidash, are following AHN’s five pillars of Operations Excellence which are: Safety, Quality, Patient Experience, Efficiency and Human Development. 

Denne states that safety, for example, is creating the safest environments in the kitchen.  While quality relates to food quality – so examples are ensuring proper food temperatures or that the chicken is tender and not dry when served to the patient.   

The Patience Experience is linked to how well we train our staff.  “Training is not just learning to be excellent dining servers, but how our servers communicate, connect with the patients and reinforce what we do best, like preparing our food from scratch.  Simply asking ‘was the coffee hot enough for you?’ demonstrates to patients that we care about their dining experience and generates positive feedback from them. 

Our servers are also trained to be efficient with their patients.   For example, educating patients on how to use the hand wipes that are placed on their dining tray.    Although it might sound trivial, training patients to help keep their hands clean can prevent the biggest threat of illness from hand to mouth,” says Denne.

Human development and AHN’s motto “just do it improvement” has resonated with Cura team members like “Sandy” Cassandra Anderson, a dishwasher, who came early into work one day to visit the gift shop to purchase balloons with her own money and personally delivered them to patients who don’t have family members to visit them or had been struggling.  The Cura team rallied around Sandy’s “just do it improvement” by placing containers in the café and gift shop labeled “Change for Change” so hospital guests and staff can place their loose change in the containers for the purchase of the balloons.   

In addition to making sure the dishes are clean for her patients, Sandy delivers smiles with just a balloon, a simple innovation that demonstrates EVERYONE is a caregiver.

“Our roles might be different, but we are all care givers trying to make our patients stay a more pleasurable experience,” says Ms. Guidash.

Jefferson Hospital has also honored Cura Team Members…

Congratulations to Cura team members at Jefferson Hospital Jovane Stephens, dining assistant and Amanda Shearer, supervisor, recipients of the Recognize and Acknowledge Valued Employees (RAVE) awards!  RAVE is an Allegheny Health Network (AHN) award that honors employees who provide exemplary care or service to patient, a patient’s relative, friend or a fellow employee.   This is the first time that non-AHN employees received the awards…we are so proud they went to Cura team members!

Here are their stories…

Jovane joined Cura at Jefferson Hospital in July 2016.

For above and beyond service.  I had a test which caused me to miss breakfast.  When I returned, ‘G’ called my room and asked if a bagel was delivered.  When I said no, he promptly took my order and had an early lunch tray delivered.  This really had an impact on me and my stay.  Every time he comes to the floor, he is upbeat and positive.  He is truly a model employee.” – A Patient.

Amanda Shearer has been employed with Cura at Jefferson Hospital since November 2014. 

A patient was transferred to hospice care on Friday.  I had the patient Saturday until he passed on Sunday.  His wife would not leave his side and their only daughter had to leave town.  I ordered a palliative care tray and Amanda checked with her over the weekend to be sure she was fed for each meal.  Thanks to her for being a shining example of our Core Values of Patients and Family First.”  — A Unit Nurse.

Marrissa Howell, dining assistant with Cura at Jefferson Hospital.  Marrissa was nominated by a co-worker for going above and beyond during the co-worker’s training period, helping her to become successful in her new role!

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