Beck and Call

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

When Sue Smith, patient care supervisor in the birth center at St. Francis Hospital in Milwaukee, was making preparations to get married, she had someone at work to rely upon to make many of her wedding arrangements.
Smith works long hours that often vary from day to day, and she is not able to sneak off the job to attend to personal business. So she wasn’t able to spend time during business hours to make calls and arrangements for her pending nuptials.
Luckily for her, St. Francis Hospital has a program designed to help its busy health care workers.
St. Francis Hospital is the first hospital in Wisconsin to hire its own concierge service, designed to serve both patients and employees. The concierge can make arrangements, run errands, handle phone calls and take care of many of life’s distractions for patients and employees.
The service is so helpful that it handled almost all of the planning for Smith’s wedding.
"They did it all, other than renting the hall and the flowers," she said. "They addressed and mailed my invitations, they went shopping for me – they even found my gold tiara online."
The concierge service was even able to arrange for custom items she wanted for her wedding, something Smith wouldn’t have been able to do on her own because of the demands of her job.
"I would tell them what I wanted and forget about it," she said. "They would just do it. I never know when I’m going to be able to get out of here, and if I had to get all of this done, I don’t know how I would have. It was fabulous. I wasn’t even stressed out at all."
The concierge service enabled her to focus on her job without distractions in the months before she was getting married, Smith said.
She said the service has helped her out at other busy times in her life.
"My director and I call them ‘The wives,’ because they do everything for us," Smith said. "I used them the day before Thanksgiving to get groceries for me, and they mail things for school for me."
The concierge service at St. Francis Hospital has been operating since last year.
Cindy Mangan, director of security and guest relations at the hospital, said St. Francis was looking for ways to differentiate itself "as an employer of choice and a provider of choice," and asked its employees and patients through a survey how it could provide better services.
The results of that survey, Mangan said, indicated that employees were looking for help in day-to-day functions, such as taking their cars to the garage or the car wash, running errands and making arrangements.
After looking at and interviewing several concierge services, most of whom specialized in travel-related services, St. Francis Hospital hired Best Upon Request, a concierge service headquartered in Cincinnati. Best Upon Request had already worked with hospital systems in other states.
The service is mostly used by hospital employees, but patients are encouraged to use it as well, according to Lori Swendrowski, head concierge at St. Francis Hospital. Swendrowski said she has run to patients’ homes to pick up mail, watch for packages and even retrieve personal items.
She said the concierge service gets much more involved in employees’ lives, mainly because the employees are at the hospital on a more regular basis.
"A lot of employees are referring other employees," Swendrowski said. "Our numbers have really grown."
About 24 percent of the hospital’s employees have used the service. The biggest users are generally employed in the emergency room, maternity ward, radiology or other areas where employees aren’t able to take scheduled breaks, Swendrowski said.
"We’ve delivered dinners to their house, or we’ll pick up groceries," she said. "We do a lot of auto services, like emission tests, oil changes, repairs or taking cars to the car wash."
Other frequent services include picking up or dropping off prescriptions and gift wrapping. Last holiday season, Swendrowski and her part-time assistant wrapped more
than 400 Christmas presents.
Barbara Knippel, pain management coordinator for outpatient services at the hospital, uses the service for tasks such as taking in film for developing or picking up dry cleaning.
"Without this service, I don’t know how I did it before," Knippel said. "Things are a lot less stressful. I know that I don’t have to request off to race in traffic and get back to work. In health care, we’re always working long hours and we’re always stressed. You never know when you’re going to have to work late, and this makes it a lot easier."
St. Francis Hospital is a member of the Wheaton Franciscan System. Another hospital in the system, All Saints Healthcare in Racine, has since added a concierge service.

August 5, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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