University of Delaware
Bruce Weber, dean of UD's Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, addresses graduates of the Patient Experience Academy, a project in which the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management partnered with Christiana Care Health System.

Hospital hospitality

UD partners with Christiana Care to strengthen hospitality, customer service skills

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3:26 p.m., Oct. 10, 2014--Earlier this week marked graduation for the first class of the Patient Experience Academy, a new program created through a partnership between the University of Delaware and Christiana Care Health System.

During the 10-week program, 41 Christiana Care employees met with UD professors from the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM) in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, working through five courses aimed at developing their patient services skills.

Campus Stories

From graduates, faculty

As it neared time for the processional to open the University of Delaware Commencement ceremonies, graduating students and faculty members shared their feelings about what the event means to them.

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It was a day of triumph, cheers and collective relief as more than 160 students from 21 nations participated in the University of Delaware's Doctoral Hooding Convocation held Friday morning on The Green.

“We are working toward infusing hospitality into health care,” said Sheryl Kline, chair of the UD department. “It’s been a great partnership.”

During graduation ceremonies, which took place at Christiana Care’s John H. Ammon Medical Education Center, graduates were presented with official certificates of completion.

“This course helped us to realize the importance of first impressions, the power of a positive greeting and the fact that we can make a big difference on how a patient feels if we go the extra mile,” said Betty Santiago, a patient guide and graduate of the program. “It was a great learning experience.”

The inaugural class was made up of employees from departments that have a strong impact on patients’ first and last impressions of their hospital experience, such as valet and guest services. 

“Many of us here today are the first faces most will see when coming to Christiana Care,” said Julia Tindall, also a graduate of the program. “We may work in different departments, but together we are the first impression team.”

“We have been enlightened on the importance of anticipating needs and going beyond them to exceed expectations,” continued Tindall. The program, she said, helped her to learn “what it truly means to serve, and how to ensure that every guest is treated with respect and dignity.”

Shawn Smith, Christiana Care’s vice president of patient experience, helped to create the Patient Experience Academy. He said that hospitality-based programs are especially helpful for health care employees as they adapt to each patient’s unique needs.

Smith added that the program stresses “empathy, emotional intelligence and customer service.”

Santiago made it clear during her speech that she has learned valuable lessons in these and other areas, saying, “I plan to put into action what I have learned from this course.”

“We need to focus on improving our attitudes and communication skills, including body language, because we are at the heart of ‘The Christiana Care Way,’” Santiago continued. “We need to be attentive, respectful, compassionate and always willing to help. We need to put ourselves in their shoes.”

“I believe it has made a difference here in patient experiences at Christiana Care,” Tindal said of the Patient Experience Academy. “It is new, it is groundbreaking and it is the first of its kind.”

Kline, who taught one of the program’s courses, agreed that the program aims to have a direct impact on the quality of care received by each patient.

“This is going to go right back to the community,” Kline said. “What we do here will have implications for anybody who walks in the door, including our families and ourselves. To partner UD with Christiana Care to make a difference in the community is very powerful.”

In the future, Christiana Care is planning to expand the program throughout the health center for employees from various departments.

“We’re looking at a deeper partnership with UD,” said Michele Schiavoni, Christiana Care’s chief external affairs officer. “The goal is to use what is learned here to ensure that the people on the front lines serving our community have the skills they need.”

“The partnership with UD is an extraordinary opportunity and, I believe, a mutually beneficial relationship,” Schiavoni continued. “Our staff has had the opportunity to learn from the best, and our community has the opportunity to benefit from their learning.”

Article by Sunny Rosen

Photos courtesy of Christiana Care Health System

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