Creating Unforgettable Experiences at Boston Children’s Hospital for Those Who Need It Most
As an eternal optimist, I always like to say that if your child is at Boston Children's Hospital, it's definitely not a good thing—but it's also the best thing, given the circumstances. You're unlikely to find the same level of care, commitment, and quality anywhere else in the country.
Located right in the heart of beautiful Boston, Massachusetts, Boston Children's Hospital is a 395-bed facility that is a teaching affiliate to both Harvard Medical School and to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. It was originally founded in 1869 and was ranked number one in eight out of ten clinical specialties by the U.S. News & World Report. We were also named as the nation's current number one paediatric hospital in operation today.
Every single day I feel honoured to play even the smallest of roles in that success. I work for a company called Sodexo, which has been contracted by the hospital itself. Currently, I'm the Senior Area General Manager. That means I'm responsible for Environmental Services and for the Central Equipment Services Department for all 17 locations across the area that Boston Children's currently maintains. I'm in charge of all manner of mobile medical equipment: delivering it, removing it, cleaning it, you name it. My team provides experiences that our patients don’t always know are happening, but they definitely feel.
The interesting thing is that my role has a lot of components in it that are outside of the general Sodexo model. I'm a little bit of a hybrid. I work for Sodexo, yes, but I'm much more on the hospital side than I ever thought I would be.
The Desire to Make a Positive Impact
My journey to get to this point actually started with a little bit of a mistake, if I'm being honest. Back in 2001, I was still attending college and I went to a job interview at a small community hospital for an overnight security job. I was trying to make ends meet and pay my way through school. The gentleman who interviewed me took a chance on me and asked if I wanted to be a security manager rather than a security officer. Based on my performance, my job quickly grew to encompass Security Manager, Environmental Services Director, and Safety Manager within the span of a year.
At the same time, I was also a police officer. I did both jobs for roughly nine years, but police work was my primary focus. I wanted to be out in the field, on the streets, creating the most positive impact on communities that I could. After a few standard employer transitions later on the hospital side of things, I was recruited by Sodexo to come to Boston Children's Hospital in 2012. A few years after that, I realized I should choose the hospital over law enforcement. I saw I could make a bigger impact on families and kids at the hospital than I could in the streets, which appealed to me very much.
The longer I worked at Boston Children's Hospital, I would have conversations with parents and hear their stories about the level of care they got and how comforting it was to have this type of organization in your own backyard. This was even before, as a parent, I brought my own kids here. Knowing I could give back to an organization that gave so much made me realize this was where I needed to be.
Giving Back Means Going Above and Beyond
On top of everything else, I liked that working at Boston Children's Hospital was a more positive job than being a police officer. It's almost never a good thing when the police show up anywhere. Rarely do officers stop by just to say "hello." But at Boston Children's Hospital, we cultivate those positive experiences. We do something called Parent Night Out, which allows us to directly impact the lives of parents who have children in our ICU.
During Parent Night Out, we shut down a part of our servery area in the cafeteria and transform it into a high-end restaurant. The team will bring in guest cooks who use our kitchen to prepare a delicious five-course dinner. It gives these parents the opportunity to have a feeling of a night out, while still being close to their kids. For people who’ve been in the hospital for six weeks or more, it’s an incredible relief.
Even though Parent Night Out was a success from the beginning, it was important to not get too comfortable. There were certain elements of it that we knew we could do better if we just approached it from a new angle.
The foundation of Parent Night Out involves taking a portion of our cafeteria and separating it into its own space to transform it into a high-end restaurant. A big problem we ran into was the actual room dividing process, which left a lot to be desired. Our first solution involved using these accordion-style room dividers that technically worked, but were clunky to use and tacky to look at. Sometimes, the dividers didn't expand correctly or they were missing a wheel. Most of the time, people would wonder what was behind the room dividers, which was chaotic until the room could be prepared.
But we soon realized we could turn a limitation into an opportunity and build off that sense of mystery. If people always wondered what was behind those dividers, we could go out of our way to make it a surprise every time. If the team was going to have a Caribbean theme for dinner one night, my staff and I could transform the room into a beachfront restaurant.
All that was needed was the right solution to help make it happen.
It Started with a Call
One day, our vendor Mark came back from a conference and called me to say, "I just saw this retractable screen product that I think you should take a look at." It sounded interesting, but nothing immediately came of it.
After some time passed, I got an email from Mark with a link to a YouTube video showing me the solution he was talking about. The product was KwickScreen and as soon as I saw it I said, "We need that."
As I learned what KwickScreen could do, I realised it was perfect for what we were trying to accomplish. Everything from the ability to print images on it, to the effortless way you can transport and store it. It was the whole package. It's more than just a "wall on wheels." It's a way to go beyond the four walls of any one particular environment and transport people to a place that a lot of them never thought they'd be in.
I saw the possibilities right away, but my decision was solidified after we ran into a problem during the ordering process. We reached out to what we thought was a US-based distributor of KwickScreen to get the ball rolling. We chose the images, sent them over, and time would pass with a lot of talk but no results. Our team would get these random emails saying "We're trying to adjust the resolution on the images" and things like that. This went on for several months. Keep in mind that by this point, the final product had already been paid for.
It turns out, we were talking to a rogue third party who collected money and didn’t deliver anything. It was fraud, plain and simple. Once the actual KwickScreen team heard about this, they worked double time to make it right. Not only did I meet personally with their CEO Alan Murrell, but they took our images and not even a week later I had a screen here, in the hospital, ready to use. Customer service doesn't get much better than that.
That quick turnaround, plus their commitment of personally flying from England to the United States to meet with their customers, clearly demonstrated a lot of value to us. It's amazing they were able to take a pretty bad situation and turn it into something that ended up being great for everyone involved.
From One to Many
Once that situation was taken care of, and we had our KwickScreens in place, we could feel the impact from the very first Parent Night Out. You could tell by the looks on parents’ faces that we had absolutely leveraged that element of surprise to our advantage. The first image we used was of a seaside restaurant. The parents greeted the image with smiles—they couldn't help it. They kept touching the screen, trying to look around it, attempting to see how the room was set up. There was this "wow" factor we couldn't grab hold of before, but was suddenly front and center for all to see.
I loved seeing the impact in the first event, but all it did was get my wheels turning. I started to envision how else we could use KwickScreen around the hospital. Since KwickScreen was so successful with Parent Night Out, our administrators purchased multiple units and put them in patient entertainment rooms. This gave kids the chance to participate in a number of different activities they couldn’t do before.
Boston Children's Hospital is also under heavy construction right now and KwickScreen is even helping out with that, too. We're about to lose a bit of space we would normally utilize for sleep areas. We're considering how we can use KwickScreen to separate areas for our male and female sleeping spaces, or to help convert conference rooms we'll need to use as sleeping spaces in the future. All of this will help make the transition as easy as possible.
I love that even though my initial view of using KwickScreen was singular, the hospital is now utilising them for other purposes that we never thought of before.
It All Comes Back to That Experience
As I said in the beginning, one of the things we're very proud of at Boston Children's Hospital is that we're rated highly in ten different specialties. But my manager, Shawn Goldrick, instills in us that there are actually eleven—the final one being the work done in Environmental Services. More specifically, it comes down to creating that unforgettable experience—not only from the clinical side—but from the support services side. This is why we work hard to think outside the box, to think of the things that nobody else is even considering. It’s the reason we feel the need to provide, for those parents, the type of experience they won’t get anywhere else.
This is why KwickScreen is so important. Because it lets us devote every last ounce of care, love, and attention we have into that eleventh specialty just like we do the other ten.
You may not always see my team and our work, but you don't have to. You just need to feel it, from the moment you walk into the hospital to the moment you lay your head down on the pillow at night.