December 2007 Volume 31 No. 11
Years of Service

by: Lawrence M. Shuer

On Nov. 12, I was among more than 600 persons attending the 49th annual Stanford Hospital and Clinics Service Awards Program. As chief of staff I often attend this event to represent the medical staff, and this year, as I listened to the success stories and watched the pride and exuberance of my colleagues, I became convinced that this is a phenomenon that we physicians should pay more attention to. The employees honored include people in all types of positions: nurses, transporters, engineers, housekeepers and even administrators — CEO Martha Marsh received her five-year pin at this year’s event!

It’s worth discussing this signature evening with you because we should all join in the celebration by congratulating award winners for their specific achievements, including in some cases impressive longevity here at the hospital. A total of 131 attendees had a quarter century or more each of service to SHC (and in these cases our predecessor institutions), including six employees honored for 40 years of service. One employee, Marguerite Barrett of Patient Admitting Services, has served our patients for 51 years, and like all employees with more than 30 years has a standing invitation to attend each annual event. (Other employees are normally invited to attend the banquet every five years). I personally love to talk with longer serving colleagues not just for the nostalgia, inspiration and fellowship, but also because these colleagues often have a perspective on the institution that can help us all.

The employee event, deftly managed for decades by Susan Cabral of Human Resources, is truly festive and entertaining. Honorees are recognized in five-year increments for service, kicking off with the 291 persons completing their first five years. The years unfold as each group of 5- through 40-year employees are greeted by a video that depicts major events of the year they started work, and we all hear some popular musical selections of that era. You can imagine the nostalgia this creates, especially as those groups who have been here for longer periods are introduced.

But the event is forward looking at its core. Beyond longevity, the Malinda Mitchell Award for Service Quality is presented to departments for impressive accomplishments during the past year.

This year the award was co-presented by its namesake former CEO to two departments whose services symbolize the breadth and dept of service SHC provides. One honor went to the F3 Nursing Unit for improving patient safety — obviously a core goal of our institution.

The second award went to the Ambulatory Care Customer Response Transformation Team for “The Phone Project” in the clinics. This is a crucial project that is providing a quick, definitive response to our patients who call for appointments and/or information. I’m glad to see a great team has found successful ways to solve some challenges faced for years by patients who called our institution only to face frustration of a long phone tree, holding time and lack of a quick answer to their questions.

I look forward to learning more about the excellent contributions of both these projects, clearly instructive role models for SHC.

Each year key individuals are singled out for special acknowledgement for “going the extra mile.” The stories of their service and compassion for patients and their coworkers are truly inspiring. The Thomas A. Gonda Employee of the Year Award was given this year to 16-year employee Bonnie Bialy, manager of patient business services in the Patient Financial Services Department. Five other staff members were chosen to receive special recognition for their outstanding contributions and achievements — Sharon Bird, business manager, operating rooms; Michelle Coffman, lead nurse, Patient Transfer Center; Dan Freeman, nursing information specialist, Nursing IT; Monica Mayberry, ENT Surgery Clinic manager; and Sunny Pellone, Marfan Center coordinator. Congratulate these outstanding individuals when you meet or see them.

[1] With 51 years of service, Marguerite Barrett is the longest serving employee in SHC’s history. She enjoyed the banquet surrounded by her colleagues in Patient Admitting Services.
[2] Bonnie Bialy, manager of patient business services in the Patient Financial Services Department, receives congratulations as the 2007 Thomas A. Gonda Employee of the Year from her boss, David Haray, vice president of patient financial services. As the annual winner, Bialy receives a coveted perk — a reserved parking spot at the front entrance. (Useful for meetings even if her worksite is offsite).
[3] More than 600 persons attended the 49th annual Stanford Hospital and Clinics Service Awards Program.

I note from the recent rendition of Phil Pizzo’s Dean’s Newsletter that a parallel process for employee recognition occurs at the Medical School, where the Dean’s Staff Recognition Dinner was held at the Faculty Club on Nov. 8. The Dean established an Employee of the Year Spirit Award that honors staff members who show exceptional customer service, initiative, dedication, motivation and a positive attitude. This year’s winners were Jim Day of Visual Arts Services and Diane Starrett of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Can we learn from all these excellent performances? Absolutely. And we also owe our colleagues a word of congratulations for what they do every day, for what cumulatively adds up to thousands of years of service to us, and more importantly, to our patients!

Meanwhile, I hope all of you have a Happy Holiday. This is a season to reflect on, but also to envision, how our accomplishments and aspirations can be connected constructively, and hopefully joyfully, to further achievements in the days and years ahead.