profiles in courage

UHealth patient experience team leads with resilience and compassion

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

UHealth patient experience team leads with resilience and compassion

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez
Each day, the patient experience team continues to serve the health system on the front lines.

Louis Hernandez, a patient experience specialist for UHealth, delivered coffee and snacks to two men in a parked car outside the emergency room. Endless tears rolled down their faces as they patiently waited for news on the health of their loved one—a young cancer patient who had been admitted for shortness of breath and was expecting to receive a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Coffee delivery isn’t a task that Hernandez normally prioritizes; but today, it was the least he could do. With visitor restrictions in place, the patient’s father and fiancé could do nothing more than wait outside, and Hernandez didn’t want them to feel alone. 

“Seeing their pain broke my heart,” he explained. “But we have been trained to wear PPE and interact safely, so I felt good knowing that I could support them, even if it was with just a cup of coffee.”

On a typical day, Hernandez interacts with patients, their families, and visitors during their time at the Health System. His job is to ensure they have the best experience and care possible, no matter their situation. He often offers support by sharing hugs and laughs with as many people as possible; but in light of the new coronavirus pandemic, all of that has changed.

Joseph Reinhardt, a physician for Student Health Service, meets with a student in the prescreening area outside of the Lennar Foundation Medical Center in early March.
Louis Hernandez, patient experience specialist, Cathy Hanson, director of patient engagement, and Kristen Murphy, assistant vice president for patient experience, continue to serve patients at UHealth.

Today, the patient experience team—which supports UHealth locations throughout South Florida—continues to serve the Health System on the front lines. While their interactions with patients may not be the same, they have found other ways to make an impact.

“The roles of our team have shifted immensely to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients, staff, and the community,” said Kristen Murphy, assistant vice president for patient experience. “While it’s important that we adhere to guidelines and changes, our focus on providing a preeminent experience remains the same.” 

For Hernandez, the biggest hurdle hasn't been related to the pandemic itself, but instead to the limitations that it has created. “One of my biggest challenges since the onset of COVID-19 has been not being able to closely tend to patients with the virus,” he said. 

Murphy explained that current guidelines have compelled her team to rethink how they can safely provide support to patients and visitors, and that her team has risen to every occasion.

“We were asked to position ourselves at every entry touchpoint at UHealth Tower to ensure that no patient would have to go through their experience alone,” shared Murphy. “I have had team members voluntarily ask to increase their hours or even relocate from satellite facilities in order to provide support to our most at-risk COVID-19 patients.” 

Under new and ever-changing conditions, the role of the patient experience team can shift at any moment, but its resilience and compassion never waiver. From delivering coffee, to helping patients FaceTime with their loved ones, to calmly greeting anxious guests upon arrival—the team continues to offer heroic care on the front lines.

“The selflessness of our patient experience staff is incredibly humbling and inspiring,” Murphy noted. “While they aren’t directly providing clinical patient care, the team is essential to the holistic health and well-being of our patients and their families.”

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