Patient Escorts at City Hospital
City Hospital is located in the heart of a large Midwestern city. It is one of five major hospitals in the area and has recently built a small addition for treating well-known patients, such as professional football players, top company executives, and singing stars. Visiting or local celebrities always choose City Hospital if they need treatment.
City Hospital has about 1200 hospital beds and employs 4500 individuals, including about 40 patient escorts. The job of patient escort is a rather simple one, requiring no special physical or mental talents. The work is easy, few skills are required, and the pay for the job is considered good. When patients need to be moved from one location to another, patient escorts are summoned to assist in the move. If the move is only a short distance, however, a nurse can move the patient. Of particular importance is the fact that patient escorts almost always take patients who are being discharged from their hospital room to the front door of the hospital. A wheelchair is always used, even if the patient is able to walk unassisted. Thus, the typical procedure is for the nurse to call for a patient escort; the escort gets a wheelchair and goes to the patient’s room, assists the patient into the wheelchair, picks up the patient’s belongings, wheels the patient down to the hospital’s front door or to his or her car in the parking lot, and returns to the work station.
The job of patient escort is indeed critical to the hospital since the escort is always the last hospital representative the patient sees, and hence has a considerable influence on the patient’s perception of the hospital. Of approximately 40 escorts, about three-fourths are men, and one-fourth are women. Most are high school graduates in their early twenties. Some, particularly those on the early morning shift, are attending college at night and working for the hospital to earn money to pay college expenses. Four of the escorts are older women who had previously served as hospital volunteers and then decided to become full-time employees instead. Turnover among patient escorts is quite high and has averaged 25% in recent years. In addition, upward mobility in the hospital is quite good, and as a result, another 25% of the escorts typically transfer to other jobs in the hospital each year. Thus, about half of the patient escorts need to be replaced annually.
The hospital follows a standard procedure when hiring patient escorts. When a vacancy occurs, the human resource department reviews the file of applications of individuals who have applied for the patient escort job. Usually the file contains 15 to 20 applications. Two or three applicants are usually picked and asked to come to the hospital for interview. The applicants are interviewed first by the human resource department and then by the patient escort supervisor. The majority of those interviewed typically know some other employees of the hospital, so the only reference check is a call to these employees.
Every new escort attends an orientation program the first day on the job. This is conducted by a member of the hospital’s human resource department. The program consists of a complete tour of the hospital; a review of all the hospital’s HR policies, including a description of its promotion, compensation, and disciplinary policies; and a presentation of the hospital’s mission and philosophy. During this orientation session, employees are told that the hospital’s image in the community is of major importance and that all employees should strive to maintain and enhance this image through their conduct. After orientation, all patient escorts receive on-the-job training by their immediate supervisor.
During the last two years, the hospital has experienced a number of problems with patient escorts, which have had an adverse effect on the hospital’s image. Several patients have...