A Side of Smiles

Food Services Ambassadors bring a personal touch to patient meals.0624RussellWalker310x153

His knowledge of the Nutrition and Food Services department, big smile and easygoing manner, made Russell Walker the perfect choice to pilot a new concierge food services program at SAMC.

"We moved him from the tray line, so he was already assembling food for our patients," said Lesia Hollis, director of Nutrition and Food Services. "As it turns out, all the patients fell in love with Russell."

Walker was later joined by fellow team member Vonda Culver as food service Ambassadors on the orthopedic and neurospine floors. Wearing bright blue chef's shirts, Ambassadors enter each room with the goal of pleasing the patient. The widely successful program is now hospital wide, with 14 Ambassadors serving SAMC patients. Each Ambassador works a 12-hour shift and is responsible for all the meals on an assigned floor.

Ambassadors introduce themselves while delivering the morning breakfast tray and make sure the patient has everything they need. In some cases, that means a quick run down to the kitchen to retrieve hot sauce for eggs or a favorite barbecue sauce. The Ambassadors do everything they can to get the patient the food they want from set menus or from available options.

When Ambassadors return to the rooms to clear the trays, they use a bedside menu entry palm pad to order lunch. That procedure is repeated after lunch to order dinner and breakfast for the next day.

Ambassadors also stock all patient care areas throughout the hospital with beverages and snacks. Even those between-meal snacks have been expanded from juice, pudding and crackers to include boxed sandwiches and soup.

"The patients love it and the nurses love it," Walker said. "This program brings a personal touch to the bedside."

Ambassadors also order food trays for guests so they can remain at the bedside.

The personal touch bedside ordering has also reduced errors and complaints. Patients who may be hospitalized for several days get to know their Ambassadors.

Every action taken by Ambassadors – from knocking on the door and introducing themselves, to anticipating needs by providing condiments and giving a pleasant goodbye – is based on the Medical Center's Service Essentials, a set of behaviors which guides the actions of every employee.

"This is all about the patient," Hollis said. "They are here because something is wrong. They are sick and don't want to be here. The least we can do is exceed their expectations and enhance their experience at SAMC."

Woman to Woman

Two Southeast Alabama Medical Center OBGYNs believe some women choose a 3881PhillipsGibson310x153V3female doctor because of a higher comfort level.Years ago, when few women went into the medical profession, choosing to see a female obstetrician and gynecologist (OBGYN) was a rare option. Today with more women practicing as OBGYNs, that is no longer the case.

"Women who choose a female OBGYN are typically younger patients, such as adolescents and teenagers, and older women after menopause," said Stephanie Gibson, MD, who practices at Women's Medical Center in Dothan. "We also tend to see our share of women with a history of abuse; for them, it's a comfort factor. Also, women whose mothers saw a female OBGYN are more likely to do so." Ellen Doyle Phillips, MD, of Dothan OBGYN agrees. The American Medical Association reports that in 1970, just 7 percent of all practicing OBGYNs were women. By 2010, the percentage had risen to 48, the largest ever. Statistics also show that more women entering the medical field choose to practice Obstetrics and Gynecology.

For Dr. Gibson, becoming an OBGYN was something she set her mind to as a teenager attending Marianna High School in Florida. "I was about 15 years old when I decided this is what I wanted to do," said Dr. Gibson, who has delivered 227 babies since she joined the Dothan practice in August 2010. "My mom was a labor and delivery nurse in Panama City, Fla., and my dad was a paramedic, so I grew up around healthcare," she said. "I remember watching anatomy videos in high school and one Friday we watched the childbirth video – I was hooked."

That sealed the deal for Dr. Gibson, who practices with Drs. Walter Young, Hudson Lazenby, John Gordon, Praful Patel, Kenneth Farmer Jr., and Jonathan Scott at Women's Medical Center, on the 6th floor of the Doctors Building at SAMC. "One of the things I like best in our profession is the actual delivery. I love knowing I'm there to share in one of the happiest moment of a patient's life, with the delivery of her child. Sometimes I feel like part of the family." Dr. Gibson likes the idea of treating a patient's various needs throughout the stages of her lifetime. It adds to the connectivity of family. "It's a lifelong partnership between a woman and her gynecologist. The physician is there from the first exam through childbirth, menopause and hormonal changes. And there is a lot of variety in the patients and treatments," she said. She believes her most important role is as a patient's advisor and advocate. She enjoys taking time to listen to her patients, and working with them to determine the best course of care.

"Other than providing the highest quality care, listening is probably one of the most important things I can do for my patients," said Dr. Phillips, a partner with physicians Guy Middleton, MD and Thomas W.C. Robinson, MD at Dothan OBGYN on the 4th floor of the Doctors Building at SAMC. "Whether they need five minutes or one hour – if they need me, I'm there." The Eufaula native knows compassion counts. Her husband, Jay, a Dothan City firefighter, was on his second deployment to Kosovo with the U.S. Army National Guard, when the couple's youngest son, Jeff, required emergency open heart surgery. At the time, Dr. Phillips was a third-year resident working long hours at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. "For all practical purposes, I was a single parent with three kids. Jay was Special Forces. He had to go." Jeff was diagnosed with a heart condition at nine weeks old and went into surgery with 50-50 odds of surviving. Dr. Phillips prepared herself for the worst and prayed. Surgeons successfully repaired her infant son's heart. "That experience made me more empathetic," Dr. Phillips said. "It allows me to say 'I've been there.' to the patient whose baby has a heart defect. I know what it's like to be on that side." Dr. Phillips said treating her patients like family typically results in a partnership based upon trust and respect.

Dr. Phillips is a graduate of Auburn University, the University of Alabama School of Medicine and the Medical College of Georgia. For an appointment with Dr. Phillips, Middleton or Robinson at Dothan OBGYN, call 334-673-3633. All three physicians are skilled in minimally invasive robotic surgery.

Dr. Gibson is a graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and the University of South Alabama School of Medicine. She did her OBGYN residency at East Tennessee State University. For an appointment with Dr. Gibson, Young, Lazenby, Gordon, Patel, Farmer or Scott at Women's Medical Center PC, call 334-793-3900. All physicians in this group utilize minimally invasive surgical techniques, and most perform robotic surgery.

• In 2010, there were 985,375 physicians in the United States. Female physicians accounted for 30.1 percent of the total, up from 11.6 percent in 1980.
• The OBGYN specialty has the fifth highest number of physicians after internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics and anesthesiology.
Source: American Medical Association

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