Robin Hennes, manager of Guest Services at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, oversees several different programs aimed at enhancing the experience of patients and families. Enabling these services is something she finds to be incredibly rewarding.
What do you do here?
“I manage Guest Services. We have a number of programs and services for our patients and families. The patient escorts transport over 400 patients a day from A to B and help the hospital work more efficiently. We also have the valet program and valet park over 300 cars a day. We’re responsible for three information desks, and that’s a 24/7 operation.
“We have the Rossi Guest House, which is a 16-room guest house under the same roof as the hospital in addition to 14 off-site rooms at the Heartland Inn. On any given day we have 35 to 40 people on the wait list, so we prioritize those rooms for family members of the patients in our intensive care units. That gives the family an opportunity to stay close to the bedside, because they’re often partnering with the medical team to help their patient get well.
“We also have an equipment crew that delivers medical equipment throughout the hospital. Our Concierge Services program is for more complex problem solving: For example, maybe an outpatient visit has turned into an inpatient stay, and the family needs to secure lodging. We do a lot of problem solving from our Concierge Services areas in both UI Hospitals and Clinics and UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
“We have nearly 160 people who work in Guest Services, including a large mix of college students. Our department is very diverse—which I think is a good match for the diverse patient population we serve.”
Where are you from?
“I grew up in West Branch, Iowa, and now live near Oxford.”
How did you end up at UI Hospitals and Clinics?
“I started my career as a television news reporter and producer; then I switched gears to public relations, working in tourism marketing. I worked for the Iowa City Convention and Visitors Bureau for 12 years and then the Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau. I was ready for another change of pace and had been in the service and hospitality industry, so I was hopeful those skills could transition to a health care environment. I’ve been at the hospital 13 and a half years.”
What’s your favorite part of your job?
“Making a difference. I have an opportunity to indirectly make a difference with the people on the front line of Guest Services, and what they do to affect the patient experience. And I can directly impact someone’s day just by walking down the hallway and looking for opportunities to interact. By its very nature, health care is an emotional industry, so there’s some sadness, and there’s lots of happiness, too. There are different ways to have an impact.”
What’s your most memorable experience in this job?
“I’ve been fortunate to establish relationships with some of our patients—I can think of one in particular. She is in her 80s and was coming to Iowa City for the first time, and the call was transferred to me from a hospital operator. I made that connection, it was just over the phone, and I reassured her she would be taken care of when she got here. Just explaining the parking options was reassuring. Now that we have this relationship, she’s quick to tell me what a difference that made when she was just getting referred and frightened by her diagnosis. That’s what’s most gratifying to me; it might be a conversation that just takes a few minutes, but for some folks it’s a big deal.”
If you could have any other job at UI Hospitals and Clinics, where would you want to work?
“I would still do something around service. I like to interact with our greeters at the front entrances. They’re the first people our guests come in contact with at the hospital, so I think it would be nice to be a greeter and interact with patients—and you get to be outside at the same time.”