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December 7, 2022

A Day in the ER With Dignity Health

The phone rang, and my doctor’s assistant was on the other end.

“Janet, our office is not equipped to help you; you must go to the ER (emergency room) today.”

I was almost out the door heading to a 1:1 meeting over the hill before the call. After it, I wondered to myself whether my symptoms were the tell-tell signs of a serious ailment such as a stroke.

ER at Dignity Health

I arrived at Dominican Hospital’s ER around 10:15am. Hardly anyone was in the waiting room. Stressed by having to change all my plans, fearful that something could be seriously wrong with me, the guard at the entrance was my first point of contact. He greeted me warmly and swiftly directed me to the next person.

Rarely have I thought of hospital staff as customer service providers. Still, this patient was about to discover that my situation was not critical and how a kind word, compassionate questions, and patience from strangers could put my fears into proper perspective. My appreciation of the understanding of the complexities of the ER process was heightened and enlightened me about how health care providers’ listening skills enable customer service to patients.

Compassion and Care

Dignity Health Dominican Hospital “…has been caring for the Santa Cruz County community for 75 years and offers quality-focused comprehensive care serving the health care needs of the Monterey Bay region and other locations in California, Arizona and Nevada. We offer emergency services, a Certified Stroke Center, and Chest Pain Center. Dominican’s services include the only comprehensive Cancer Center in Santa Cruz County, a Total Joint Replacement program, and advanced neurological and endoscopic services.”

On business websites, we read about the business, its services, and what they value, but not until we use their services or products, do we truly learn if what they say is what they mean. Based on my first-hand experience with Dominican and what I observed, a resounding yes.

Time for Solutions

What we see as patients in the ER and what the staff must provide behind the scenes in an emergency is critical, and timing is vital. They must act immediately by assessing the most critical situations, providing urgent care, taking and delivering lab results, acquiring billing information, and communicating with the patient throughout this process.

Once I checked in, the intake person collected all my symptoms, and my waiting time was minimal. 

Cutting Edge 

When I participated in the Leadership Santa Cruz County program, Class of 33, one of our county visits was at Dominican Hospital during the transition period into Dignity Health. We met vital managers and listened to their overall vision. A part of their mission is to “… provide the cutting-edge medical care needed to meet each patient’s physical, mental, and spiritual needs.”

The reason my physician recommended I go to the ER directly was becoming apparent. From the thorough intakes to the various nurses I encountered, I had an EKG, blood work panels, and X-rays, and later in the day, more tests were repeated to rule out any doubts. No stone was unturned for each nurse, each intern (shadowing on this day as Cabrillo College students), to the billing department.

Please, Sign Here

I have been to doctors’ offices and hospitals with less life-threatening situations, but the billing department was never as pleasant—as this time. I spoke with Barbara, who has been with Dominican for over 30 years and loves what she does. To me, this was obvious.

She explained the steps first before asking what kind of insurance you have. Later in the day, she offered to make sure I got some food to eat and even remembered my name!

I left ER around 4pm, but the doctor in charge of my case made sure I understood the next steps. She helped speed up the process by connecting with a cardiologist. 

Customer Service is Customer care.

In an emergency ward, the importance of one-on-one communication and connection is critical for all parties when much of customer service is online. In the waiting room, I observed the staff, who seemed to be working in sync with one another, harmonious and calm. This environment calmed me, especially when someone was feeling stressed or in emotional or physical pain. All this equates to their promise, “…to meet each patient’s physical, mental, and spiritual needs.” 

Thank you, Dominican Hospital Dignity Health, for taking good care of our community and me.

And, folks, I did not have a stroke, just more tests ahead.

For information about Dominican Hospital Dignity Health (1555 Soquel Drive), contact 831-462-7700 or visit dignityhealth.org. 


Janet Janssen is a Life in Business Coach, public speaker, instructor at Supervision Academy at Cabrillo College and LSCC board member. Contact her at janetjanssen.com or 831-335-0553.

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