The Needs of the Patient Come First

By on 7 November, 2018 in City Living, Sandra Nickel with 1 Comment

Mayo desk at airport

In August I learned that I needed some pretty serious surgery to correct cervical spinal stenosis that threatened to rob me of the use of my extremities. Because my REALTOR training taught me always to find the best at whatever I sought, I turned to the internet. That in turn lead me to the provider whose record for neurosurgical outcomes is number one in the nation: Mayo Clinic, Rochester MN.

Husband Jim accompanied me on my first visit in September, when I would be fully evaluated and learn if the Mayo staff would accept me for surgery. Our first surprise occurred as soon as we stepped out of the secure area at the Rochester airport into the lobby. There, right in front of us, was a very large Mayo Clinic Information Desk (photo 1) that was equipped to answer general questions, arrange ground transportation and lodging, provide maps and information about the community, etc.

What I learned: Know your important customers and meet them where they are.

Food for thought: Maxwell/Gunter is our area’s largest single employer. What are we as individuals and/or businesspeople doing to meet those active duty and civilian personnel where they are and make them feel instantly welcome and appreciated?

Food for thought: Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of America and its many suppliers provide almost 6,500 direct jobs in this area. Most upper management and many other positions are held by Korean nationals, who are far from home and strangers in a foreign land. The City and the Chamber have partnered to provide many services to these folks. What (or what more) can we as residents do to make them feel at home?

Subway and transit map

My second big surprise occurred the next morning as I was to make my way from my hotel to the Mayo Clinic complex. “Take the subway,” said the nice lady at the registration desk in the hotel lobby. “Just take the elevator down one level and follow the signs. And here’s a map of the system.” ( 2subway map). Holy Christmas! What I found was a city beneath the city.

Rochester weather is, by this Southerner’s standards, inhospitable for at least half the year with daily high’s at freezing or below from November through March and low’s in the single digits. Mix that with snow, freezing rain and lots of wind and you have misery for anyone going from place to place.

Non-locals have long provided much of the Mayo Clinic patient base, so hotels grew up nearby as early as the early 1900”s. Being entrepreneurs, these hoteliers recognized the limits placed on their businesses by the harsh winters and quickly—at their own expense—created underground passageways between their facilities and the Clinic buildings. As the Clinic complex, so did the subway system (no vehicles, just walkways), funded in most part by those hotel owners as a group. And those hotel owners have made it pay by adding an extensive network of shops and restaurant spaces which, because they are easily accessible year-round, command the highest commercial rents in the city.

What I learned: Some obstacles, such as lousy weather at least half the year, cannot be eliminated, and must be dealt with creatively. And we can’t wait for someone else to do it.

Food for thought: What obstacles(s) have we been allowing to undermine our goals as individuals and as a community? What can we do, singly and by working together, to enrich the lives of our residents and enhance the experiences that we as businesspeople provide our clients and customers? The recent involvement of our Chamber of Commerce in the school board election process is, I believe, one excellent example of how such atypical action can make a big difference.

I could go on for days about “the Mayo customer (patient) experience,” but enough said for now. I was accepted for surgery, which took place mid-October and was successful. And I cannot begin to tell you how glad I am that the doctors Mayo have imbued their operation with its “The Needs of the Patient Come First” philosophy. For “patient,” substitute your choice of words—client, customer, employee, family member, parishioner, etc.—and what an incredible change I believe we can anticipate!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 30 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.




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  1. Josh Yates says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. This was a great article.

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