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While serving as director of public relations at UPMC Passavant, John was on the committee that created this campaign, and also developed and implemented the communication plans to launch and sustain the "Shhh!" initiative for both employee audiences and the public.

UPMC Passavant Kicks Off Hospital-Wide Poster Campaign

"You're doing a very good job, but the hospital is just too noisy." That's what a significant number of patients have been reporting on the customer satisfaction questionnaires they complete and return after being discharged from UPMC Passavant.

In response to those comments, UPMC Passavant is launching a new, hospital-wide initiative designed to reduce noise levels. To communicate the hospital's commitment to customer service and to motivate employees to keep noise levels low, a series of nearly life-size posters featuring children of hospital employees saying "Shhh!" will go on display in patient areas throughout the entire hospital.The hospital is also providing customer service education to its employees.

The campaign was created in-house by the hospital's Five-Star Service Committee, which meets weekly to respond to patient suggestions and explore -- and act on -- issues relating to customer service. The committee, which includes administrators and representatives from several hospital departments, was established earlier this year as part of a UPMC Health System initiative called Strive For Five. The name of the initiative refers to the highest possible score on patient satisfaction surveys that are randomly sent to patients on an ongoing basis.

"After patients are discharged from UPMC Passavant, they receive a questionnaire from Press, Ganey, an independent firm that asks them to rate the hospital in a number of categories, on a scale of one to five," said Sandy McCarthy, RN, senior vice president of Patient Care Services.

She added that while the hospital consistently rates very high in most categories from patients, they also indicate that the sound levels are sometimes too high in a number of patient areas. To confirm this, members of the committee went into almost all the hospital's patient areas with a meter and took decibel readings.

They discovered that such day-to-day sounds as squeaking doors, bumpy cart wheels, ringing telephones, fax machines, pagers, and even normal conversation were among the sounds that registered as noisy. The chart below shows how the hospital sounds compare to everyday sounds.

"To a person who's sick and in the hospital, these sounds are annoying," said Ms. McCarthy. The in-hospital readings are shown in bold.

Sounds Decibals
Jet engine 130
Thunder 120
Shouting in ear 110
Slamming door 80
Call button 75
Bins rolling on tile floor 74
Squeaking door 72
Closing fire exit door 68
Conversation 67
Registration printer 65
Power lawn mower 65
Elevator door 64
Normal conversation 60
Ringing telephone 54
Washing machine 50
Rainfall 50
Soft whisper 30
Normal breathing 10

The committee came up with the idea to do a campaign featuring posters of children wearing doctors' and nurses' uniforms, and holding their forefinger in front of their mouths in the universal "shhh" gesture. The committee approached Alicia Dal Lago, owner of North Hills-based Alicia Photography and a noted children's photographer, about taking the photos, and she responded by donating her time and talent to create the images.

The committee decided to use employees' children as the models. An article in the hospital's employee newsletter brought an overwhelming response, so a random drawing was held to determine which children would become the models for the campaign. The photographs were then incorporated into the posters and other printed materials.

Other Customer Service Initiatives Over the past year, the Five-Star Service committee has implemented a number of initiatives at the hospital. One of the most recent is CourtesyPage, a paging unit provided to Emergency and Outpatient Surgery Department visitors while waiting for a patient to be treated. Similar to pagers given to restaurant patrons while waiting for a table, the CourtesyPage allows patients' friends and family members to leave the waiting room to run an errand or grab a cup of coffee. When the patient is ready to be released from the Emergency Department, the pager vibrates, signaling the visitor to return.

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Copyright © 2003 by John Fries, Pittsburgh, PA.
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