StoryCorps at SHC: Ferheen Abbasi

Doing something as simple as just smiling and saying hello makes such a big difference throughout the rest of a patient's visit.

Ferheen Abassi: I am a guest services navigation volunteer. And I consider myself the face of the hospital, as I greet patients and staff. I think I say directions to the operating room maybe 10 to 20 times a day. But what makes it worth it is the smile the patients give me as they say, "Thank you, that's so helpful."

We deliver red blankets, to iPads, to sweatpants, anything a patient could ask, we probably have and will deliver. I see over 500 people, easily, every day. I interact with a lot of people. Whether, you know, again, 'cause there's a lot of people just asking questions. A lot of patients, staff come to me and just say, "You have a really nice smile. Thanks for making the hospital feel more welcoming." It makes my day, but then I'm also really happy that I can make someone else's day just by giving a smile.

I get to impact patients' experience in a positive way. Coming to the hospital is tough, whether it's for an appointment, or a loved one's appointment, or visiting someone who is hospitalized, or a surgery, it's tough. So, if I could just be a small bit of comfort and warmth for some of these individuals, then maybe their day will go just a little bit better.

It's really great to be a volunteer and I've had just so many amazing conversations with patients that, you know, I would have never had if I wasn't here. I've always prided myself in my ability to notice things. But, as I have continued as a volunteer, I feel like that skill has really, really sharpened. I can instantly realize if someone is lost or needs help. You know, when people come into the door, they don't really want to ask for help. I will just beeline it to them and ask, "Do you need anything? How may I help?" That ability to notice is really important no matter what profession you're in.

I think that, with this role, you have to be proactive. You can't just sit behind the desk and not do anything. I actually really like that phrase, "How may I help?" Because it's not saying, you know, "Do you need help?" Where the answer could be, "No." But it's, "How may I help?" Which means, is there, again, anything that I can do that will help you, but it's an open ended question so they can say anything they want. From, "You know, do you know, do- do you know where I can get a cup of coffee," or, you know, "Can you help me with taking my wheelchair over to- to the OR?" "How may I help?" Is really important.

My main supervisor is Emmy. You know, I- I honestly, I think of her as another mom. She's firm and direct, but warm and loving and Emmy is my rock. I like to say, "Good morning" to a lot of people. Sometimes doctors ignore me when I say good morning to them and it hurts. I know, again I know they're busy and they have a hundred things on their minds, but it really does help change the atmosphere when a doctor, if they can't even take that moment to kind of step back and say, "Hey, how are ya?" You know, "Are you having a good day?" Probably a majority of them were volunteers at the hospital before too.

There was once a woman who lost her wallet. But, apparently, you find out later that the security department had it. And I had just started volunteering a few weeks prior and I was the only person at the desk at the time. I froze because I wasn't sure what to do, and she started threatening to call the police. And I had a whole bunch of people, they're crowding around the desk, asking questions, but I won't forget that moment because, while I felt I had done nothing wrong, I also didn't know how to help this woman. And, you know, sh- I mean, she was obviously going through something. Right? Like, you know, she wasn't getting angry just because she was getting angry, you know, because this little volunteer didn't know where her wallet was. It was very obvious to me that something was happening. Right? Whether it be a family member's in the hospital and she's going through something. Again, I don't know. But, I took that sometimes people are upset over something that has nothing to do with you and they might take it out on you. But, as long as you do your best to help them, that's all you can really do.

Doing something as simple as just smiling and saying hello makes such a big difference throughout the rest of a patient's visit. So that's probably one of the biggest lessons I've learned, is no person is small. It doesn't matter who they are. If you help them, like, they will remember that forever. I really love the people who walk through the doors, whether it be, again, patients, staff. I really appreciate how genuinely kind everyone is here. And the kindness and warmth and strength of the community, I'm actually really happy that I chose to volunteer here.

Sound Editor: Carolina Correa

We use a transcription service, and though we do check for accuracy, there may be errors. Please contact us if you have any questions.

We'd love to hear from you.

We're here to answer your questions, schedule your recording, and guide you throughout the process.