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A little warmth goes a long way toward improving the patient experience

Paul Fappiano, right, procurement coordinator, Supply Chain, helped start the tradition of supplying blankets to patients in the Smilow lobby. With him are (l-r): Eric Jones, Marge DeFrancesco and Jan Hailey, patient ambassadors, and Lynelle Abel, director, Volunteer and Guest Services.

Paul Fappiano, a procurement coordinator with Supply Chain at Yale New Haven Health System, was on his way to a meeting one day last fall when he passed a patient waiting on a bench outside Smilow Cancer Hospital.

The patient looked cold, which triggered a memory: Last year, one of Fappiano's family members had been brought to Smilow for an urgent situation and hadn't had time to bring his coat. When the nurse wheeled the family member to the lobby at discharge, Fappiano was touched to see that she had taken the time to wrap a blanket around him.

"I thought about that when I saw this patient on the bench, and I went to the desk to see if they could get her a blanket," Fappiano said. "They immediately went into action and found one for her."

From that point on, patient ambassadors and volunteers staffing the Smilow lobby began giving blankets to the handful of patients who need them while they wait for rides. Fappiano's gesture is evidence that all employees, whether or not they work in a clinical area, can make a difference in the patient experience, said Lynelle Abel, director of Volunteer and Guest Services.

"Even though I don't get close to patients for my work, I'm always thinking about the patient experience," Fappiano said. "That's who we're all here for."