'A Real Heartfelt Job': Spreading Kindness and Comfort at Methodist
She wasn’t expecting to be wowed or amazed during her mother’s MRI and CT scan at Methodist Hospital in May. Taking her mother to various Methodist appointments had become rather routine for Sue Burger, who claims her mother would never go anywhere else.
“We’re a Methodist family,” Sue said. “We’ve always loved Methodist. Everyone’s always so nice.”
But as she waited for her mother in the imaging lounge on the first floor of the hospital, something caught Sue’s attention: a beautiful smile and sweet demeanor.
“She was just so kind and gentle,” Sue said of Fran Hernandez, an information desk associate with Methodist.
Describing the waiting area as “busy,” Sue said Hernandez’s soft, soothing voice truly resonated among the buzz of people coming and going.
“I just watched and thought, ‘Man, she is so good at that.’ It was just awesome. You don’t see that all the time – kindness to that extent. She was making people feel at ease. She offered coffee and water, and she’d ask, ‘What can I do for you?’ She was so sweet to absolutely everybody. It just really stood out.”
It solidified Sue’s belief that kindness is a trait among every Methodist employee.
“And I guess when kindness is what you’ve come to expect, it really says something when someone’s kindness stands out.”
A gratifying job
As an information desk associate, Hernandez strives to make people feel comfortable. Sometimes it’s as simple as fetching a pillow. Other times it takes a little more creativity.
“You don’t know the extent of what they’re dealing with,” she said. “You don’t ask. So my job is to let them know that they’re in a good place – that we’re going to take care of them.”
While she typically works at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center, Hernandez fills in wherever and whenever she’s needed.
“Fran is one of the first faces people see when they come to the hospital,” said Cynthia Brich, Methodist admitting and registration supervisor. “And people don’t come to the hospital for pleasure necessarily. They may be scared, or they may be nervous. But seeing a smiling face and feeling that compassion and warmth – that’s so important for patients and visitors.”
It was certainly important to Sue, who felt the need to write a letter of appreciation. While she was unsure of Hernandez’s exact role with Methodist, she wanted to make sure recognition was given, writing: “If Fran is a volunteer, someone needs to treat her to lunch! If she's a paid employee, please see that this note gets into her file!”
Those two lines made Hernandez laugh. For someone who feels treated every day at work, she found the letter endearing.
“It's a real heartfelt job,” Hernandez said. “I mean, really – it's wonderful. It’s truly a privilege to be able to do this and to be able to work here.”
Hernandez takes great pride in her position with Methodist, often showcasing her name badge when she’s not on the clock.
“I rarely take it off. I’ll run to the store long after my shift ends, and I’ll still be wearing it. I want people to know where I work. I’m so honored to be a part of the Methodist family again.”
Before landing her current job, Hernandez worked under Dr. Carolyn (Maud) Doherty founder of Reproductive Health Specialists at Methodist Women's Hospital. After 10 years as Dr. Doherty’s assistant, Hernandez retired in 2015.
“I was almost a year into retirement, and I thought, ‘This is nonsense. I need to be back there.’ And then this position opened up.”
For Hernandez, returning to Methodist was like returning home.
“It was perfect,” she said. “It felt like I won the lottery.”
But according to Brich, Methodist is the real winner.
“I think we all hit the jackpot here,” Brich said. “The patients, the health system, our department. We are all very fortunate to have her kind spirit. Fran is our gold standard, and we probably don’t tell her enough. I’m glad she’s being recognized because this is who she is. Fran goes above and beyond every single day.”
“I just thought she needed an attagirl,” Sue said. “And if recognizing her encourages other people to spread more kindness, then …”
Hernandez finished Sue’s thought: “It’s not hard to do. Spreading kindness isn’t hard. Especially when you’re aware of the impact it may have on someone.”