1. Deck, Michele L. MEd, BSN, RN, FACCE

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I'll never forget a trip I took a few years ago to Burlington, Iowa. I spent the day in the St. Louis airport trying to fly to Burlington despite the awful weather. At 7:00 p.m. when there were no more flights scheduled and all others had been cancelled, I began a 5-hour drive creeping along back roads in the last rental car available with a man from Burlington whom I had met in the airport and who was trying to get home. He was a godsend; we arrived safely about midnight. I think about how memorable that trip was for all the travel snafus.


Some time later, I was fortunate to be invited back to Iowa. I was invited to present at Great Rivers Medical Center in West Burlington, Iowa. I'm so glad I put the bad experience out of my mind because this, too, became a memorable trip for me. In addition to presenting to some wonderful staff members, I had a chance to spend some time with Sue Ferguson, BSN, RN (, who is a delightful, creative person with the best educators in the department as anywhere in the United States. I heard about how Sue overcame the challenge of developing and teaching an ongoing customer service program. She has tapped into WIIFM (What's In It For Me) with her colleagues by making what could be a challenging topic a fun adventure.


Sue and her team came up with Camp EXCEL (this is an acronym for the five key components of excellent customer service identified by the facility), which are five 1-hour sessions offered at different times throughout the year. The five class names are Swimming, Rock Climbing, Hiking, Fishing, and Archery, and each activity is focused on one of the key components. Each learner was given a Camp EXCEL handbook, a customer service adventure, which was used to record key points. Sue describes some of the specifics of the program:


The classroom set up is in small groups. Each time I want them to sit with different people so they get to know other people in the health system. This gives them new ideas and different perspectives. This is painful for a few because they would rather sit with their friends. Most people are very used to the routine. I have them pick something out of a sack that gives them a certain table at which to sit. Some of these draw key ideas from the camp activities such as marbles, cards, or dominos.


At the table they pick a leader so someone feels responsible for the activities. I have used fun ways to select leaders such as the last one to join the group, the person who has the dot hidden under his/her chair, or the last one to graduate from school.


I tried to add table activities into each session and have the table leader explain what they come up with. This way the facilitators (we call them camp counselors) really are just guiding the group through discussion questions. Sometimes they write on flipchart paper; one person holds the paper up (human easel) and another person explains what was written. Other times they just record their ideas on index cards.


Camp Counselors dress the part by wearing jackets with the Camp EXCEL artwork (lantern) and the words "Camp EXCEL Counselor."


In the Closing Campfire, there is an activity where they review key points they learned during Camp EXCEL. They also divide into four groups depending on their behavior style. They go to the four corners of the room and create a campfire song about their behavioral style. It is very funny. After they are done the facilitator makes some observations about what happened with the group dynamics during the activity.


I am proud to have had the opportunity to be invited to see this creativity first hand. Thank you, Sue, for two delightful days of presenting and spending time with you. I hope others with the same customer service teaching needs are inspired by your ideas. Good luck in all you do!