A year of COVID: A friendly caring face, now behind a mask

  • Carol Hyslop, the hospitality manager at Concord Hospital, stands in the front lobby atrium on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/10/2021 5:12:50 PM

Carol Hyslop never intended to work in the hospitality field – but once she started, she couldn’t stop.

When Hyslop got her first job at Concord Hospital as a greeter, she had just completed her phlebotomy training and wanted to get her foot in the door at a clinical lab. Once she started welcoming families and escorting patients to their rooms, she realized she had stumbled into the perfect career.

“I got here and fell in love with the job,” she said. “And so I never left.”

She loved talking to patients and families and learning about their backgrounds. As a person who always liked to be of service in some capacity, she loved making patients feel comforted at their most vulnerable.

Quickly she honed and mastered the art of forging quick connections. She said she typically starts with a simple question, “Where did you drive in from?” and the conversation snowballs from there.

Hyslop, who is the manager of the hospitality staff, pulls in her geographical knowledge from growing up in the Lakes Region, and establishes common ground when possible.

“I can sort of, you know, force a connection on just about anybody,” she said.

Her role during the pandemic has been unnatural for her in many ways.

Instead of inviting families in, most of the time she has to keep them out, because of safety precautions forced by the pandemic. Her connection skills are used to placate frustrated family members or console people who are separated from their loved ones.

During the early days of the pandemic, Concord Hospital more than doubled the hospitality staff to monitor every door of the facility and make sure potentially infectious people weren’t coming in.

“It was contrary to everything that we know to do as healthcare providers, to turn people away and say ‘no,’ ” she said. “That was a little difficult in the beginning.”

Some parts of her job resemble what it used to be. She still guides patients to their rooms and creates a relationship from behind a mask and goggles.

“It’s hard because my expression is on my face,” she said.

Other times, she acts as a liaison between the family members and the patient upstairs – she delivers small messages like “I love you,” or “please know we’re thinking of you.”

Her favorite memory from the job was several years ago when a woman from another country came in with an injured leg. Overwhelmed by the unfamiliar language and without family to comfort her, she sobbed all the way up to the operating room.

When Hyslop saw the woman received a delivery of flowers the next morning, she decided to deliver them herself.

“She was so thankful to see a familiar face,” Hyslop recalled. “Somebody who she knew that she had sort of connected with the morning before. I was so thankful that I was able to give her that when she needed it the most.”

The current situation sometimes reminds her of that woman she cared for years ago. Like the woman, patients don’t have a support system to hold their hand or make them smile. Now, Hyslop sees her job as more important than ever.

“Little teeny tiny things like that mean the world to patients when they don’t have anybody else here to help them through that process,” she said.

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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