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A friendly face for visitors

St. Mary's Essentia Health Guest Services Clerk Lori Thompson greets visitors to the clinic with a smile. Photo by - Vicki Gerdes1 / 2
Lori Thompson helps Dennis Anderson with his jacket as he prepares to leave the clinic. Photo by - Vicki Gerdes2 / 2

Whenever they walk through the front entrance of Essentia Health-St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes, guests are greeted with a warm smile and a cheerful hello.

Whether they're coming to the clinic or therapy center for an appointment, visiting a patient at the hospital or nursing home, or they just need a question answered about their billing, medications or general health needs, each visitor gets a personalized greeting from Guest Services Clerk Lori Thompson.

"I greet people and show them where they need to go," Thompson says. "I am also a bit of a problem solver, and a patient advocate ... but the biggest thing I can offer to them is a smile..."

After all, first impressions are important, and a pleasant smile and cheerful greeting can go a long way toward making the patient or visitor's experience a positive one.

"I am the first face that they see when they walk in the door," Thompson explains. "People come in and look at how large this facility is, and they might feel a little intimidated.

"What my job is, is to try and make them feel more comfortable. If they're treated right when they come in the door, it gives them a much more positive attitude, no matter why they're there."

A native of Audubon, Thompson says, "I've lived in this area my whole life" -- which means that she knows many of the people who walk through that door personally.

Besides greeting patients and other visitors, Thompson's job also involves directing them to where they can find the best restaurants, lodging and transportation.

"I'm asked to call the transit bus, where can I find a good meal or a good cup of coffee, where can they stay overnight -- and if people come to me and want to talk to a doctor or nurse, I can maybe make that happen for them a little faster," she says. "I also get some pretty strange requests ... but I absolutely love my job."

When the new Essentia Health-St. Mary's clinic opened in September 2011, the main entrance for both the clinic and the adjacent hospital shifted from the west side to the east. Instead of the hospital and clinic entries being separated, there is now one main entrance for both.

To help community residents adjust to the changes, Essentia-St. Mary's created the guest services clerk position -- and Thompson became the first person to fill it.

Before starting in that position on Dec. 22, Thompson had worked in materials management at the hospital since 2005.

The materials department is basically the clearing house for all hospital supplies, from syringes and protective gloves to pens and paper.

"They deliver every single supply the hospital needs to designated areas -- anything that a doctor or nurse uses comes from that department," she said.

One side benefit to her job, besides getting to know the staff, is that Thompson pretty much knows "where every nook and cranny is" inside the facility.

And as a lifetime resident of the area, she also knows many of the patients who walk in the door by their first names.

"I'm a friendly face to them," she says.

After graduating from Audubon High School (before it became paired with Lake Park) Thompson tried many different jobs, working as a travel agent for 10 years, a UPS driver for 14 years, and even running her own restaurant, the Roadhouse Bar & Grill, which she both owned and managed from 1999 to 2003.

But of all the different jobs she's held, Thompson says, she's enjoyed none more than this one.

"I love the interaction with people -- really love it. My main goal is to greet as many people who come through that door as possible," she says.

And she does it with a smile on her face.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454