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The Little Things Are Huge

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VTCC Receptionist Provides Water to Patients & Families on a Hot Day, Demonstrating VCU Health’s Values of Service, Trust, Attitude and Respect

Julia Leadbetter’s father would often tell her when she was a child, “When you say you’re going to do something, you’ve got to do it.” He also taught her, by example, to help people. “There wasn’t a day that he didn’t wake up and go somewhere to do something for somebody, whether it was work or his own time,” explained Julia. “He was always helping people.”

Neither lesson was lost upon his daughter. Seven years ago, Julia started work as a front desk receptionist at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children, part of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. She’s there to check patients in and out, schedule appointments, and answer whatever questions she can: “to help people,” in her own one-sentence summation of her job description. She never forgets that the little things that can make a big difference for patients.

“I want to be that person”

“Every person that comes to VCU Health needs help,” she explained. “And I want to be that person to help them. I mean, I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I’m part of the process that they’re here for—to be helped. I go out of my way to help patients. If someone is lost, I don’t just point, I actually get up and show them where they need to be.”

So when she heard one day that, due to the severe heat advisory, none of the inpatient children should go outside to play the next day, she instantly thought about the outpatient children and their families. She thought, “You know what, some patients don’t have AC in their car. I was that person. I had a car that didn’t have AC and it was really hot.”

Julia’s refreshing decision

The next morning, she brought three cases of water into work that she had purchased with her own money. As patients and their families came into the building from the nearly 100-degree heat outside, in a simple but powerful affirmation of VCU Health’s Values of Service, Attitude and Respect, Julia offered each person cool water.   

One patient’s family came in and exclaimed, “Oh, thank you so much! Our air conditioner just went out.” Julia promptly put some bottles in the freezer, and when the patient and family left, they had frozen bottles of water for the hot ride home.

Helping others—particularly her facility’s young patients with mental health needs—gives Julia joy and she isn’t concerned about reciprocity. “If patients come in, get seen, get what they need, I go home happy. I’m on the road singing my loudest because I am happy.” And she believes that kindness spreads.

Kindness is contagious

To illustrate, she explained that a few years ago, she really needed someone to talk to so she called her best friend Julie. A that moment, Julie was in the middle of something: a very good family friend’s wife had died, and she had offered to clean out the bedroom for him. Julia suggested that she drive over and help, saying they talk as they worked. Her friend gladly accepted the help and the company.

A couple of weeks later, Julia received a thank-you note and a Starbucks gift card in the mail from the man whose home she had helped clean. He inquired if he could thank her in person, and Julia agreed. She learned he had lost his wife to a brain aneurysm and had been unable to face sorting through and purging her belongings. Today, that man is Julia’s boyfriend. “He’s my everything. He’s raised two kids of his own, and now he’s a positive role model for my daughter.”

One never knows what may come of kindness. As for Julia, she hopes her kindness—whether it’s her constant smile or offering cold water on a sweltering day—demonstrates to young patients that they matter and that they’ve arrived at a facility where everyone, from the receptionist to the physicians, cares. By providing compassionate service to patients, earning their trust, and respecting their dignity, Julia is living out all four of VCU Health’s Values of Service, Trust, Attitude, and Respect.